COOLinary menus offer gourmand summer dining experience   

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Apolline photo

Apolline’s pan-roasted rainbow trout over roasted vegetable gratin, spinach puree, and citrus emulsion

August’s COOLinary New Orleans offers a rare opportunity for both the gourmand and the culinary novice to explore cuisines and experience the city’s famed chefs. Restaurants otherwise outside of budgetary constraints are suddenly within reach — but not for long.

Participating chefs create special two- to five-course prix fixe meals that are less expensive than ordering à la carte. 

However, the economic factor is not the objective — this is a chance to widen gastronomic horizons. Thai, French, Japanese, Creole, Latin, Caribbean, Cajun, BBQ, Mexican, contemporary Southern and many other cuisines are represented in the fold.

Cho Thai photo

Cho Thai’s Night market mussels, in lemon grass, Thai beer and chili broth with, heirloom grape tomatoes.

The choices are pre-selected and somewhat narrow but usually feature at least two options per course and may include signature dishes. For example, the COOLinary menu at Commander’s Palace offers its famed turtle soup.

COOLinary New Orleans was created to increase local dining traffic in what is one of the slower months in the city’s restaurant business. 

Uptown and Garden District COOLinary

Twenty different restaurants Uptown or in the Garden District offer full-course lunches or dinners during this year’s COOLinary. Magazine Street participants include Gris-Gris, Cho Thai, Basin Seafood, Deanie’s Seafood, Picnic Provisions & Whiskey, the Bower, Pizza Domenica, Shaya, Baru Bistro & Tapas, Couvant, Haiku Sushi Bar & Bar and Apolline Restaurant. 

On the Freret restaurant corridor, Acropolis offers both a luncheon and dinner selection. Their current lunch COOlinary is a choice of soup or salad, a Gyro Platter or Grilled or Blackened Redfish entrée, and baklava or Greek Limoncello Double Layer Cake for dessert. The price is $25. 

Apolline photo

Apolline’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Sandwich: buttermilk battered chicken thigh tossed in house-made hot sauce, slaw, bread & butter pickles, served with potato hash

For those who want to experience something they might otherwise eschew due to a higher price point, fine dining fixtures such as Commander’s Palace and Restaurant R’evolution offer menus with multiple choices at unheard of cost to the diner. 

Chef Meg Bickford at Commander’s Palace offers a choice of several soups and gumbos, Cochon de Lait Eggs Benedict over buttermilk biscuits with sauce forestière, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh herbs, poached hen eggs and tasso hollandaise. For an additional $3.50, the restaurant’s signature Creole bread pudding soufflé can be added in lieu of other dessert offerings to the $39 three-course meal.

Boucherie Contemporary Southern Cuisine on Jeanette Street right off of Carrollton has created new dishes of Chilled Sweet Corn Soup, Spicy Poached Shrimp & Golden Watermelon Salad, Applewood Smoked Scallops, and a Pan Seared Halibut for COOLinary. 

Mid-City COOLinary

Chef Greg Sonnier has assembled a three-course dinner menu for Gabrielle, his Tremé eatery on Orleans Avenue. Diners can choose from a starter of Crab Bisque or Watermelon Salad; an entree of Veal Roulade with duxelle, basil and topped with baby spinach brie cream sauce or Nova Scotia Jambalaya with lobster, smoked fish, shrimp, trinity vegetables, acadian rice and okra tomato sauce. Then for dessert, there’s Peach Shortcake or Apple Upside Down Bread Pudding. The meal is $45.

Five Mid-City, Bayou St. John and City Park area restaurateurs have joined COOLinary this summer: Brown Butter Southern Kitchen and Bar, Frey Smoked Meat Co., Café Degas, Clesi’s Restaurant & Catering and Ralph’s on the Park. 

Brown Butter chefs Dayne Womax and Simon Beck created three-course meals with a variety of choices for the first two courses. Before a dessert of Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding, diners may sample Whipped Feta Dip, Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, and Cucumber Salad, Sugarcane Lacquered Smoked Brisket, BBQ Catfish, or a Fricassée of Covey Rise Vegetables. 

On the casual side, Frey’s has a down-home two-course lunch deal for $19. Choices include jalapeno cornbread, hush puppies, pork belly sandwiches, pulled pork nachos or a sausage dog served with fries.

Simon Beck photo

Brown Butter’s BBQ catfish over smothered green beans and creamer potatoes

The French Quarter, Downtown and beyond

Uptowners have always made the pilgrimage across Canal Street to dine at generation-spanning favorites. Luckily, the summer campaign includes several historic fine-dining destinations such as Antoine’s, Arnaud’s, Galatoire’s, Mr. B’s Bistro and Broussard’s.

All offer a prix fixe summer menu with gastro-lust inducing options such as  Antoine’s Ginger Roasted Peaches and Cream dessert.

Restaurant R’evolution is offering a three-course gastro feast for $45, with four appetizer and four entrée choices. An entrée of Wild Boar Tagliatelle, Gulf Fish, Cast Iron Quail or Brick Oven Lamb Shank can be topped off with Southern Peach Semifreddo or an Ice Cream Stuffed Eclair.

Restaurants representing a variety of COOLinary fare can also be found on the West Bank and in Gentilly, Chalmette and Old Metairie. Indoor, outdoor, upscale, casual, international, Creole, steak and vegan-friendly restaurants all participate. Menus can be found online. 

COOLinary New Orleans ends Aug. 31.

Galatoire's photo

Galatoire’s grilled petit filet in a red wine reduction with roasted root vegetables over garlic pommel puree

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