Now that the long hot summer is upon us, local restaurateurs are cranking up creative slow-season specials to lure in locals and tourists alike. As the mercury rises, Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 523-1661) has revived its daily "temperature lunch special" and expanded its pre-dinner service for "ice cream afternoons." The first special requires a little bit of semi-advanced math -- weekday lunch prices are based on the previous day's high temperature. (Put a decimal between the digits and get your Monday entree for $8.70 following an 87-degree Sunday.) Barring any freak heat waves, this makes for affordable midday dining at the renovated Werlein's showroom. After the lunch rush, action at the Palace shifts to the bar, where an expanded pre-dinner menu features a full range of savory dishes and cooling ice cream dishes whipped up by pastry chef Tobias Dotson. The "Ice Cream Afternoon" menu runs daily from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Esquire Hits Town
Esquire magazine's national food correspondent John Mariani apparently made the local rounds recently and left singing the praises of three local chefs in his weekly newsletter, the Virtual Gourmet. In the June 2 dispatch, he credits Jonathan Wright, new chef at The Grill Room inside the Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 522-1992), with "the most impressive debut in years" and proceeds to describe the newcomer as "the finest chef in New Orleans." Wright's highly composed, experimental cuisine apparently captured Mariani's imagination, who gushes, "Believe me, no one else in New Orleans is doing this style of haute cuisine, which, while straying from sacrosanct traditions, is an eye-opener for every chef in town." He also gives favorable write-ups to Muriel's of Jackson Square's (801 Chartres St., 568-1955) new chef Eric Veney, and Jared Tees of Dickie Brennan's new Bourbon House (144 Bourbon St., 522-0111). (You can read the full-text account at http://communities.prodigy.net/food/john91.html.)
Mid-City's Chateaubriand Steakhouse (310 N. Carrollton Ave., 207-0016) celebrates trans-Atlantic independence with a special Fourth of July/Bastille Day menu. The four-course setup lets diners pick American- or French-inspired dishes at each course. Judging from the options, chef Gerard Crozier splits the difference between countries with an appropriate Louisiana compromise (turtle soup as the American soup, crabmeat-topped redfish with maque-choux as the French entree). The "French and American Dinner" will be served from Independence Day (Friday, July 4) to Bastille Day (Monday, July 14). French guitarist Jean Louis Lavergne will provide entertainment on Friday through Sunday evenings and on Bastille Night.