Behind the Scenes of Pirate’s Alley: Reveillon

With PIRATE’S ALLEY taking place in mid-December, it offered up a chance for me to feature a couple of New Orleans holiday customs. Today, I’ll introduce you to Reveillon, New Orleans style.

In French custom, as I understand it, réveillon refers to a festive meal held at midnight on Christmas and New Year’s eves. In New Orleans, it dates back to the early 1800s, when Creole New Orleanians would have a big meal after returning home from midnight mass. The tradition gradually faded away (I mean, who wants a massive meal at 2 a.m.?), only to be revived in the 1990s in its current guise.

Today, Réveillon refers to the two or three weeks before the holidays, when local high-end restaurants offer elaborate, fixed-price four-course meals. I think it was originally planned to help boost restaurant traffic during a time of year when the tourists are not around to fill restaurant tables and it was seen as a way to lure locals into eating out more often.

In PIRATE’S ALLEY, DJ and Alex decide to enjoy a Réveillon dinner at Café Degas before they go to see the Celebration in the Oaks light show (which I’ll talk about next week). The café, which bills itself as a French bistro, was named after artist Edgar Degas, who visited New Orleans in 1872 and stayed in a guest house down the street from the restaurant’s location. It’s a lovely restaurant, although quite small.


For DJ & Alex’s dinner, I pulled from an actual Café Degas Réveillon menu: four courses plus a glass of ruby port, all for $42. Here are the courses they enjoy:
• Fried oyster and celeriac slaw in spicy remoulade. DJ picked out the oysters to eat and left most of the slaw since she has an aversion to green, leafy foods.
• Seared crawfish ravioli with spinach and brandy mushroom duxelles with a lemon buerre blanc. DJ was really enjoying this until her conversation with Alex began getting heated, and not in a good way.
• Pan-seared rack of lamb au jus with ratatouille. She’d lost her appetite by this time and picked at her lamb.
• Chocolate pot de crème. Her appetite’s never too far gone for dessert, so she ate hers, and then ate Alex’s by swapping her glass of port for it.
Then they went home in a snit.

8 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of Pirate’s Alley: Reveillon

  1. A fine meal indeed. What a great chocolate dessert. Chocolate, milk, cream, eggs, sugar, salt, and more sugar. Alex and DJ sure have their share of problems. The mid- December in NOLA has it’s share of surprises. Pirate’s Alley soon now. Thanks for the reveillon information.

  2. Years ago, my husband and I were in New Orleans in December and had a reveillon dinner. It was delightful! After dinner, we walked by the river and one of the ships had its calliope playing Christmas carols. Not a sound I hear back home. I totally wish someplace local would seve DJ’s chocolate dessert!

    • If you google: Chocolate pot de crème, Chicago, you can find a heck of a list…

    • Sounds like that are things I really miss about New Orleans. I’d be lying in bed at night and hear the ships’ fog horns echoing off the river five blocks away, or the rumble of the St. Charles Avenue streetcar down the tracks. All I hear here are cows–LOL.

  3. ^^ The reveillon is a big meal held at Christmas and/or New Year Eve yes but not necessery after the midnight mass it can be held before and finish for midnight at least in Belgium ( oki for New year it prolong after a little bit^^;;)
    the thing is thatit must be a special menu, a longer meal with several dishes ( 4 part is a minimum) and we take teh time to be together so we do not rush to eat ^^

    So At New Orleans we can enjoy those in restaurant for 3 weeks? that’s quite tempting an,d if she has not all the problems she had and a wizards bank card ( yes better when it’s with other money) i coudl see Dj trying each of teh restaurant during that time

    • LOL, yes, it goes on for about three weeks and there are usually at least 15 or 20 restaurants participating. The menus are always special, not the usual fare, and are priced lower than a four-course meal normally would be. DJ would love to do a reveillon tour!