Time to indulge!

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It’s the holidays, so go ahead and enjoy the best that the best restaurants have to offer

Ahh, the holidays … a time to share special moments with family and friends, give thanks for all of life’s wonderful blessings and, of course, eat, drink and party like there’s no tomorrow—for weeks at a time! Thankfully, we live in a city—the city—where we are fortunate to have many wonderful choices for food and drink, even in life post-Katrina (poor Alan Richman has no idea what he’s missing!). It’s almost impossible to name any one place as having “the best” of anything, but many will agree that the following establishments are more than capable of satiating those ready to do some serious holiday indulging.

Great Place to Meet for a Cocktail:
Vega Tapas Café

Grab your friends and saunter into the sexy, transporting bar area at Vega Tapas Café, one of the area’s hippest hangs, for a little libation to jumpstart your holiday festivities. In addition to the great wine and drink selection, which includes an array of martinis (go for the VEGAtini) and even coffee drinks (try the Berry Nutty Vega), the nice assortment of hot and cold “small plates” will have you asking for a table in the art- and music-filled dining room. The chic, casual setting has just about the coolest vibe in town.

Great Place for Oysters:
Drago’s Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar

Drago’s claim to fame is having the best darn preparation of oysters in town. Instead of downing them cold, mushy and in dire need of a cracker chaser, try eating them char-grilled, served hot and bubbly and swimming in an herby garlicbutter sauce with melted cheeses on top. The holidays are a perfect excuse to enjoy this seafood delight. A new Drago’s location in the Hilton Riverside will allow the downtown crowd to easily get their hands on these always smokin’, phenomenal oysters.

Great Place for Foie Gras:
Restaurant Cuvée

Check out the interesting Crème Brûlée of Foie Gras, Tart Apples and Chevre served as a decadent prelude at Restaurant Cuvée. Made in a traditional crème brûlée style, this fancy dish consists of diced and seared foie gras, roasted shallots, roasted Granny Smith apples, chevre and a burnt sugar caramelization on top. A second portion, consisting of two ounces of pan-seared foie gras, also accompanies this sinful dish, with accoutrements changing nightly.

Great Place for a Superbly Rich Lobster Dish:
Clancy’s Restaurant

For a terrific seafood dish that has the power to bring lobster lovers to their knees, look no further than the rich lobster risotto at Clancy’s. Chock-full of earthy morel mushrooms and in a buttery sauce, chunks of lobster tail combine beautifully with Italian rice to create a savory and decadent one-bowl meal. Enjoying it in one of the most lively spaces in the city makes it even more delicious.

Great Holiday Ambience:
The Windsor Court

For an absolute cornucopia of special dining events and the ambience to match, the Windsor Court is the place to be for the holidays. Magical decor fills the entire hotel, including an outstanding 20-foot Canadian spruce that greets guests at the door, and lovely flower arrangements provided by Glenn Vesh, owner of Perfect Presentations. Holiday packages are available for private parties and splendid accommodations, and the most lavish feasting can be done at the highly acclaimed le Salon, Polo Lounge and New Orleans Grill. Be sure to reserve a place at the table for an extravagant meal at the expanded holiday buffet, which features carved meat stations, seafood displays and other wonderful flavors of the season.

Great New Place to Party:
Riche by Todd English in Harrah’s Hotel

One of the newest kids on the restaurant block, Riche offers guests a fantastic new gathering spot with an inviting and splendid interior, excellent eats and live music all in one neat, exciting and gorgeous package. From the sleek bar area, which demands lingering, to the elegant yet comfortable heart of the restaurant, which serves French bistro food complemented by English’s welcomed twists, Riche’s inviting atmosphere will have you coming back for more. And with live jazz in the same venue at club 528, the party gets kicked up yet another notch.

Great Place for Holiday Baked Goods
Chez Pierre

What could be more perfect for the holidays than visions of sugar plums dancing in your head? Having them right in your hands instead! The baked-with-love homemade goodies at Chez Pierre in Kenner are not to be missed this season. Perfect examples of the tantalizing sweets are the pumpkin and pecan pies, cookies, petits fours, yule logs decorated with Christmas ornaments in chocolate, vanilla and mocha flavors, fresh fruit tarts made from puff pastry and pastry cream, and the store’s signature Chantilly cake, a yellow sponge cake with fresh strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Don’t forget to scoop up some of the freshest baked breads in town, including long baguettes, sweet dinner rolls and pistolettes to accompany dinner. And as always, freshly brewed coffee is on the house while you do your shopping.

Great Place to Break From Too Much Holiday Indulgence:
Vitality Juice, Java and Smoothie Bars

Let’s face it, after weeks of stuffing yourself with everything rich and exquisitely fatty, the toll on your body becomes almost unbearable, even for the most enthusiastic of food enthusiasts! Throw on your most comfortable, forgiving sweatpants and head to Vitality for a healthy shot of fresh wheat grass and you’ll start to feel your body detox almost immediately. Follow up with one of their all-natural smoothies or great guilt-free meals; it’s the next best thing to spending a back-on-track week at a destination spa.

Great Holiday Drink:
The SoCo Eggnog Martini

The SoCo Eggnog Martini, a twist on a favorite holiday beverage, is a delicious combination of eggnog and Southern Comfort served in a nutmeg rimmed martini glass. 1oz. Southern Comfort 3oz. of your favorite eggnog Ground nutmeg Combine chilled ingredients in a shaker (no ice). Shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with nutmeg. Serves one.

Great Place for Handmade Candy:
Southern Candymakers

Let loose and be a kid in a candy store—isn’t that what the holidays are for? And when you do, you’ll be amazed at the plethora of sweet indulgences available at Southern Candymakers in the French Quarter. Try the rich, silky pralines in flavors like coconut and cinnamon, outstanding divinity topped with fresh pecans, yummy chocolate-dipped glacé apricots, and the store’s best-kept secret, crave-worthy Jackson Squares, a combination of caramel, peanut butter and Rice Krispies encased in milk chocolate. To satisfy any sweet tooth on your gift list this year, the friendly elves at Southern Candymakers offer their sweet treats in a variety of festive boxes, tins and baskets, with shipping available as well.