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Where Y’Eat: With Coolinary menus back, there's a silver lining during New Orleans summer

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Ian McNulty
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Shrimp and okra at Palm & Pine restaurant in New Orleans.

Ah, summertime in New Orleans, when we all find the sunny side of the street, and avoid it. When we take multiple showers a day, including the rain showers we just get caught in. Yeah, it gets real here in deep New Orleans summer. But hey, let me tell you about this dinner I just had.

I was at the French Quarter restaurant Palm & Pine, sitting by myself at a counter seat with a view of the open kitchen blazing away. I was eating plump shrimp with an edge of sear with buttery smothered okra beneath and the sweet pop of peppers in between. With every bite, it tasted like summer, and a redemption of even New Orleans summer.

During August, that shrimp and okra dish is also part of a very local summer ritual, at least in the realm of New Orleans restaurants.

It’s part of the three-course Coolinary menu at Palm & Pine, which is one of 80-plus restaurants taking part in this seasonal happening. These run the gamut from old line French Creole restaurants to hot modern bistros to casual, anytime spots changing up their game for a little summer variation. You can find details and menus from those taking part at neworleans.com.

The framework of the deal is familiar to many by now. Coolinary offers set-price, multicourse menus at different restaurants around town. The idea is to use the lure of a dining deal to get locals and regional travelers to the table when tourism and conventions dip low. Certainly, there’s little trouble getting a table during this spell, even on short notice, even at restaurants that are usually a tough booking.

This year Coolinary returns as restaurants are feeling - not exactly normal - but certainly as close to normal as they been through two and half years of this pandemic ride.

So yes, it’s still deep summer in New Orleans and we know the drill. Go slow, watch the weather, and hang loose until fall finally gets here already. And yet between the steam bath and the downpours of local life in these days, when we go to New Orleans restaurants we can still look at the menus and find silver linings to the season.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.