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Extended Lunch
Lunch at Gabrielle (3201 Esplanade Ave., 948-6233) is normally a Friday-only affair, but this week Greg and Mary Sonnier will open at midday on Thursday as well. Gabrielle will close for the Christmas holiday from Sunday, Dec. 21, through Saturday, Dec. 27. Disappointed diners may consider feting New Year's Eve at Gabrielle, where the five-course menu costs $85 per person.

Open Houses
Bourbon House (144 Bourbon St., 522-0111), the Fairmont Hotel (123 Baronne St., 529-4733), Marisol (437 Esplanade Ave., 943-1912), the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans (921 Canal St., 524-1331) and the Windsor Court Hotel (300 Gravier St., 522-1992) are among the venues open this year for Christmas Day dining.

Feliz Navidad
This week Chef Adolfo Garcia is supplementing RioMar's (800 S. Peters St., 525-3474) regular menu with traditional Spanish holiday dishes. For the full Spanish holiday gustatory experience, call about the five-course wine dinner to take place on Wednesday. Air-dried duck and wild game will make guest appearances; the cost was not set at press time.

The Grapevine
Bacchanal (600 Poland Ave., 948-9111), the great wine store hidden in the far reaches of Bywater, holds casual wine tastings every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. This Saturday there will be an unorthodox bourbon tasting instead. Bacchanal is now open every day of the week (2 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends); it will remain open for last-minute runs until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve and until 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve.

Gift Ideas
As you wear down the magnetic strip on that credit card this month, bear in mind three new books that relate to Louisiana cooking and local traditions. In St. Joseph Altars (Pelican, $23), photographer-writer Kerri McCaffety chronicles the unique, often delicious, way in which Italian-Americans and other Catholic Orleanians celebrate St. Joseph's Day. Local food writers and media personalities John DeMers and Rhonda Findley compiled The Top 100 New Orleans Recipes of All Time (Acadian House, $14.95), which includes recipes for the calas at Elizabeth's restaurant, the late Warren LeRuth's oyster and artichoke soup, and Arnaud's trout amandine. Finally, the 250 recipes collected in Oak Alley Plantation Cooking (Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant and Inn, $19.95) come from the Vacherie plantation's staff, family and friends. The hardcover, spiral-bound book is especially convenient for kitchen work.


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