Brigtsen’s, one of our most esteemed restaurants is among the few Uptown to commemorate the Creole tradition of le Réveillon de Noël.
“Many of our guests have made a visit to Brigtsen’s for Réveillon part of their own Holiday tradition. There is a festive air and a shared joy in our dining rooms. It’s really quite beautiful,” Chef Frank Brigtsen said.
During the colonial period, the French Catholic meal began after a full day of religious observance and abstinence ending in Midnight Mass, or “la Messe de Minuit”. After midnight, the solemnity ended, and le Réveillon celebration, or “the eve”, would begin.
The original Creole meal would have been a drawn-out breakfast featuring simple egg dishes, raisin breads, fruit cakes, wines, strong coffee, and the “daube glace” herbed jellied meat, a richly spiced and carefully prepared dish that held prominence on the table.
Chef Frank Brigtsen reminisces about the meal: “As a New Orleans native, I have tremendous respect for our rich history and heritage, particularly when it comes to dining. Réveillon, with its Creole Catholic roots, has evolved into a month-long celebration of that heritage.”
Brigtsen’s menu features, “many of the dishes and flavors we associate with Classic Creole cuisine while reflecting our love for the seasonal use of ingredients. Louisiana citrus, a Holiday staple in the Brigtsen home when I was growing up, is featured in our Satsuma Salad and our classic Roast Duck a l’Orange, Filé Gumbo, Baked Oysters, and BBQ Shrimp fill out our appetizer selection,” the chef said.
Chef Brigtsen describes his 2017 menu: “Seafood Stuffed Flounder pays tribute to our longstanding romance with seafood,” he said, “the Reveillon meal ends with desserts such as our seasonal Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Praline Sauce or Brigtsen’s legendary Pecan Pie.”
Le Réveillon and its meaning drifted away post-war amid the Americanization of Christmas and the Catholic rules on abstinence loosening during the Canons of 1983. However, in 1988, le Réveillon returned.
In the ’80s, you could shoot a cannon down the deserted Quarter streets in December and not hit a soul. An expanded Le Réveillon was resurrected in 1988 as a means to attract locals to downtown restaurants. The idea is credited to Sandra Dartus and at the time, the novel French Quarter Festival. Hence, the Yuletide French Louisiana tradition was revived as a marketing gambit.
This December, a dozen local restaurants are offering Réveillon menus including Uptown’s Commander’s Palace. The classic Creole French Quarter restaurants Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, and Broussard’s also participate in le Réveillon.
Kristine Froeba is a fourth generation Uptown girl whose varied background includes food and travel writing, celebrity ghost writing, public relations, social media management, fundraising, preservationist, reluctant tabloid hack, and litigation specialist. She describes herself as part foodie, part writer, part historian, historic renovation zealot, and full time dabbler.
“Katherine is a Boston educated, New Orleans based freelance photographer. Her focus is in food photography, working with restaurants and publications such as Arnauds, The Pelican Club, Good Grit Magazine, and Uptown Messenger in New Orleans. She also moonlights as a concert photographer,” Kimball’s Website is katkimball.com.