Awakening Your Hunger
Reveillon dinners combine holiday tradition and contemporary gastronomy.
Have you ever fasted? Whether for religious or health reasons, fasting creates an empty feeling that hovers somewhere between the physical and the mental spheres.
Fasting was asked of Catholics on special days, Christmas Eve being one of them. The 19th century Catholic French Creoles, some of the earliest European residents of New Orleans, practiced this fasting and broke their fast with Reveillon dinners. The word “reveillon” is French for “awakening” and the Creoles would literally awaken their digestion with large family dinners after returning home from midnight mass.
The historic feast would typically feature gumbo, game pies, soups and special desserts. Starting the meal around 2:00 a.m. and continuing through the morning, the Creoles celebrated with food and drinks like brandy and coffee.
The practice of Reveillon faded through the centuries and around World War II had become basically a thing of the past. However, restaurants created a resurgence of the tradition in the 1990s and Reveillon has once again become a popular New Orleans tradition.
Participating in a Reveillon as a visitor to New Orleans is easier and more rewarding than ever, with nearly 50 local restaurants creating special holiday menus and prix fixe pricing, many of them lasting through December 31.
The menu options are plentiful and diverse, honoring the historic Creole dishes in many cases, but also leaving room for modern interpretations of holiday recipes. Today’s chefs have the leeway to create new traditions within the framework of this old practice.
New Orleans’ oldest restaurants, Antoine’s, Arnaud’s and Galatoire’s, all offer Reveillon dinners. Some of our newest gastronomic gems offer their interpretations as well, including Killer Po-Boys, Meauxbar and Willa Jean.
From the classic Turtle Soup at Broussard’s to the Black Bean & Chorizo Sope with Salvadorian Crema & Queso Fresco at Johnny Sanchez, diners can challenge their palates and explore both the classic and newest recipes in New Orleans.
Prix fixe dinners start around $50 per person. Reservations specifying the Reveillon dinner option are required.