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Grand Opening
Chef Daniel Esses, formerly of Cafe Degas and Peristyle, and Alex Kelly have opened Bank Cafe in the Faubourg Marigny's old Canal Commercial Trust and Savings Bank (2001 Burgundy St., 371-5260). Pastry Chef Michael Law, who contacted me, characterized the food as 'Louisiana contemporary cuisine with a Mediterranean flair.' Bank Cafe is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday (until midnight Friday and Saturday), and for Sunday brunch.

Grand Opening, Part II
Flaming Torch
(737 Octavia St., 895-0900) is in business after several months of transformations -- it's another Uptown flower shop now dealing in more savory bouquets. Proprietor Hassan Khaleghi is also part-owner of Moonlight Cafe (1921 Sophie Wright Place, 522-7313); Chef Peter Chan moved here from the Caribbean, where he cooked at Sandals resorts on St. Lucia and Jamaica. Chan described his menu as 'continental with French influence.' The shellfish-filled crepe with Pernod cream sauce served at lunch, and the center-cut veal chop with cepe mushrooms and peas cloaked in demi-glace, are emerging as signature dishes. Flaming Torch serves lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

In the Kitchen
Michael Ruoss
has replaced Neal Swidler as the chef de cuisine at NOLA (534 St. Louis St., 522-6652). Ruoss' first job at NOLA, just a few years ago, was as a line cook; he moved up the kitchen hierarchy with extraordinary swiftness, working a spell at Emeril's (800 Tchoupitoulas St., 528-9393) before returning to NOLA as Swidler's executive sous-chef.

Stir Fry
Austin Leslie, the deep-frying impresario in the white captain's cap who spent nearly a decade in the kitchen at Jacques-Imo's (8324 Oak St., 861-0886), is now the head chef at Pampy's Creole Kitchen (2005 N. Broad St., 949-7970), according to General Manager Deinira Angelain. Fried chicken was already a staple at Pampy's; now more than ever it's a destination -- Leslie's celebrated version is garnished with garlic, parsley and pickle slices.

Surfing Around Web tip:
A Local Harvest employee who thought Gambit Weekly readers could benefit from the Heritage and free-range turkeys available through the company's Web site recently turned me onto www.localharvest.org. Whatever your holiday poultry plans, this site is a super tool for locating small farms and farmers' markets nationwide; it's also a smart place to visit for information on the Buy Local movement.

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