As the year whittles down to its final days, people everywhere are making good on those pledges to get together again over dinner. In New Orleans, this often calls up a Reveillon, those multi-course menus served this month at a circuit of restaurants around town (see our earlier story on diverse flavors running through this year’s crop).
But not all the special dining event this season fall under the Reveillon umbrella. Here are a few unique dinners, special menus and Christmas-themed events for your calendar.
West End in Central City
Menus with drink pairings are one thing. But for a new special menu at Purloo, inside the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, inspiration came literally from the restaurant’s own bar.
That gleaming oak and cypress bar was for generations a place to rest an elbow and hoist a cold one at Bruning’s, the West End restaurant that got its start in 1859.
That bar was broken up by Hurricane Georges in 1998. Bruning’s had a temporary second location nearby until it too was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina; the restaurant never reopened. The shattered pieces of the bar, however, had been collected for eventual restoration. Meticulously reassembled, it’s now part of the collection of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum and is in very active use as part of Purloo.
“You’ll see people come in, walk past it and then do a double-take,” said Purloo chef Ryan Hughes. “Some people who used to sit at the end of that bar in the ‘80’s drinking beers come in here now and sit at the end of the bar drinking beers. I’ve seen grown men cry when they see it again.”
Bruning’s is the starting point for a new menu of specials at Purloo, with dishes that are modern tributes to (though not direct reproductions of) flavors from the old seafood house.
Of course that means there’s whole flounder, the calling card of Bruning’s, here stuffed with crab, mirliton and eggplant and finished with a warm brown butter and kumquat vinaigrette. There’s a duck and andouille gumbo, raw oysters (sourced from Grand Isle’s new, specialty off-bottom cultivators), shrimp salad with chow chow and fried kale and a seafood platter of stuffed crabs, crawfish hushpuppies and fried catfish with a Thai-style slaw, among other dishes.
Purloo serves this Bruning’s inspired menu alongside its regular menu through the end of January.
1504 O.C. Haley Blvd., 504-324-6020
Have a Killer Christmas
When Killer PoBoys expanded from the tiny tavern Kitchen at the Erin Rose to its second, stand-alone location on Dauphine Street, chef Cam Boudreaux said the larger space would finally enable him to host special dining events and pop-ups. On Dec. 23, he’s putting that to the test, hosting a dinner with a Reveillon theme that will also serve as a collaboration between three old friends.
The event, dubbed Reveillon Nouveau, is not part of the official Reveillon program, but shares its spirit. The dinner teams Boudreaux with his old friend Caleb Cook in the kitchen, while cocktail and wine pairings will be provided by Rhiannon Enlil, manager of the Erin Rose bar, where Killer PoBoys still operates the tavern kitchen.
Cook was the original chef at the French Quarter gastropub St. Lawrence, and he now lives in San Francisco where he produces dinner club-style pop-ups through his brand Marigny Social Club.
Though Killer PoBoys is the setting, there’s no sign of po-boys on the five-course dinner menu, which runs through chestnut foie gras terrine, shrimp remoulade, Gulf fish Lyonnaise, turducken roulade and eggnog flan. Tickets are $110. Get them and more details here.
219 Dauphine St., (also 811 Conti St.) 504-462-2731
Italian Under the Stars
The new Uptown restaurant Avo was inspired by a deep trove of Italian tradition. The special seafood menu chef Nick Lama is serving this month taps one of them in particular.
The Feast of the Seven Fishes is a Christmas Eve tradition in some Italian families, presented as an array of different seafood dishes. The number represents the seven sacraments of the Catholic faith, and the fish (or other seafood) is served for those abstaining from meat on the holy day. In the same spirit as Lenten fish fries, the symbolism remains even if the festive progression of seafood in these modern feasts hardly seems like a hardship.
When served at home, partaking in the Feast of the Seven Fishes might mean loading your plate with a little of each dish. The restaurant format at Avo follows a different style. Dishes are served a la carte. But if you have some company willing to play along, you can order the full spread to share around the table.
Lama’s menu has lobster bisque; marinated crab legs; fried cuttlefish; panéed shrimp; roasted oysters; shrimp fettuccine; and seared grouper. It’s available at dinner all month, until Dec. 30. Which ever way you approach it, hope for nice weather so the retractable roof over Avo’s patio will be open to the night sky above.
5908 Magazine St., 504-509-6550
Arnaud’s in the Afternoon, Teddy Bears in Tow
Normally open for dinner only, Arnaud’s Restaurant has a much extended lunch schedule this season, serving its a la carte French Creole menu Dec. 14-18 and Dec. 21-24 (from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.). The restaurant’s French 75 bar will be serving seasonal cocktails throughout the month, including the classic Dickens’ Toddy and Tom and Jerry and hot buttered rums.
If you go, tuck a new teddy bear along to contribute to the Teddy Bear Program, organized by Arnaud’s in partnership with the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation.
Begun last year, the program collects new teddy bears, which will be donated to the police department for officers to give to children who have been traumatized. In its inaugural year, the program brought in 500 bears. The goal this year is 1,500, which seems both ambitious and a sad commentary on the need officers see in the line of duty.
The drive continues through Dec. 31. Arnaud’s is one drop-off site. Others are the NOPJF office at 400 Poydras St., Suite 2105, and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau at 2020 St. Charles Ave.
813 Bienville St., 504-523-5433
“Breakfast at Brennan’s” will take on a family-friendly Christmas theme on Dec. 21, when the restaurant plans to send billows of artificial snow over its courtyard, while inside there will be cookie decorating, Christmas games, photos with Santa, a 10-foot-tall gingerbread display and other yuletide touches. A special three-course breakfast menu, served from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is $55 for adults, $35 for children.
Later on Dec. 21, the restaurant hosts its “Santa’s Naughty and Nice Happy Hour,” for adults from 4-7 p.m., with more snow in the courtyard and special prices on Christmas-themed cocktails at the Roost Bar.
Andrea’s Restaurant hosts its brunch with Santa on Dec. 20, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. with an a la carte brunch menu and pictures with Santa (and/or with chef Andrea Apuzzo). Call for reservations.
Santa will also be on hand for photos the same day, Dec. 20, for brunch at Broussard’s Restaurant, also from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
How will Santa manage to appear at both restaurants at the same time? Easy: he’s Santa.
417 Royal St., 504-525-9711
3100 19th St., Metairie, 504-834-8583
819 Conti St., 504-581-3866