Pairing Pairings

Almost everyone in New Orleans knows of Commander’s Palace, the grande dame restaurant on Washington Avenue. It was originally built by Emile Commander as a wedding gift for a daughter who never married and is now under the watchful eyes of Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan, continuing the Brennan family’s dedication to what has become a culinary legend.

Though I live close by and have celebrated many events – and occasionally the event of getting through a Monday – in one of Commander’s many rooms, my co-editors’ experience with the restaurant ranged from having tried a few meals to never having stepped foot inside its walls.

To rectify that and to learn more about Commander’s upcoming Dinner Concert Series, we tried out the popular $.25 martini lunch. The menu’s cheeky disclaimer reads: “Limit of three per person ’cause that’s enough.”

First, we consulted with “Wine Guy” Dan Davis to learn more about the upcoming series, entitled “The Sound (and taste) of Music: a wine dinner in three movements.” The series debuts June 11. A string quartet led by virtuoso and Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Assistant Principal Cellist Daniel Lelchuk will perform selections by Haydn, Brahms and Hugo Wolf. A second dinner, date to be announced, will be arranged by Master Sommelier Laura Williamson with a German/Austrian theme.

Amidst the chamber music concert crafted by Lelchuk, Davis will create pairings from the restaurant’s more than 2,700 wine selections to the music – specifically to each movement of each piece – and then a multi-course meal is composed by James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef Tory McPhail.

After our conversation, we were led to the Garden Room, where we enjoyed three courses and, some of us, three martinis. Beginning with a crispy pork belly amuse-bouche and Commander’s always-impressive ballet of service, each course was a show in and of itself. The menu primarily offers Creole and Louisiana cuisine; McPhail’s culinary philosophy is respectful of tradition but often takes a contemporary spin and includes turtle soup and gumbo; crisp salads; a variety of seafood; and decadent Southern dishes. It also has lighter options as part of its “Eat Fit Nola” menu, which are nonetheless filling and satisfying. The option to sample more than one style of the stupendously priced martinis is the olive on the toothpick.

Tickets for the debut dinner are $250 plus tax and gratuity, and reservations are required. For more information and to make reservations, call 899-8221 or visit



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