Summer is the slow time for New Orleans restaurants. That makes it the natural time to host dining events and one-off collaborations and roll out the specials to lure in the locals. So many have caught on to this, however, that the depths of summer are now crowded with things to do.
Here are some of the more unique, interesting or offbeat options in just the week ahead alone.
Social Grazing at a Steakhouse
For its annual Grass Fed Beef Picnic, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse (716 Iberville St., 504-522-2467; dickiebrennanssteakhouse.com) deploys a full-size chuck wagon and trailer-mounted grill outside and sets an indoor picnic theme across its subterranean dining room.
At last year’s rendition, however, the crisp and broad cowboy hats seen around the room were not props, at least not those worn by Shannon Gonsoulin and his family and associates. They run Gonsoulin Land & Cattle, a ranch in New Iberia that has been in the same family since 1770 and has more recently been producing grass-fed beef by the banks of Bayou Teche.
The annual steakhouse picnic serves as a laid-back showcase for this distinctive Louisiana product, and chefs from Dickie Brennan’s four restaurants prepare it in a wide variety of styles at the event, serving sample portions from stations arrayed around the room for grazing of a different type. Beef heart made a strong impression last year, along with brisket, filet and a massive steamship round.
The picnic returns Wednesday, Aug. 12, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $55, which includes all food, specialty cocktails, wines on tap from a mobile dispenser (following the picnic theme) and soft drinks. There’s a cash bar for more drinks. A portion of proceeds will benefit Grow Dat Youth Farm, a nonprofit youth development program based around an urban farm in City Park. Call (504) 522-2467 for reservations.
Eating in the 1800s
The name Madame Eugène may not be well known today, but food scholar and author David Shields argues this 19th century New Orleans chef played a pivotal role in the development of Creole cuisine. At a special dinner on Saturday, Aug. 8, at Purloo (1504 O.C. Haley Blvd., 504-324-6020, nolapurloo.com), Shields and chef Ryan Hughes will make the case through five courses.
Shields, a professor at the University of South Carolina, is in town for this weekend’s Farm to Table International Conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
His new book “Southern Provisions” explores the roots of Southern cuisine, and shares the story of chef Sophie Dorn Flêche, as known as Madame Eugène, who ran New Orleans restaurants including Le Pellerin and Moreau from the 1860s through the 1880s.
Working from Shields’ research, Hughes will prepare the meal following archival recipes from this era (shrimp bisque potage, crab salad, salpicon of ham and more) and also using the techniques available in that period, which guests can observe at Purloo’s open kitchen. Shields will also discuss his work and the meal and sign copies of his book.
The five-course dinner costs $75 and includes one cocktail (add cocktail pairings throughout for $35). It’s an early Saturday dinner, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. For tickets, call (504) 324-6020.
Compère Lapin Wine Dinner
A star chef and plenty of Gulf seafood have been business as usual for Compère Lapin (535 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-599-2119; comperelapin.com) since “Top Chef” alum Nina Compton opened this Warehouse District restaurant in June. But for a special wine dinner this Sunday, Aug. 9, she’ll be joined in the kitchen by a pair of accomplished Oregon chefs with their own high-profile TV credits, and they’re bringing along some West Coast seafood to the mix, too.
Compton will prepare the meal alongside the prominent Portland, Oregon, chef and restaurateur Vitaly Paley, a past winner of the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” and also Doug Adams, executive chef at Paley’s restaurant Imperial and the adjacent Portland Penny Diner and a recent contender on “Top Chef” as well.
The four-course dinner is built around seafood from both the Pacific Northwest and the Gulf, paired with Oregon wines. Seatings are at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and tickets cost $75. Call (504) 599-2119.
‘Bountiful Catch’ tasting
Slow Food New Orleans, the local food advocacy group, is helping plan the Madame Eugène dinner at Purloo, and the following Monday, Aug. 10, it will also co-host the latest in its series of “bountiful catch” happy hour events at Carmo (527 Julia St., 504-875-4132; cafecarmo.com).
Over the summer, the Warehouse District restaurant held periodic tasting events at its small, in-house events space, with Carmo’s staff and guest chefs preparing local seafood sourced away from the mainstream commercial catches. It’s intended to show the great variety of seafood available from the Gulf, and recent editions have served up some deliciously eye-opening dishes (blue runner nigiri, porgy ceviche and Gulf squid and chorizo stew have been some highlights).
Chef Brad Andries of Sac-A-Lait joins Carmo chefs Dana Honn, Christina Honn and Wataru Saeki for Monday’s tasting, where David Shields (see ‘Eating in the 1800s,’ above) will discuss seafood species used in 19th-century Creole cooking. This happy hour is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free, with sample-size dishes and drinks available for purchase.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.