Liuzza's by the Track (1518 N. Lopez St., 218-7888) has the only-in-New Orleans thing down pat, with its raffish bar, coterie of neighborhood regulars and kitchen turning out much better food than the surroundings might suggest. Recently, however, co-owner and chef Billy Gruber began testing that only-in-New Orleans appeal in Mobile, Ala. In October, Gruber opened French Market Café (2056 Government St., Mobile, Ala., 251-378-8763; www.frenchmarketcafeinc.com), along with partners Lyle and Susan Degelos. The diner-like setting is different than Liuzza's, but the menu makes clear this is a spinoff from the original with specialties like barbecue shrimp po-boys, "breathtaking" roast beef with horseradish, and Gruber's gumbo with oysters and shrimp added just before serving. Gruber still lives in Mid-City and runs Liuzza's by the Track with partner Jim Lemarie .
The Emeril Lagasse Foundation , the charitable organization run and named for the New Orleans-based celebrity chef, holds its annual gala and wine auction, Carnivale du Vin , Saturday at the Hilton Riverside Hotel . The high-dollar event draws philanthropists, vintners and culinary celebrities from around the world, and contributions support local education programs funded by Lagasse's foundation. One of those programs, St. Michael's Special School , will unveil its new Emeril's Culinary Center teaching kitchen on Friday afternoon to kick-off the Carnivale du Vin weekend. Lagasse's foundation provided $300,000 to build the kitchen, where special-needs students will receive vocational training and learn skills for independent living. Carnivale du Vin has raised $6 million for local programs since its inception in 2005. For more information, visit www.emeril.org.
A new barbecue festival and competition debuts this weekend at Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville. Called " BBQ-Mania Part I, Barnyard Smackdown, " the event takes place Nov. 14 from 3 p.m. to midnight and Nov. 15 from 7 a.m. to midnight. Barbecue aficionados are invited to compete at either the professional or amateur "patio circuit" levels, and prize money will be awarded in each category. Local blues, rock and brass bands will perform, and competing cooks are encouraged to provide barbecue samples to visitors, who will vote for a People's Choice award winner. Tickets cost $10 per day or $15 for a weekend pass. Proceeds will benefit Children's Hospital in New Orleans. For details, visit the Web site of event sponsor WST Electric at www.wste.coop/community-news.