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Word of Encouragement
Beware the maitre'd at Tommy's Cuisine (746 Tchoupitoulas St., 581-7494). When I paused at the entrance one recent evening, just to glance over the menu, he insisted I step inside. I declined politely; his insistence escalated. In the interest of avoiding a scene I humored him: first one foot, then another foot, then a nose ‰ I'd been had. The swirling smells of browning garlic, sizzling butter, blossoming red wine and starched shirts straight from Perlis were dizzying. The maitre'd gloated. Tommy Andrade, who started Irene's Cuisine (539 St. Philip St., 529-8811) with Irene DiPietro, is the Tommy behind Tommy's. The menu looks a lot like Irene's -- including the Escargots aux Champignons and the Chicken Rosemarino -- and the will-breaking aromas are identical. Tommy's operates in the space most recently occupied by The Red Bike, in the Warehouse District's developing culinary corridor. Emeril's, The Wine Loft and La Cote Brasserie are all close enough to see.

Crabby Mood
The short Alaskan king crab season launches each year on October 15. GW Fins' (808 Bienville St., 581-3467) Chef Tenney Flynn currently receives 6- to 8-lb. red king crabs just 48 hours after they've been plucked from Alaskan waters. He serves them cold and in the shell, with a Creole mustard cream sauce and a blue crab slaw. There should be a steady supply of these red king crabs at GW Fins through mid-November, though diners are recommended to phone ahead in order to insure a fresh batch has arrived.

Pride of Pontchartrain
The Smith & Wollensky national restaurant group selected Pontchartrain Vineyards' 2000 Le Grand Louis-Syrah as one of about 25 wines for the new "All-American Undiscovered Gems" wine list to be offered at its 16 national steakhouses. All wines on this list are produced outside the primary American wine producing regions of California and the Pacific Northwest.

Special Delivery
Bywater residents hemmed in by Chartres Street construction ought to consider Cafe Picasso's (3401 Chartres St., 948-6881) free pizza delivery, offered until 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The puffy pizzas, which the owner learned to make in Naples, Italy, have cracker-crisp bottoms and virtually no outer crust. Toppings creep right up to the edge.


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