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"Cul" Idea
People who buy the new CulCard (pronounced "cool card") for themselves or others are supporting the recovery of the local restaurant industry, so when they flash these cards at certain restaurants or CC's Coffeehouses around town they can expect a palatable thank-you in return. Sales of the CulCard, introduced in December by the local Culinary Concierge magazine (www.culinaryconcierge.com) and Community Coffee (www.communitycoffee.com), benefit the Louisiana Restaurant Association Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (www.lra.org), which raises money to help with travel and housing expenses for displaced food-service workers returning to the area. In return, CulCard holders get a one-year subscription to the magazine, a free up-size on the coffee of the day at CC's locations, and, at a growing list of participating restaurants, a special "CulCourse" - lagniappe ranging from an amuse bouche or appetizer to a bottle of wine. CulCards are available for $25 each at CC's coffeehouses or by ordering through Culinary Concierge online or by phone at 343-2092.


Viking Invasion
A new food-and-wine event that had been in the works before Hurricane Katrina is back on schedule. The inaugural Viking Grand Cru Summit will be a gathering of food and wine experts, vintners, chefs, writers and celebrities from Feb. 9-12 at the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal St., 523-3341; www.hotelmonteleone.com). The summit will be presented by the kitchen-appliance maker Viking Range Corp., which is based in Greenwood, Miss. The weekend will feature wine-education seminars, wine tastings and luncheons led by Robert Parker , one of the world's most influential wine experts and critics (among others), and a reception hosted by Emeril Lagasse. The event will also feature dinners in private Garden District homes with meals prepared by chefs from Restaurant August , Upperline , Gabrielle , Gautreau's and others. For more information, visit www.grandcrusummit.com or call (662) 451-1843.


Special Lunch
An impressive lineup of local chefs has volunteered to help raise money for St. Michael's Special School at the nonprofit's Chef's Charity for Children event on Jan. 23. The annual event is scaled back to just one day this year at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside (2 Poydras St., 561-0500; www.hilton.com) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Participating chefs include Emeril Lagasse of Emeril's ; John Besh of Restaurant August ; Gunter Preuss of Broussard's ; John Folse of Lafitte's Landing at Bittersweet Plantation ; Goffredo Fraccaro and Aldo Marcon of La Riviera ; Chris Kerageorgiou of La Provence ; David Woodward of the Hilton ; and the Wong Brothers of Trey Yuen . Each chef will demonstrate how to prepare an item from his restaurant menu to be served during the event's lunch, and guests will receive a copy of the Chef's Charity Cookbook . Tickets are $45 per person. For more information, call St. Michael's at 524-6551.

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