The closing of Whole Foods Market's small Esplanade Avenue store caused quite a stir when the news was announced last spring, prompting a string of community meetings and debates. The same property is likely to be in the spotlight again, under very different circumstances, when Charles Ciaccio opens it in late December or early January as The Market on Esplanade (3135 Esplanade Ave., no phone). Ciaccio, the owner of Lakeview Fine Foods (801 Harrison Ave., 482-7333), bought the property from the Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods at the end of July and had just begun renovations when the storm hit. The building suffered some flood damage, but Ciaccio says his blueprint for opening "an organic, natural food store there is still on track. Initially, he says he will stock more mainstream products since so few grocers are now open in the area. In addition to groceries, the store will feature a gourmet deli and prepared foods, a full line of body-care items, wine and beer, a bakery and a gelato counter. David Reed, a fixture at the former Whole Foods location, will be general manager. Ciaccio also believes he will eventually be able to reopen his hard-hit Harrison Avenue store, though timing is still a question.
Serving in the Oaks
Antoine's, Galatoire's and Mr. B's Bistro may not yet be open in New Orleans, but they will be among the two dozen restaurants and catering companies providing food at the Celebration in the Oaks preview party from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, in City Park's New Orleans Botanical Garden. City Park took a beating during Katrina, but it is nevertheless hosting a scaled-down version of its annual holiday light show from Dec. 9-30 with walking tours only. The preview party kicks it off and serves as a fundraiser for City Park, with proceeds this year going to help restore the botanical garden. In addition to the food, a host of local bars and distributors are providing libations, and musical entertainment is scheduled throughout the night. Tickets cost $50 per person at the door or in advance between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the City Park Tennis Center (cash or check only). For more information, visit the park's Web site at www.neworleanscitypark.com.
The owners of Finn McCool's Irish Pub (3701 Banks St., 486-9080) in Mid-City are rebuilding their flooded bar and intend to open a new kitchen there serving fish and chips, shepherd's pie and other traditional pub grub. Co-owner Steven Patterson says he hopes to reopen in March in time for St. Patrick's Day. Patterson and his business partners hail from Ireland and first opened the pub in 2002 after an extensive renovation of Joe's 19th Hole, a longtime corner joint.