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USA Today / Life - Entertain

New Orleans' food scene celebrates 300 years

The Crescent City turns 300 in 2018, and restaurants and bars have plenty planned to celebrate the tricentennial


There’s no better place to celebrate the 300th anniversary of New Orleans than one of the most iconic restaurants in the city: Brennan’s. On March 12, Brennan’s will host the James Beard Foundation Benefit Dinner with owners Ralph Brennan, Terry White and James Beard Finalist for Best Chef: South, Slade Rushing, through a gastronomic exploration of James Beard’s 1978 visit to New Orleans.  Chris Granger

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The five-course dinner, hosted by chef Slade Rushing, pairs original New Orleans libations and boutique wines with legendary dishes like Bananas a L’Archestrate and Crayfish a la Bordelaise.  Chris Granger

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In addition to the dinner, Brennan’s Restaurant has published its first children's book that tells the tale of 300 years of New Orleans history: 'A Topsy-Turvy History of New Orleans & Ten Tiny Turtles'.  courtesy of Hoffman Media

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In the International House Hotel, LOA bar is known for its inventive cocktail menu.  courtesy of LOA

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Creative director Alan Walter has created an entire menu centered on the historical 300th anniversary of New Orleans.  courtesy of LOA

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The Jean Lafitte (pictured) will use forged Spanish Moss, and there’s a Haitian Sazerac that offers a Caribbean spin on the city’s favorite cocktail. “The drink comes together to be a wonderfully affectionate New Orleans Sazerac, and a Rum Sazerac at that, which is so much more 'New Orleans' than Rye; a cocktail for the northernmost Caribbean city,” Walter says.  courtesy of LOA

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In addition to the cocktail menu, a preserved Banksy graffiti mural named “Looters” will be displayed in the hotel to pay reverence to the 300th anniversary.  courtesy of International House Hotel

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Ralph’s on the Park has created a bar menu that pays tribute to the 300th anniversary of New Orleans with nods to the restaurant’s historic City Park Avenue building.  courtesy of Ralph’s on the Park

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Ralph’s on the Park has created the Saux-Saux for the occasion, which is a take on the La Louisiane. Swirled with rye, Carpano, Chartreuse, Peychaud's and Herbsaint, the cocktail is an ode to Jean Marie Saux who first constructed the coffeehouse in the 900 City Park Avenue building in 1860.  Randy Schmidt Photo

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In addition, there’s an Oak Fashioned, a twist on the Old Fashioned with bourbon, Luxardo cherry and orange, that’s served in a City Park oak-smoked glass.  Randy Schmidt Photo

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In The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans, Davenport Lounge is a favorite among visitors and locals for some of the city’s finest cocktails.  courtesy of Davenport Lounge

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One of the city’s most historic and celebrated restaurants, Arnaud’s is celebrating the tricentennial throughout the entire year.(Photo: George Long)

Tennessee Williams once said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” There’s nothing wrong with Cleveland, of course, but there’s something worth celebrating about New Orleans. In fact, 2018 is the city's tricentennial anniversary, and the local community is celebrating a 300-year history. This month kicks off a year-long party that pays homage to the culture, history, diversity and resilience of the Crescent City.

First, a brief history: In 1718, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville founded New Orleans, where the French ruled until 1783. The Spanish then took over, and it was briefly turned back to French rule when it was acquired by the USA in the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. 

Throughout this time, the city has had its share of highs as one of the most powerful cities in the South, and its lows — Hurricane Katrina being the epitome of devastation. And New Orleans is resilient, a word that’s used often to describe the destination. The passion extends beyond politics; there’s nothing that brings New Orleans together more than food. There are red beans and rice on Mondays, the cochon de lait po' boy at Jazz Fest, and crawfish season, best enjoyed with a cold beer. New Orleanians are the ones who plan what’s for dinner while they’re eating lunch. And if there’s one thing locals love as much as their food, it’s a drink. The tricentennial is just another reason to sip celebratory cocktails, and for the talented bar folks to create something new and exciting for their menus.

Laura Bellucci, the bar chef of SoBou, creates a cocktail that pays tribute to The Vieux Carre that was first mixed in the mid-1930s by Walter Bergeron at New Orleans’ Hotel Monteleone. “The spirits involved are said to represent the mixing of cultures in Nola, with the Benedictine and Cognac representing the French, the sweet vermouth representing the Italians, the rye representing Americans, the Angostura and Peychaud's bitters representing the immigrants from the Caribbean and other nations in the southern hemisphere,” Bellucci says. Her version infuses the cocktail with grilled satsumas. “It’s a local citrus that means so much to New Orleans natives and grows wild all around the city. The grilling process is a nod to the passion that many of us have for cooking.”

Over at LOA in the International House Hotel, Alan Walter has created a cocktail menu to highlight the 300th anniversary and explains that, “for 300 years, the city has been steeped, percolated, marinated and distilled in these unique cultures, rituals and flavors. Our menu at LOA aims to catch the spirit of the season to share a taste of this place.” He says that they draw from the city's natural bounty as well as the cultures and ingredients. “Overall, our aim is to share with our visitors an authentic taste of New Orleans, and to honor this important landmark in the city's 300-year history.”

See the photo gallery above for ways that New Orleans will be celebrating the Tricentennial at restaurants and bars throughout the year. 

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