Feasts of the Seven Fishes & gifting with a New Orleans flair
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is part of the Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration, although it isn’t called that in Italy and isn’t a “feast” in the sense of “holiday,” but rather a grand meal. The meal is historically served on Christmas Eve – a vigil or fasting day. The abundance of seafood reflects the Roman Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat until Christmas Day.
Today, the meal typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. The tradition comes from Southern Italy, where it’s known simply as La Vigilia (the Vigil). This celebration commemorates the wait, the Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.
Chef Nick Lama of Avo is a third-generation New Orleanian of Sicilian heritage. Like the children in most close-knit immigrant families he grew up watching his mother and grandmother recreate the foods of the family’s ancestral home and he often accompanied his father and grandfather to work their historic seafood market, St. Roch in the Ninth Ward.
At Lama’s Uptown restaurant Avo, which translates to “grandfather” or “ancestor,” he proudly recreates the foods of his ancestors while elevating them with respect and restraint.
Avo recently underwent an extensive renovation, which enclosed the outdoor patio, while keeping the space bright and airy with lots of windows that are meant to be opened when the weather permits.
Throughout the month of December, Avo will feature a celebratory four-course, pre-fixe meal using seven different types of local seafood for his Italian holiday Feast of Seven Fishes menu. First Course: fried oyster, celery root and apple slaw with oyster aioli; seared scallop with cauliflower and shellfish foam; and “Caesar Crostini” with anchovy, Parmesan and romaine. Second Course: Shrimp Spiedini with mirliton and breadcrumb. Third Course: Spaghetti ai Gamberi with crawfish, arrabbiata and trout roe. Fourth Course: Branzino Three Ways with flash-fried pan-roasted, housemade sausage and sopressata-grillio emulsion.
GW Fins’ Sous Chef Tim Lane will also offer his popular Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner, but for one night only: December 4 in the restaurant’s newly renovated Private Dining Room.
His menu highlights the bounty of seafood available in the Gulf, as well as around the world, prepared and served in a traditional Italian style. Each course will be paired with wine, combining individually plated courses with dishes that will be served family-style. First Course: Peroni battered smelt with spicy pomodoro jam and charred lemon. Second Course: American Red Snapper ceviche with white balsamic citronette, sturgeon caviar and a Parmesan crisp. Third Course: Champagne Oysters chargrilled with mignonette and a crispy prosciutto chip. Fourth Course: Wedding in the Sea featuring fishbone broth, a Yellowfin tuna meatball and acini di pepe. Fifth Course: Calamari Steak Milanese with white truffle arugula, Grana Padano and a dark cherry balsamic reduction. Sixth Course: seared sea scallop with ricotta gnocchi, roasted garlic, sage butter sauce and pine nut relish.
I have many fond memories of attending Teddy Bear Tea (TBT) at the Roosevelt Hotel with my daughter, Cecilia. Intended for families with young children, TBT packs in the excitement with visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus. Think pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus sharing some of her favorite holiday stories. The tea will be offered December 1-24.
Cecilia is now 22 and we will pass on Teddy Bear Tea in favor of sharing the holiday magic of the Roosevelt over Sazerac cocktails in the lounge as we take in the exquisite Paul Ninãs Deco-era paintings after a long, slow stroll through the miraculous, holiday-bedecked, block-long lobby and another down Memory Lane. Unforgettable, the Roosevelt’s lobby draws an estimated 250,000 people each holiday season. A tradition since the 1930s, the display will be unveiled again on December 3 with 605,000 sparkling lights, 1,610 feet of garland, 300 puffy bows and 4,000 shimmering glass ornaments adorning 78 birch and 46 Christmas trees. It will remain up through the beginning of the year.
Let me point out, my fellow New Orleanians, this magical stroll is free – gratis – just as it has always been. Take it in, enjoy and build some memories with those you love.
AVO, 5908 Magazine St., 509-6550, RestaurantAvo.com
GW Fins, 808 Bienville St., 581-3467, GWFins.com
Roosevelt Hotel, 130 Roosevelt Way, 648-1200, TheRooseveltNewOrleans.com