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Tasting Notes 

The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience adds more own local flavor

click to enlarge Commander's Palace chef Tory McPhail prepares a dish at a Grand - Tasting in the Louisiana Superdome.
  • Commander's Palace chef Tory McPhail prepares a dish at a Grand Tasting in the Louisiana Superdome.

Moving its Grand Tasting events to the Louisiana Superdome opened the door to various types of growth for the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE). More vintners and restaurants are participating this year, the second in the Dome, but the venue is helping organizers build on the "New Orleans Experience" part of the event.

  "Locals can be pretty skeptical of things like that," says festival director Joyce Godbold, referring to a Mardi Gras-style parade with a full marching band, police motorcade and giant papier-mache heads that concluded the event last year. "But it made a good impression."

  The five-day culinary festival (Tuesday through Saturday, May 19-23) is adding several new events and extras this year, including concerts after the Grand Tastings by Anders Osborne and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (Friday), Bonerama (Saturday) and others. New high-profile cooking events include Feastival, a celebrity chef and wine tasting event, and appearances by contestants from Bravo TV's Top Chef.

  New Orleans' wealth of fine restaurants has been a great asset for building the festival, both in finding participating chefs and as a market for winemakers. As the festival has grown, it has sought to attract the same audience as other well-known wine festivals in Miami, Aspen, Colo., and Jackson Hole, Wyo. A UNO study calculated that half of festival attendees are visitors to the city. NOWFE has taken advantage of the city's historic architecture in developing the Royal Street Stroll. The Superdome space allows NOWFE to incorporate music and more visual elements and promotions to reinforce the festival's local identity.

  This year, NOWFE will feature more than 200 vintners pouring samples of more than 1,000 wines, and more than 100 local restaurants will participate. Besides the sampling of wine and restaurant dishes at the Grand Tastings and the Royal Street Stroll, there are more intimate events including wine dinners, a wine auction and seminars on topics in cooking and wine. Information about the following events and tickets are available on the Web site NOWFE highlights include the following:

  Wine Dinners. On Wednesday, restaurants team up with one or two vintners to offer multicourse meals with wine paired with all dishes.

  VINOLA Tasting & Auction. Admission is limited to this event featuring high-end and rare wines from 40 vintners.

  Royal Street Stroll. The annual Thursday evening event features vintners pouring samples in art and antique galleries along Royal Street. The Hotel Monteleone celebrates its 60th anniversary by hosting live music and a small street carnival on the 200 block of Royal Street.

  Feastival. Chef John Besh organized this gala spotlighting high-end wines and visiting chefs including Michel Richard of Washington, D.C.'s Citronelle, Paul Kahan of Blackbird, avec and the Publican in Chicago, Hosea Rosenberg, winner of Top Chef season five, Rick Brown of Barbecue America and others.

  Grand Tastings. The tasting sessions in the Superdome on Friday and Saturday will feature several Top Chef competitors from the last few seasons. There will also be live music.

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