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Brunch series explores Indian cuisine

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  Saffron NOLA (505 Gretna Blvd., Gretna, 363-2174; www.saffronnola.com)

serves the most inventive Indian food in the area, melding traditional flavors from the subcontinent with techniques and ingredients more akin to a contemporary Creole bistro.

  The restaurant is normally open only on Friday evenings, a function of the catering jobs and other work responsibilities of its busy family owners. Recently, however, Saffron NOLA has started a once-a-month series of Sunday brunches, with each focusing on cooking styles of different regions of India.

  "India used to be all different kingdoms before the British came, and each was like a different country. Different languages, different architecture, different clothes and different food too," says Arvinder Vilkhu, who runs Saffron NOLA with his wife Pardeep. "So our mission with these brunches is to capture one region at a time."

  The next such brunch is scheduled Aug. 12 and will feature the cuisine of Kerala, the southernmost state along India's western coast. At least a half-dozen salads and hot dishes will be served buffet-style, and the savory pancakes and fermented crepes of the region will be prepared to order. Vilkhu describes the cooking of Kerala as milder and lighter than the Indian food most people eat. Much of the oomph, he explains, comes from garnishes like pickled shrimp, eggplant and other vegetables. Coconuts flourish in Kerala and during its brunch, Saffron NOLA will mix martinis with coconut water and curry leaf. The restaurant has a full bar.

  Reservations are required and seatings are available from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The cost is $30 per person.

  The brunch series continues in September with Telugu cuisine from the Andhra region in southeastern India, which blends Muslim and Hindu influences. In October, as the weather cools, Saffron NOLA will serve the heartier street food of Punjab, the northern region that is also Vilkhu's homeland.

  For menus and specific dates for these brunches, check for updates at www.-saffronnola.com.

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