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Everything You Need To Know About the 2013 New Orleans Wine & Food Experience

Photo: Official Website

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. It's time once again for New Orleans chefs to show what they've got, teaming up with wine producers from around the world to do so. NOWFE turns 21 this year, so yeah, they're totally legal now.

The whole thing kicks off tomorrow evening, Wednesday May 22, with a slew of wine dinners. Many of these are sold out, but here's the list of participating restaurants. Call them directly for reservations.

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 $89 ($109 day of), the Stroll features a whole lot of different wineries and different restaurants, plus Rouse's, set up inside shops, and there's a parade by the Krewe of Cork. 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 GW Fins, Antoine's, and Kingfish. This year there is also a new Food Truck Zone in the 800 block of Royal featuring La Cocinita, Foodie Calls, and Frencheeze. This is a fun, casual event that pretty much embodies the epicurean marathon that is NOWFE, and a good choice if it's going to be your only NOWFE event. But watch out: It gets insanely crowded.

Earlier in the day on Thursday, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel Ballroom, is the more exclusive Vinola Tasting. This one is actually SOLD OUT at $150 per person and features chefs from some of the city's hottest restaurants, including Michael Stoltzfus from Coquette and Michael Doyle of Maurepas Foods.

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. At Saturday's Grand Tasting chefs will also participate in the 7th annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. Tickets are $99 in advance, $119 at the door. Canstruction New Orleans will be on hand both days, featuring teams of architects competing to build structures out of canned food in an effort to raise money and donations for Second Harvest Food Bank.

John Besh hosts Funkin' It Up in the Hyatt Regency Ballroom, a brand new star-studded fundraiser that will honor Leah Chase, recipient of this year's Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award. The seemingly hottest chef in the universe, Danny Bowien, of Mission Chinese Food in NYC and San Fran will also be on hand, along with other celeb chefs like Donald Link, John Currence and Susan Spicer. Proceeds from Funkin' It Up will benefit the John Besh Foundation, as well as NOWFE's efforts to support hunger-fighting charities and culinary education programs. Besh will also announce his scholarship winners at the event.

But of course, it's not all boozy and savory: the festival again welcomes The Gateaux Show. NOWFE's pastry chef competition, hosted by Sucré co-owner Tariq Hanna and Keegan Gerhard of D Bar Desserts in Denver. This year's theme is all things Burlesque, and features dancers Trixie Mink, Bella Blue, and more. Celebrity judges including Johnny Iuzzini will choose their favorite dessert, and the winning pastry chef gets a $5000 prize.

· New Orleans Wine & Food Experience [Official Website]
· New Orleans Wine and Food Experience Gathers Some of the Country's Top Chefs For a Good Cause]
· All NOWFE Coverage [-ENOLA-]