Tall Tales
Organizers of the annual Tales of the Cocktail (800-299-0404; event are gearing up for their July festival and recently announced the winners of its cocktail competition. Michael Brewer of the new Jackson Restaurant (1910 Magazine St., 529-9599; won for his drink called the rum Baja martini, which gets bragging rights as the official cocktail of Tales of the Cocktail 2006. The five-day festival celebrates the history of the cocktail in the French Quarter with 35 events, including seminars, dinners, an interior-design showcase, book signings, cocktail-mixing and cooking demonstrations, a bartending course, a film premiere and, of course, cocktail parties. The festival will be held July 19-23 at various locations across the area. Check the festival's Web site for schedules, tickets and other information.

Dollars for Dooky
A recent lunch benefiting the hard-hit Dooky Chase Restaurant (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0535) netted approximately $40,000 for the Creole soul food landmark's rebuilding effort and helped proprietress Leah Chase keep a unique culinary tradition rolling during this year of antediluvian difficulties. On Holy Thursday — April 13 this year — Muriel's Jackson Square (801 Chartres St., 568-1885; hosted the benefit lunch, serving 225 people fried chicken and gumbo z'herbes — a greens-based gumbo traditionally made by some New Orleans Catholics during Lent. Giving levels for the lunch started at $75 per person, but contributions ended up being far higher. In fact, several nonprofit organizations that had turned to Chase to donate food for their own fundraisers in the past handed over checks at the luncheon to help their longtime supporter rebuild. Culinary entrepreneur Chef John Folse ( prepared 50 gallons of gumbo following Chase's recipe while Muriel's Chef Erik Veney ran the kitchen. Corbin Evans, chef at the Savvy Gourmet (4519 Magazine St., 895-2665;, was among the volunteer chefs dipping chicken in Muriel's busy fryers. Savvy Gourmet will host a cooking class featuring Chase on May 20. The theme is Chase's favorite wild-game recipes, and a portion of the class fee will go toward rebuilding her restaurant.

Cool Tapas
If hotter temperatures trigger cravings for a dinner of cool or chilled foods, Vega Tapas CafŽ (2051 Metairie Road, 836-2007; might just have your ticket with its always-evolving menu of small plates. Chef Jared Ralls brushed up the menu's Mediterranean influences for the spring with new dishes including a baby arugula salad with crawfish, melon, fried Spanish onions and peppercorn vinaigrette dressing, and a cold tapa of shrimp and Manchego cheese in a Spanish frittata with tomato-caper relish. Check out the Creole tomato gazpacho, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, coriander tuna and carp roe dip for other hot weather fare at Vega this season.

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