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The Réveillon Returns

After a year's hiatus, the holiday
theme dinners are better than ever
Tom Fitzmorris, November 2006

Click here for recipes!

December - especially its second half - is slow for restaurants and hotels
that serve visitors. Eighteen years ago, the French Quarter Festival organ-
ization came up with an idea that would help that situation, particularly for restaurants in the French Quarter. They revived and promoted an old
French-New Orleans holiday feast called the Réveillon.
The modern Réveillon has restaurants serving special menus of four or
five courses, and including dishes that fit with the season. Not only do
you find such Christmasy items like roast goose and Yule logs, but also
food that lends itself to cool-weather eating.
To make it even more appealing, these Réveillon dinners are served at
prices below - often well below - what such dinners would ordinarily cost.
Unfortunately, restaurateurs report that the Réveillon promotion is only
mildly successful in bringing visitors in. It has, however, been enough
of a hit with local diners that restaurants all around town - including
many who are not part of the official Réveillon promotion - are now
offering Réveillon-style dinners.
This is a wonderful development, and it needs to grow even more, into something in which every white-tablecloth restaurant in town participates.
If that were to happen, December could conceivably turn into a legendary
time to visit New Orleans. Among avid restaurant-goers, the Réveillon is
already a tradition, both among locals and people who visit town often.
And the rest of the population is getting interested.
After a complete bust last year (of course), the Réveillon resumes this
year with at least as many restaurants participating as ever before. Those officially in the program are scattered all over the city, although the main
concentration is still in the Quarter. Quite a few major restaurants are in-volved for the first time: Emeril's, NOLA, Peristyle, Café Adelaide, and
the Marigny Brasserie among them.
Looking over the menus, I note two evolutions. First, the menus are
more ambitious and more appetizing than at any time in the past. Second,
the prices have risen considerably at some restaurants. A couple of years
ago, only one restaurant went over $50; this year, several have. Even at
that, it's a good deal.
As I write this, it's still a couple of days before the Réveillon begins on December 1. (It runs nightly until Christmas Eve at most restaurants; a
few keep it till the end of the month.) So the recommendations that
follow are based on past Réveillons, plus current experience with the
restaurants involved.
For years, the most appetizing and varied Réveillon menu is at the Pelican Club (615 Bienville, 523-1504). It starts with a choice of turtle-alligator
soup or a cream soup with oysters, shrimp and mirliton with herbsaint.
Then comes one of these: crab and shrimp cake, baked oysters, a goat
cheese salad, romaine and watercress salad, quail with cornbread and
foie gras, seafood martini, or terrine of foie gras, pork, and duck.
The entrees are these: braised short ribs with three-cheese polenta, duck
three ways, Louisiana cioppino, the most elegant jambalaya you will ever
eat, seafood fricassee, walnut-and-honey mustard-crusted rack of lamb, or
panéed fish with crabmeat and jalapeno hollandaise. The dinner ends with
a choice of five desserts. The whole thing ranges between $39 and $48, depending on the entree. The Pelican Club is a five-star in my ratings,
and there's no backing away from that standard during this dinner.
Another consistently good Réveillon comes from across the street, at
the Monteleone Hotel's little-known restaurant, the Hunt Room Grill
(214 Royal, 523-3341). While it's a little inconsistent - I wouldn't come
on a Monday or Tuesday - the food has a high Yuletide quotient and
is usually excellent.
Starters are a smoked quail with a salad of celeriac, apple and walnut salad
and a mousse of salmon and scallops with shrimp and artichokes and sorrel sauce. Then you get a soup or a salad. The entrees are great: a mixed grill
of veal with chanterelles, duck with red currants, and lamb with mint sauce; Salmon en croute, with creamed spinach, chanterelles, and white truffle
sauce; Roast goose with braised red cabbage and apples and caraway
sauce. Or a petit filet mignon with foie gras, caramelized cipollini onions,
and perigourdine sauce. Three desserts, including a Yule log made with tiramisu. The four-course dinner ranges from $47 to $53.
This is the first Réveillon for Café Adelaide, the sister restaurant (literally)
to Commander's Palace (which is also holding its first Réveillon). But they
seem to have the spirit of the thing. They start with a truffled butternut and foie gras soup or the classic turtle soup with sherry. Then comes shrimp
and crispy sweetbreads with foraged mushrooms and five-onion salad, or
a satsuma salad with winter greens, toasted pecan bread, Atchafalaya
basin honeycomb, and and fleur de lis vinaigrette (whatever that is).
Café Adelaide's entrees are citrus-glazed duck with dirty rice, corn fried oysters, baby mustard greens and "old fashioned" duck sauce, or panéed flounder and crab and cauliflower cream - all made with local produce.
They slip you a hit of the homemade cherry bounce from their vaunted
bar, and follow it with either of two desserts. The price is $55. 300
Poydras, 595-3305.
And once again, as in year's past, the best Réveillon bargain of them all
is the $24, five-course, casual feast at the Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter,
 525-1486). It starts with a choice of oyster and artichoke soup, chicken
andouille gumbo, or turtle soup. Then the signature salad with toasted
pecan vinaigrette. Entrees include roasted chicken with oyster-andouille
stuffing (my favorite), crawfish étouffée, crab cakes with green pepper-
corn and crawfish sauce, penne pasta with wild mushroom cream, and
a roasted half duck with rum and citrus sauce. They have three desserts
to choose among, and they end the meal with café brûlot - the perfect
seasonal touch.
Enjoy the holidays with the distinctive New Orleans style of holiday
feasting! All the Réveillon menus can be seen here.


K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen Reopens!

Chef Paul Prudhomme looks on, right, while a couple dances,
left, to the 'Storyville Stompers Brass Band' playing outside
'K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen', Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Photo by Mel Evans, courtesy of NOLA

News Flash!
(from Bon Appetit November 2006)

The Bon Appétit American Food & Entertaining Awards 2006
Humanitarian Award:

Chef Paul Prudhomme

"After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, people across the nation reached
out to help the stricken area. But few were as early or an ardent as Louisiana's
own Chef Paul Prudhomme. In the storm's wake, Prudhomme - the man behind
K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen and Magic Seasoning Blends - rushed into action
from Arkansas, where he was staying temporarily. He went to the nearest Wal-Mart and packed six trailers full of supplies, including generators, gasoline,
and medical equipment, much at his own expense. Once back in New Orleans, Prudhomme and Shawn McBride, Magic Seasoning Blends' president and
CEO, got to work, feeding more than 35,000 troops. Many of their employees
were left homeless, but Prudhomme reopened the businesses quickly, ensuring
that the staff had a place to earn a paycheck, eat three meals a day, and even
sleep. 'He did what he thought was the right thing to do,' says McBride. 'Action
is the most positive pill you can take.' "

We salute you, Chef Prudhomme!


K. Pauls Restaurant in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
K. Pauls Restaurant in the French Quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
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Wright, Alison
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Chef Paul's Infamous Blacked Redfish

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