During the hot summer weather — and slow summer tourist season — a collection of 33 local restaurants are offering discounted lunch or dinner menus through the "COOLinary New Orleans" program, organized by the New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. In its second year, the program offers three-course meals priced at $20.06 or less for lunch and $30.06 or less for dinner and continues through the end of September. Participating restaurants run the gamut from traditional French Creole — like Broussard's (819 Conti St., 581-3866; www.broussards.com) — to the offbeat — like the Indian-style Hookah Caf (500 Frenchman St., 943-1101; www.hookah-cafe.com); and from the very old — like Arnaud's Restaurant (813 Bienville St., 523-5433; www.arnauds.com), which opened in 1918 — to the very new — like the Cellar at Culinaria (1519 Carondelet St., 654-1800), which opened this spring. Most are in the French Quarter or CBD, though a few are Uptown. Details and a list of participating restaurants are available online at www.nomcvb.com/restaurants.
Vega Tours the Mediterranean
The Mediterranean Tour rolls on at Vega Tapas Caf (2051 Metairie Road., 836-2007; www.vegatapascafe.com) with multi-course tasting menus of cuisine from a different country bordering the Mediterranean Sea each week. The tour is a summertime special now in its eighth year at the Old Metairie tapas-style restaurant. This season, proprietor Glen Hogh has already paid homage to Morocco and Tunisia and — in spite of current events — built a menu combining Israeli and Lebanese foods. This week, through Aug. 5, the current menu features Turkish dishes like red lentil soup, shredded chicken in walnut sauce, smoked beef, fried fish over white beans and a sweet apricot beverage called kuru kayisi hosafu. Next up is cuisine from Greece, available Aug. 7 - Aug. 12. Look for menus from Italy, France and Spain as the special continues. The five-course menus are priced at $25 and can include wine pairings for an additional $15.
W is for Wine; Zoe Gets a New Chef
The W New Orleans hotel in the CBD (333 Poydras St., 525-9444; www.whotels.com) has begun a weekly wine-tasting series called Palate. Each Wednesday, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., participants can sample four different wines and select a full glass of whichever one they like best. Hors d'oeuvres are served and the cost is $10 per person. Meanwhile, the hotel has hired Roberto Bustillo as the new executive chef for its restaurant, Zo. Some of the dishes on his menu include crab cakes served with wasabi remoulade and pan-seared scallops with Tuscan corn grits and Chanterelle mushroom and heirloom grape tomato ragout. Dinner entrees begin at $30.