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Uptown Tapas
The intimate bistro Café Volage (720 Dublin St., 861-4227; www.cafevolage.com) has begun a transition into a traditional Spanish tapas restaurant under new ownership. In April, Spanish-born chef Xavier Laurentino bought the 15-year-old Riverbend restaurant from founder Felix Gallerani, but the switch is nothing if not gradual. Tapas of serrano ham, lamb stew and garlic shrimp now share the menu with Café Volage mainstays like osso buco and veal piccata. The new owner is also the chef of Laurentino's (4410 Transcontinental Drive, Metairie, 779-9393), the city's best tapas restaurant, and he plans to eventually feature a menu of 40 hot and cold tapas at his new location. For now, there are about a dozen tapas, plus Spanish items like garlic soup and shrimp Catalan, and chef Gallerani continues to run the kitchen. The café is located in a renovated Uptown cottage with a large covered patio and Laurentino, who is also a contractor, plans to give the place a thorough renovation.

Link Lauded
Chef Donald Link was named best chef for the Southern region by the James Beard Foundation (www.jamesbeard.org), a New York-based organization that honors and promotes culinary excellence. Link is the owner and chef of Herbsaint (701 St. Charles Ave., 524-4114; www.herbsaint.com) and co-owner and co-chef of Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-2123; www.cochonrestaurant.com), the upscale Cajun restaurant he opened last spring along with chef Stephen Stryjewski. Cochon was also nominated this year for the Beard Foundation's best new restaurant award, though that honor went to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, a restaurant in New York's Four Seasons Hotel. In accepting the award, Link thanked the people who work at his restaurants. "They dedicate themselves not only to the job but to our craft and that motivates me more than anything," said Link.

Fast, Hard-Hitting Service
Deuce McAllister has amassed a record as the most successful running back in the history of the New Orleans Saints, but he'll be helping others eat up something other than yards in coming weeks. On Thursday (5 p.m. to 7 p.m.), Deuce will be serving up his "Deuce's Wild" cocktail at Restaurant Anatole (600 St. Charles Ave., 274-0105; www.restaurantanatole.com), along with guest bartender Lorin Godin and her Fleur de Lis drink. Both drinks cost $5 and a portion of proceeds go to Deuce's Catch 22 Foundation (www.catch22foundation.org). The charity also is holding its fourth annual Celebrity Waiter Dinner with a four-course meal served by McAllister and approximately 20 other Saints players, including many of the rookie players for the upcoming season. The dinner will be held in the ballroom of the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center (859 Convention Center Blvd., 613-2888) and the food will come from Wolfe's in the Warehouse, chef Tom Wolfe's restaurant in the same hotel. The evening begins with a cocktail reception at 6 p.m. and includes an open bar, live and silent auctions and autograph opportunities. Tickets are $200 per person or $1,500 for tables of 10. Call 251-7821 for tickets.

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