Drinking, eating to restore health to New Orleans

Restaurant industry helping its workers

Katrina's Wake

September 09, 2005|By Rob Hiaasen

So many of our dear friends have fallen victims. That's why it was a no-brainer for us to put this event together," says Jill DeGroff, one of the founders of the Museum of the American Cocktail, which is based, naturally, in New Orleans.

"Dedicated to providing education in mixology," the nonprofit has organized a "Save New Orleans Cocktail Hour" event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday. Participating bars and restaurants across the country will serve such traditional Big Easy drinks as the Hurricane, French 75, Obituary Cocktail (hint: involves an absinthe substitute) Ramos Gin Fizz and Sazerac. Arguably the oldest cocktail, the bitters-dashed Sazerac dates to the 1830s in New Orleans.

Businesses are asked to donate proceeds from the suggested $10 drinks to the nonprofit's hurricane relief fund for New Orleans' restaurant industry.

More than 35 restaurants in New York have signed up, along with 50 establishments in Seattle, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C., including Nick's Riverside Grille, Bangkok Joe's and Riedels Modern American Barbecue.

After Sept. 11, 2001, the restaurant community of New Orleans raised money to send to New York bartenders, restaurant workers and their families. With the participating New York restaurants and a temporary base in Manhattan, the "Save New Orleans Cocktail Hour" staff hopes to return the favor.

Monday's national cocktail hour, however, is not intended to be a happy hour.

"This is by no means frivolous," DeGroff says. "We are all honoring our friends down there."

Individual donations are being accepted through the Museum of the American Cocktail's Web site, museumoftheameri cancocktail.org. Participating restaurants are also listed through the site.

`Dine for America'

From the Big Easy's main menu:

Gumbo, jambalaya, strawberry beignets, pralines, crawfish etouffee, Flaming Bananas Foster, Eggs Sardou, muffaletta sandwiches - and down-and-dirty red beans and rice, traditionally eaten Mondays, or "clothes" day, because the beans and rice cook slow, giving folks time to get their laundry done.

"Certainly with New Orleans being such an amazing restaurant town, we want to make sure we are taking care of those hospitality workers and their families," says National Restaurant Association spokeswoman Sue Hensley.

So the association has designated its "Dine for America" effort, scheduled for Oct. 5, as a Hurricane Katrina relief fundraiser, with participating restaurants across the country asked to donate all or part of proceeds to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Dine for America began as a relief effort after Sept. 11, when 8,000 restaurants raised more than $24 million for victims of the terrorist attacks.

Given its success four years ago, Dine for America is a fitting relief effort for the 55,000 restaurant workers left jobless and homeless in New Orleans alone, organizers say. More than 30 national restaurant chains have signed up to participate. All proceeds will go to hurricane victims and their families, Hensley says.

The project Web site, dine foramerica.org, was scheduled to launch yesterday. The site will include a state-by-state map of participating restaurants.

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