"We decided to use chocolate to promote Valentine's Day and base a whole menu around it," says Ava Harris, banquet sales and marketing manager at Charley G's. "It's a versatile ingredient; it's something you can use even when you don't want it to be sweet. It pushes the envelope for our diners and exposes them to something new. It's something unique that we hope will stand out about Charley G's."
The restaurant's regular menu also is available during February, but the special Chocolate Festival menu includes adventures such as mesquite-grilled yellowfin tuna with white chocolate smoked tomato sauce served with white chocolate parsnip potatoes and grilled vegetables. There's also a salad that features mixed baby greens tossed in a cocoa apple-cider vinaigrette with parmesan cocoa cheese straws, cucumber, pineapple and teardrop tomatoes, plus chocolate toffee bread pudding for dessert.
It may sound odd to the uneducated palate, but there appears to be much more to chocolate than a Hershey's bar. "I wasn't sure about some of the dishes when I first saw the menu, but then I tried it and was blown away," says assistant manager Monica McKlinski. "It's really wonderful."
Special festival events include Charley G's Eat Club Dinner with food critic Tom Fitzmorris at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12. Cost is $45. It starts with a chocolate martini or chocolate Manhattan and goes on to an oyster dish, cocoa-enriched salad, a crawfish- and spinach-stuffed pork tenderloin dish and chocolate brioche bread pudding and hot chocolate. The salad and entrée courses are paired with wines. Valentine's Day will feature a special three-course menu, and the Chocolate Extravaganza from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. will feature 18 feet of free chocolate, a special happy hour, complimentary champagne and live music.
Chocolate aside, Charley G's regular menu is based on what local produce is at its freshest and changes with the season. March's menu update, for instance, will focus on crawfish, which will be in season.
"Our concept from the beginning of Charley G's ... was to serve the freshest seafood and produce and the highest quality of food," Harris says. "We also try to stay close to our roots. We're based out of Lafayette, and keep our Cajun roots."
The menu does change seasonally, but diners always will find the restaurant's traditional best sellers, which come together as a triumvirate of favorites in A Taste of Charley G's: smoked duck and andouille gumbo, crabcakes and an almond tulip. "We're definitely famous for our crabcakes and our gumbo," Harris says. "If you come here for lunch or dinner, someone at your table will order one of those three items, and they'll probably say they've been craving it all day."
To keep the fun going, Charley G's offers special wine promotions featuring a choice of 12 selected wines for $12 a bottle on Monday and Tuesday as well as live jazz on Friday and Saturday nights.
Walker on Magazine
Designer and jewelry artist Mary Viola Walker's gallery of handmade jewelry and home decorating items has moved from the Warehouse District to an expanded space Uptown.
The gallery (3652 Magazine St., 891-4122) opened its new doors about a week before its grand opening gala on Feb. 1. The new shop includes a special room for consultations and parties for brides in which Walker what jewelry designs are best suited for them and the rest of the bridal party.
In addition to Walker's jewelry, the shop also features her hand-crafted evening bags that are embellished with pearls and semi-precious stones, photographs, architectural prints, lamp shades, wastebaskets and other accessories.
Best of the Best
InterContinental New Orleans (444 St. Charles Ave., 525-5566; www.new-orleans.intercontinental.com) has been named a "Connoisseur's Choice" for 2003 by Resorts & Great Hotels, the Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best.
For almost 20 years, the magazine has featured for its readers what it considers the finest hotels worldwide. The "Connoisseur's Choice" is a recognition of exceptional commitment to quality, service and guest experience.
InterContinental New Orleans opened in 1983 and has been named among the nation's best hospitality facilities, winning Successful Meetings magazine's Pinnacle Award four years in a row. In keeping with a policy of helping business meeting organizers and travelers, the hotel recently announced it would eliminate cancellation and attrition fees for meetings booked at InterContinental hotels in this country and Canada from now through April 30 that are scheduled to take place through Dec. 31. The hotels made the decision to allay fears meeting planners had about booking facilities in view of the economy and world events.
- Pastry Chef Paul Wilson is baking all kinds of confections and coating them in chocolate for the Chocolate Festival this month at Charley G's.