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Rambla Into Town
A new restaurant called Rambla (217 Camp St., 587-7720) has opened in the lobby of the International House Hotel, in the pre-Katrina location of Lemon Grass Café. Named for a central cluster of pedestrian malls and busy urban blocks in Barcelona, the restaurant serves a mix of Spanish- and French-inspired dishes in tapas-sized portions. A centerpiece of the restaurant is a series of large, communal tables at which guests dine on small portions of steak tartare, dates stuffed with almonds and wrapped in bacon, fried frog legs with tarragon butter, andouille croquettes, and more. The restaurant was created by Kenny LaCour and Kim Kringlie , co-owners of Restaurant Cuvée (322 Magazine St., 587-9001; and the Dakota (629 N. Hwy 190, Covington, 985-892-3712), and by Cuvée chef Bob Iacovone. Rambla is open for lunch Monday through Friday and for dinner daily.


Betting on Bottles
The horses won't be galloping at the Fair Grounds Race Course (1751 Gentilly Blvd., 948-1285; until the official start of the local racing season next month. But the historic racetrack will open its doors to visitors this Thursday, Oct. 23, for a special wine-tasting event called "All-American All-Stars," held in partnership with Dorignac's Food Center (710 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 834-8216; The tasting will feature 20 wines by domestic producers, along with an assortment of cheeses. The tasting is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the fourth-floor Fair Grounds Clubhouse. The Fair Grounds plans to hold similar events each month. Tickets cost $25 each and are available in advance at Dorignac's.


Gumbo Shop Sold
Local restaurateur Hicham Khodr bought the Gumbo Shop (630 St. Peter St., 525-1486; restaurant and its Uptown catering operation last week from chef Richard Stewart and William Roberts. Khodr says he plans no major changes at the 60-year-old restaurant, but hopes to open additional Gumbo Shop locations in other markets. The purchase and expansion plans follow a pattern Khodr set after Katrina when he bought Camellia Grill and reopened the landmark Riverbend diner, whose post-storm future was then in doubt. A second Camellia Grill is set to open in Baton Rouge as part of a large, mixed-use development called Perkins Rowe, currently under construction. Khodr and his business partners in 3 of a Kind Restaurant Group own the local Byblos chain of Middle Eastern restaurants, which they recently expanded with a new restaurant called Zaya in the Atlanta area.

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