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Something to Smile About
Smilie's (5725 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan, 733-3000) had long been on my list for spots to hit on a Monday for red beans. If you also like a heaping portion of expertly seasoned red beans, put Smilie's on yours. Cooked long with ham shank, the beans are deeply smoky and have a thick, creamed consistency. They come with either sausage ($7.95) or a whole ham shank ($9.95) so big it could practically pass for a country ham. Spend the extra two bucks for the ham shank, which is tender and salty on the inside, caramelized and salty on the outside. According to my server, every meal comes with a complimentary order of breaded and fried eggplant sticks with garlic-hot marinara for dipping. Don't hold me accountable for anything else on the menu -- fried calamari and chicken Parmesan went mostly uneaten at my table. And be prepared to dine. Smilie's works at a leisurely but professional pace that you'll enjoy if dinner is your only plan for the evening. Smile's serves red beans and rice every night of the week.

Dragging Cher Around
Zoe Bistrot in the W Hotel (333 Poydras St., 207-5018) has scheduled an all-Cher drag brunch for this Sun., Aug. 18, just hours before the actual diva takes the stage at the New Orleans Arena. Zoe's regular "Sundays Are a Drag" hostess Bianca Del Rio is well-known for her Cher performances; other entertainers will perform as "black Cher," "big Cher" and "little Cher." The $23 brunch begins at 11:30 a.m.; the show follows at 1 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

Grapevine
Meg Barkley of Robert Sinsky Winery will host a wine dinner at Bayona (430 Dauphine St., 525-4455) at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20. Chef Susan Spicer and her staff will prepare a five-course menu to pair with selected Robert Sinsky wines. The all-inclusive dinner is $75.

More Grapevine
Meanwhile, Josh Jensen of Calera Wine Company will be at Emeril's Delmonico (1300 St. Charles Ave., 525-4937) on Friday, Aug. 23, for a five-course wine dinner, plus hors d'oeuvres, paired with Calera's 1999 Central Coast Chardonnay. Dinner is $150.

Calling All Chefs
Amateur and professional chefs are wanted for the ninth annual Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival in Morgan City, to be held on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2. Participants vie for medals and cash prizes, and everyone will get airtime on PBS' "BAR-BE-CUE America." For guidelines and entry forms for the shrimp cook-off, call (985) 385-0703. Also check out the festival's Web site, www.shrimp-petrofest.org.

This week's column powered by Breyer's Take Two: vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet share the same carton. -- Roahen

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