Chef in the Court
The Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 522-1994; www.windsorcourthotel.com) has named Greg Sonnier as executive chef of its flagship restaurant, the New Orleans Grill, and the adjoining Polo Club Lounge. Sonnier and his wife Mary started their careers working for chef Paul Prudhomme and in the 1990s opened their own restaurant, Gabrielle, in Mid-City. After the Katrina flood, the Sonniers sold Gabrielle, which is now the pizza restaurant La Vita (3201 Esplanade Ave., 948-0077; www.lavitapizza.com), and bought a reception hall near their Uptown home with plans to open it as a restaurant. A year of tangled, contentious disputes over zoning and business licenses ensued, and this spring Sonnier announced Gabrielle would not reopen. Sonnier is the Windsor Court's second executive chef since Katrina. Its previous chef, Mike Collins, was publicly introduced in September and then fired in January. The hotel has since reorganized the responsibilities of its executive chef position. While Sonnier focuses on the restaurant, executive hotel chef Brett Breaux is in charge of banquets, in-room service menus, the hotel's Le Salon and off-premise catering. Melissa Grimm remains executive pastry chef.
Refuel (8124 Hampson St., 872-0187), the Riverbend caf known for its excellent coffee and Latin-tinged menu of lunch sandwiches, grilled meats and brunch dishes, is now staying open for dinner on Thursday evenings to host its own tapas night. Look for small servings of poached octopus with jalapeno and citrus juices, marinated olives and manchego cheese, Louisiana shrimp with tropical fruit salsa, Moorish-style tender pork kebabs, lamb "lollipops," seared scallops with chorizo confit and tortilla Espanola. The restaurant encourages guests to bring their own wine and even provides pre-mixed pitchers of sangria ingredients.
A Benevolent Brunch
Each year, chefs and restaurateurs around the country take part in a benefit called Taste of the Nation, organized by Share Our Strength (www.strength.org) and billed as America's largest fundraiser for efforts to end childhood poverty. New Orleans has hosted its own version in the form of a jazz brunch since 1988, and after a hiatus last year due to Hurricane Katrina, the festive local event is back. Taste of the Nation New Orleans will be held July 15 beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Bourbon House (144 Bourbon St., 522-0111; www.bourbonhouse.com). Local chefs cooking at the event include Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen's Restaurant, Greg Collier of Red Fish Grill, Adolfo Garcia of RioMar and La Boca, James Leeming of Dick & Jenny's, Gus Martin of Ralph's on the Park, Neil Mockovack of Bourbon House, Ian Schnoebelen of Iris and Susan Spicer of Bayona. Tickets are $65 in advance, $75 at the door or $100 for VIP treatment. Call (877) 26-Taste or visit www.tasteofthenation.org.