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Seats for Sale
Hiring someone to hold your place in line at Galatoire's (209 Bourbon St., 525-2021) the Friday before Mardi Gras is so pre-Katrina. This year, the restaurant decided to auction off those most coveted tables and donate the proceeds to hurricane-recovery programs: the Louisiana Restaurant Association's Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (www.lra.org) and the Young Leadership Council's Proud to Call it Home campaign (www.proudtocallithome.org). The century-old Galatoire's famously does not take reservations for its first-floor dining room, and queuing up for a table has evolved as part of the experience for its traditional Friday lunches. In particular, the Friday lunch before Mardi Gras became such a phenomenon that some diners paid people to hold their place in line beginning a day or more before the meal. The auction was scheduled to be held at the restaurant Monday, Feb. 13, with pre-registration required and bids beginning at $100 per person for seats at first-floor tables. Those who win the seats can keep them for as long as they want on Feb. 24. The auction price is a donation to the nonprofits and does not cover food or drink. As usual, Galatorie's accepts reservations for its newer second-floor dining room.

Wining and Singing
One of the highlights of this year's New Orleans Wine & Food Experience (www.nowfe.com) will be the debut of a musical called Wine Lovers: A Romance in Five Glasses . The production is a love story set in a wine class, but also is an interactive event. Actors portraying students in the class learn about wine while audience members drink along with them and get the same instruction from the actor portraying their teacher. Hosting theatrical productions is new ground for NOW&FE, which comes to town May 24-28 this year for its 15th anniversary. It has become a rite of spring for epicureans and always draws large crowds to its seminars, tastings and other events. Ticket information and a full schedule are expected to be posted on NOW&FE's Web site in the weeks ahead.

Crabby Mood
The Crab Catch special is back this month at GW Fins (808 Bienville St., 581-3467; www.gwfins.com). Fresh and often exotic seafood flown in from around the globe is the calling card of the French Quarter restaurant and each year around this time it rolls out a crab special pairing rare delicacies of the crustacean world with more familiar homegrown varieties. This year's line up includes Australian spanner crab claws, Alaskan king crab legs, clusters of Dungeness crab and a slaw made from local blue crab. Chef Tenney Flynn says the Australian spanner may have a "pre-historic look" but yields a brilliantly white, sweet-tasting meat. The Crab Catch weighs in at 1.5 pounds and is sold as an entrŽe or a shareable appetizer for $31.50 now through Feb. 26.

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