Holiday dining, New Orleans-style
The city is particularly captivating during the winter holidays, with restaurants offering 'reveillon' meals, a Creole custom that tops off holiday celebrations.
Given the European history of this dining tradition, it’s hardly surprising that it would find its way to the tables of New Orleans’ great restaurants. Today, the winter holidays in New Orleans always bring a host of special “reveillon” dinners served in dining rooms that range from simple to elegant. The tradition – like many – began in private homes, not in restaurants.
The term “reveillon” derives from a French word meaning “awakening,” and in 19th-century Europe it was associated with a meal enjoyed by Catholics after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Early New Orleans was almost entirely Catholic and heavily Creole, and thus many local families participated in the reveillon tradition, returning from the late-night religious service to a feast prepared mostly in advance.
Historically, Reveillons were served one night a year; but, these days diners begin looking forward to the reveillon dinners as soon as the holidays begin to approach. Many of New Orleans' finest restaurants offer elegant early-evening Reveillon dinners daily throughout December and early January, featuring four- and five-course, fixed-price menus.
A typical reveillon menu resembled a breakfast with egg dishes, breads and puddings but they often included heavier, richer items such as turtle soup, oysters and meat dishes. In Creole New Orleans, wines and cordials usually accompanied the meals. While the tradition thrived in the 19th century, reveillon meals became harder to find as time passed. Then in the late 20th century, New Orleans restaurateurs decided to bring the tradition back, delighting both locals and visitors.
Dozens of restaurants, including some of New Orleans’ most famous eateries, participate in Reveillon. Menu selections run the gamut from oyster chowder and turtle soup to braised lamb shank, broiled brisket, shrimp remoulade and crab ravioli. Most meals end on a sweeter note with a warm serving of bread pudding, cheesecake topped with everything imaginable or bananas foster.
Of course, our restaurants and attractions will be draped in the finest of seasonal decoration and entertainment can be found around every corner. You’ll find local choirs and performing artists celebrating the season with carols or gospel favorites in the historic St. Louis Cathedral, jazz clubs, and randomly throughout the streets. You can even enjoy a meal by Chef John Besh and watch the Victory Belles sing holiday favorites at the Stage Door Canteen located inside the National WWII Museum.
The holidays in New Orleans would not be complete without a visit to City Park for the annual Celebration in the Oaks! Walk through 12 acres of gardens and oaks filled with lighted figurines, a holiday themed 104-year-old carousel ride and performances by local schoolchildren.
Keep an eye out for discounted “Papa Noel” hotel room rates! This special offer is available at many hotels throughout the New Orleans area. For a complete schedule of events, Reveillon menus, Papa Noel rates and a copy of the Official Christmas Handbook, call 504-522-5730 or visit http://www.neworleansonline.com/holiday/