It's been said that a coffee shop is the only thing missing from the strip of Calhoun Street that includes Kokopelli's, Bud's Broiler and Mona's Cafe. Noting the dearth of caffeine on the street, Mohsen Alikhani decided to open First Cup Cafe (3146A Calhoun St., 283-3838). The Iranian-born Alikhani knew a lot about tea, but says, 'Where I grew up coffee was only for funerals and religious events.' Before brewing his first pot of java, Alikhani spent a year studying coffee and gained advice and first-hand experience from the owners of Fair Grinds Coffeehouse (3133 Ponce de Leon, 948-3222; www.fairgrinds.com). He created a cafe that feels like a relaxed living room and filled it with original art and a lending library of 1,200 books. 'I don't care if they want to steal the books, since people don't read enough,' Alikhani says. First Cup Cafe offers free wireless Internet and, most importantly, a fine cup of espresso.
Mystery Market Meals
Nothing says spring like meals cooked with fresh market produce. All this month, Chef Greg Sonnier of Gabrielle (3201 Esplanade Ave., 948-6233; www.gabriellerestaurant.com) celebrates the season with March Market Madness. Each Tuesday evening in March, Sonnier will prepare a moderately priced, three-course prix fixe dinner with the produce he gathers that day at the Crescent City Farmers Market. Although the menu will depend on what he finds at the market, the dinner might include an appetizer of crabmeat-stuffed Happy Oak Farm squash with Lafitte shrimp Provençal, an entree of sauteed softshell crab with fried oysters, Monicah greens and Meyer lemon barbecue sauce and Mauthe's Creole cream cheesecake with Ponchatoula strawberries for dessert. If the farmers market menu proves successful, Sonnier says that he might extend it to Wednesday and Thursday.
If you've always dreamed of visiting Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, Martin Wine Cellar in Metairie (714 Elmeer Ave., 896-7350; www.martinwine.com) offers the next best thing -- an evening of chocolate and port tasting with master chocolatier John Scharffenberger on Thursday, March 3 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. With Robert Steinberg, Scharffenberger founded the Berkeley, Calif.-based Scharffen Berger Chocolate, one of the premier producers of fine chocolate in the United States. At the tasting, six chocolates ranging from milk chocolate to extra dark will each be paired with a fine port. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by phone (899-7411 or 896-7300) or at Martin's in Metairie or Uptown (3827 Baronne St., 896-7380).
Free, Not Freedom, Fries
Le Cote Brasserie (700 Tchoupitoulas St., 613-2350; www.lacotebrasserie.com) serves up $1 martinis with lunch every Friday. A three-martini lunch might stretch into the late afternoon, when free bowls of steaming mussels and hot frites are served from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.