Mary Tutwiler

Brennan's on the Green?

by Mary Tutwiler

Anybody who’s ever sipped a Ramos Gin Fizz before brunch has had truck with the Brennan family of New Orleans. Creamy, sweet, perfumed with orange flower water, and packing a punch, the Ramos Gin Fizz catches the unsuspecting off guard, it’s both surprising and inevitable, just like the grand Creole cuisine of the family of Brennan restaurants. But could customers soon be sipping a Gin Fizz with a view of New York's Central Park?

This year, the James Beard Foundation will honor New Orleans legend Ella Brennan with its highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. The 83-year-old restaurateur, after a falling out with her family over ownership of Brennan’s in the French Quarter, bought Commander’s Palace, in the Garden District, with her brother Dick Brennan, in 1969. While old line New Orleans restaurants kept ossified menus long after a new American cooking revolution swept the country, Brennen had the acumen to hire some up-and-coming young chefs, first Paul Prudhomme, and then Emeril Lagasse. Innovators at heart, the chefs married classic Creole cooking to a wave of new dishes that helped to freshen the city’s taste buds and made Commander’s Palace one of the most celebrated restaurants in the country.

Ella Brennan has largely handed over the reigns of Commander’s Palace to her daughter, Ti Adelaide Martin, who with her cousin Lally Brennan are co-owners of Commander’s. Evidently running a world class restaurant isn’t enough for the pair. The Times Picayune announced that Martin is bidding on acquiring the lease of another internationally famous eating establishment, New York City’s Tavern on the Green. The lease is up this year for the storied restaurant, and New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation has put out a Request for Proposals, looking for a new restaurateur to take over the glittering property located in Central Park. Martin will be one of 60 restaurant owners bidding to take over one of the highest profile restaurants in the world. The name, Tavern on the Green, belongs to the current operators. What might Martin call it, if she wins the bid? “Frankly,” she told the Times Picayune, “a lot of the people up there like the name Commander’s Palace.”