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Gypsy Jazz on the Avenue
You won't find it on any official Jazz Fest schedule but the French bistro Café Degas (3127 Esplanade Ave., 945-5635; www.cafedegas.com) and the adjacent wine shop Swirl Wines (3143 Ponce de Leon St., 304-0635; www.swirlinthecity.com) are hosting a gypsy jazz stage Friday and Saturday nights to entertain the masses departing the Fair Grounds. For the second year, the ÒSwirl Wine/Café Degas StageÓ will be set up on the corner of Esplanade Avenue and Ponce de Leon Street with music from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tony Green performs Friday and Vavavoom plays on Saturday. The restaurant and wine shop will both be open during the performances.

New Vietnamese Café on Carrollton
Fans of pho have another Uptown option for this mildly addictive Vietnamese beef noodle soup. In April, LA Café Deli (1200 S. Carrollton Ave., 861-9987) began serving a menu that will be familiar to fans of local, casual Vietnamese fare, including the noodle and grilled meat dishes called bun, steamed and fried rice plates, spring rolls and the Vietnamese crepe called banh xeo. A combination pho has meatballs and sheets of beef in its nicely aromatic beef broth, along with rice noodles and a heaping pile of fresh herbs and sprouts on the side to add at your discretion. There are also familiar New Orleans-style po-boys made with shrimp, hot sausage and the like and a menu of beverages like soy bean milk and avocado shakes. The small, family-run Vietnamese restaurant opened in a corner of the old building that had been a Whitney National Bank branch and shares an entryway with a nail salon operated by the same family. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner.

Starfishing
The annual culinary and cocktail festival Tales of the Cocktail (www.talesofthecocktail.com) doesn't start until mid-July, but its organizers are already holding preliminary events. In April, the festival's competition to find the official cocktail of the coming event named a new champion. Stacy Smith, a bartender at GW Fins (808 Bienville St., 581-3467; www.gwfins.com), won for her champagne cocktail called the Starfish Cooler. Competitors were required to use festival sponsor Mo‘t & Chandon's White Star champagne as the main ingredient. Smith's cocktail will be served at Tales of the Cocktail events. In addition to an ounce of Mo‘t, the drink is made with an ounce each of Limoncello, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur and unsweetened iced tea, a half-ounce of simple syrup, muddled orange slice and a mint leaf in a Tom Collins glass. Recipes for other submissions to the competition, and information about the upcoming festival, are available online at www.talesofthecocktail.com. Ñ McNulty

Deep Cork Answers Your Questions
Got questions about wine that you don't want to ask in front of friends or sommeliers? Submit them to Gambit Weekly's wine informant Deep Cork, who will tackle probing questions about wine, service and etiquette and print some of the answers in the May 22 Swizzle pullout. Email questions to DeepCork@yahoo.com.

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