I recently had dinner at Tonti’s Hand, an elegant new Parisian-style bistro in the Algiers Point neighborhood. A collaboration between film industry veterans Conner Turley and Chelsea Bruland, and long-time hospitality veteran A.J. McAlear, who most recently served as general manager and sommelier at Antoine’s, Tonti’s Hand features the handiwork of chef Freddy Augustin, most recently of Café Atchafalaya. With indoor banquette seating and an expansive bar as well as outdoor seating in both a garden setting as well as on the covered Verret Street sidewalk, the new space brings welcome dining diversity to the close-knit historic neighborhood. 

“We want to be a cornerstone,” McAlear said, “both a dining destination for the area and a walk-to gathering place for people in the neighborhood. “

The opening menu runs to the classics, among them onion soup made with a slow-simmered, two-day beef stock under a gratinee of Gruyere cheese; escargot Bourgogne; Croque Madame topped with a fried duck egg; roast chicken; trout Meunière Almondine, jambon beurre; and the impressive L’Smash Burger made with two beef patties, and finished with an abundance of cheese, and a decadent duck fat aioli.

The new spot is open Thursday – Monday for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.

The Best New Culinary Finds in NOLA and Recipes for Easy Holiday Entertaining

Also new to me, Rising Sun is open for breakfast and lunch daily at the stunning Margaret Place Hotel in the Lower Garden District with seating in a tropical courtyard as well as at a small indoor counter/bar. The kitchen features savory items (a Creole-spiced chicken thigh sandwich with herbed artichoke hearts, arugula, radish, basil aioli, and romesco; mac and cheese made with cavatappi noodles in a creamy smoked Gouda and sharp white Cheddar sauce, topped with toasted panko; and pulled pork hash– beer-braised pork shoulder, cafeteria-style hash browns, two eggs, gremolata, and romesco) from the father and son chef team of Matt and Jake Ericson, the former most recently of Green Goddess and Sui Generis.  Gorgeous pastries are made daily by Violet Badflower, the force behind the chewy ginger cookie, and a cranberry orange muffin that simply blew my mind along with the most perfect café latte I have ever had.

The Best New Culinary Finds in NOLA and Recipes for Easy Holiday Entertaining

The hotel is housed in a graceful, historic, 1884 side-hall Greek Revival mansion that was painstakingly restored over six years by architect Trenton Gauthier. Gauthier and his wife, Jen., live on the property and serve as hosts and innkeepers. The space is a popular wedding and event destination. In addition to the bridal suite there are four luxurious guest rooms. The courtyard and professional kitchen frequently serve as a culinary incubator by night, hosting restaurant pop-ups for an array of chefs and culinarians. Check the calendar on hotel’s website for events. The courtyard is dog friendly, and the pool and hot tub are open to the public.

The Best New Culinary Finds in NOLA and Recipes for Easy Holiday Entertaining
Credit: Midnight Marketing

My friends on the Joel Catering team have generously shared a couple of recipes— one for a cocktail, the other for an easy appetizer to make last-minute holiday entertaining a cinch.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

Courtesy of Sarah Hall of Joel Catering | Makes about 15 pieces

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces room temperature garlic & herb Boursin cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Store-bought Balsamic Glaze or Shaved Parmesan (optional)

1.Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2.Trim the bottom of the asparagus by 1”-2” then salt and pepper to taste. Toss with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes.

3. When cool enough to handle take 2-3 asparagus spears and spread with room temperature Boursin cheese and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Keep the cheese below the asparagus tip and stop at lease an inch from the bottom.

4.Wrap each asparagus and cheese bundle with one slice of prosciutto.

5. As a finishing touch, drizzle with balsamic glaze or sprinkle with shaved parmesan.
NOTE: Everything can be prepped up to 1 day in advance if kept refrigerated in an airtight container. Just wait to add the balsamic drizzle or shaved parmesan until ready to serve. If you decide to skip the balsamic and parmesan, use a little extra
lemon zest as a garnish.

Blueberry Old Fashioned

Courtesy of Sarah Hall of Joel Catering | Makes 1 cocktail

  • 2 ounces bourbon
  • 1/2 ounce blueberry simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Ice
  • Orange twist or rosemary sprig, optional

1.Add the bourbon, blueberry syrup, bitters, and ice to a
cocktail shaker. Shake until chilled then strain into a double old-fashioned glass over ice.

2.Garnish with either an orange twist or rosemary sprig.

Blueberry Simple Syrup

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Add the blueberries, water, and sugar to saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Boil for 5 minutes then steep for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, strain, and cool.