After a recent brunch at Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1633), I was thrilled to find the cafe's recipe for Bloody Marys in the new cookbook put together by Dickie Brennan, his wife, Leslie, and Chef Gus Martin: Palace Cafe: The Flavor of New Orleans. It was true to the salad-school of Bloody Marys -- garnished with a pickled green bean, an olive and a cocktail onion -- and it gave up teeny chips of white peppercorns with each sip. You'll have to buy the book ($30) to get the recipe, but I'll tell you now that the secret seems to be steeping all the ingredients in the tomato juice for eight hours before mixing with vodka and serving. The 208-page cookbook shares more than 170 of the cafe's most well-known recipes, including crabmeat cheesecake, pork grillades with andouille cheese grits and white chocolate bread pudding, the signature dessert that was like a brick and served with less white chocolate sauce on this last visit than when I've ordered it previously. I haven't tested any of the recipes yet, but the cookbook appears to live up to its subtitle. The easy-to-read recipes cover most of the restaurant's regular menus, and straightforward photos of employees and diners truly seem to capture the casual-yet-earnest mood of the restaurant. Local photographers David Spielman and Eugenia Uhl are to thank for those. You can find the cookbook by stopping by Palace Cafe, calling (800) 691-8313 or asking at your favorite bookstore.
Cork dork wannabes have another chance to learn the basics of wine swirling, sniffing and sipping in the Beginners Wine Course conducted by Martin Wine Cellar's Marc Pelletier. Classes begin March 25 and will meet at 6:30 p.m. on consecutive Mondays for the following five weeks. Students taste several wines and a couple cheeses during each class, meanwhile learning about various wine-producing regions, how to read a label, wine terminology, wine making techniques and the enormous breadth of opinions and tastes that surface when a bottle of wine is uncorked. The course costs $75, and reservations must be made in advance at either store (3827 Baronne St., 896-7380; 714 Elmeer Ave., Metairie, 896-7350). Also check on availability for the Thursday evening tastings. March 14 brings "1999 Bordeaux -- A Modern Day Clone of 1962" to the Metairie store ($30); March 19 is a $65 wine dinner at Chateaubriand Steakhouse (310 N. Carrollton Ave., 207-0016), and March 28 features Loire Valley wines, again in Metairie ($20). -- Roahen