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Good Read
For essays the likes of "A Butter Lover Spreads," "My Love Affair with the Sweet Potato" and "A Confederacy of Sauces," splurge $16.95 for the first edition of Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing (University of North Carolina Press). It's the first volume in what will be an annual collection compiled by the Southern Foodways Alliance, an offshoot of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture in Oxford, Miss. In his introduction, John Edgerton writes, "Cornbread Nation aspires to be an approachable and intelligent pathway to the study of Southern foodways, an entree (no pun intended) to the social and cultural life of the region." Two of the book's highlights come from Times-Picayune writers. Restaurant critic Brett Anderson pays homage to Galatoire's while eulogizing a dear friend lost on Sept. 11, 2001, and columnist Lolis Eric Elie profiles local Chef Leah Chase in a piece that originally appeared in Gourmet magazine.

First With Pho
Two weeks ago Doson, the Vietnamese chef at Chinese's Chinese (8128 Oak St., 861-7449), became the first Uptown chef I'm aware of to serve pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup). So far, he offers just one version (a restaurant specializing in pho might have 15), made with chewy beef balls, extremely tender brisket, rice noodles, cilantro and green onion. The light broth last week was tangier than most I've tried, and the usual flavors of cinnamon, star anise and ginger were almost non-existent. As expected, it came with raw mung bean sprouts, fresh basil and hoisin and chile sauces for self-garnishing. At $7.95, it's the most expensive pho I've seen in the area, though convenience and late hours (Chinese's is open until 10 p.m.) might alleviate some of the sting.

First Love
Chef Greg Sonnier and chef-partner-wife Mary are settling into the one-restaurant life again after selling Gamay Bistro (320 Decatur St., 299-8800) in the spring. At Gabrielle (3201 Esplanade Ave., 948-6233) they offer three-course early bird dinners from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for $16.95; lunches on Friday (the only day they serve lunch) operate on the same three-course concept. In addition, every night there's a three-course mix-and-match offering of higher-end appetizers, entrees and desserts that runs between $20 and $25. This is Chef Greg's outlet for creativity and your opportunity to cash in on a bargain.

Market Watch
The Louisiana citrus season has commenced with satsumas and lemons at the Crescent City Farmers Market (and likely in some area supermarkets as well).

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