The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience kicks off this Thursday and runs through Saturday with a wide range of wine and food events in addition to wine dinners at restaurants across town, pairing chefs' dishes with individual wineries. Earlier this month, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival served as a showcase for Southern cooking. Now it's time for New Orleans chefs to show what they've got, teaming up with wine producers from around the world to do so. NOWFE celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
One of the hallmark events for NOWFE is the Royal Street Stroll, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. along Royal Street in the Quarter. For $75 ($90 day of), the Stroll features a whole lot of different wineries and eight different restaurants, plus Rouse's, set up inside shops. Guests can walk up and down the street, wine glass in hand, sampling wines from a whole lot of different wineries and food from places like Galvez, GW Fins and Antoine's. This is a fun and casual event with a number of uniquely New Orleanian touches, a good choice if it's going to be your only NOWFE event. But watch out: it got pretty crowded last year, meaning it's probably not worth it if you don't want to battle the crowds and plan on attending one of the other events.
Earlier in the day on Thursday, from 2-4 p.m. at the Theatre at Harrah's Casino, is the more exclusive Vinola Tasting. This one is $150 per person and features chefs from some of the city's hottest restaurants, including Michael Stoltzfus from Coquette, Michael Doyle of Maurepas Foods and Phillip Lopez from Root. This one tends to sell out, but as of this writing tickets are still available.
Friday and Saturday feature a number of seminars throughout the day, plus NOWFE's marquee events: the Grand Tastings inside an entire hall at the Convention Center. These are exactly what they sound like: food and wine tastings in a pretty grand way. Friday's features demonstrations from three chefs who contribute to Fine Cooking: David Guas, Louisiana native and owner of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, VA; Tasha DeSerio, a caterer from Berkeley, CA; and Bill Taibe, chef at LeFarm and The Whelk in Connecticut. On Saturday, instead of demonstrations there's the 5th Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. Tickets are $89 in advance, $100 at the door.
But of course, it's not all boozy and savory: the festival's 20th anniversary will be marked by a party complete with cakes, The Big Gateaux Show. NOWFE approached Sucré co-owner Tariq Hanna about doing something special this year, and the result is a baking competition pitting four teams of pastry chefs against each other in the construction of 5 foot high cakes. Hanna is co-hosting with Johnny Iuzzini, head judge of Top Chef: Just Desserts and pastry chef at New York City's Jean Georges. The Big Gateaux Show is Friday night at the Royal Sonesta, tickets are $75.
The whole thing kicks off tomorrow with the sold out Ella Brennan Award Dinner, a black tie affair honoring Bill Goldring of Crescent Crown Distributing with the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award in Hospitality. And then, of course, there's the wine dinners on Wednesday night. Many of these are sold out, but here's the list of participating restaurants. Call them directly for reservations.
· New Orleans Wine & Food Experience [Official Site]
· NOWFE [Blackened Out]
· The Big Gateaux Show Brings Celebrity Chefs to New Orleans Wine & Food Experience [TP]
· New Orleans Wine & Food Experience 2012 [Gambit]
· All New Orleans Wine & Food Experience Coverage [-ENOLA-]