The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
One doesn't often associate the appreciation of wine with great haste or a call to action. But the recent BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico got the board of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience into high gear. It organized a benefit dinner at Restaurant August and a cooking demonstration at one of its Grand Tasting events, and proceeds from the four-day wine festival will benefit the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation.
"The biggest thing on everyone's mind is the situation in the Gulf," says NOWFE director Joyce Godbold. "We organized the benefit to celebrate seafood and to support the fishermen. They make what we do possible."
The recently added events feature Food Network stars Paula Deen, Aaron Sanchez and chef John Besh. Besh and Deen will co-host a cooking demonstration at the Grand Tasting in the Louisiana Superdome at 3:15 p.m. Saturday, May 29.
Proceeds from the nonprofit festival support a host of local culinary education programs and charities. Current beneficiaries include the University of New Orleans' School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism, NOCCA's Culinary Arts Program, Delgado Community College's School of Culinary Arts, the Cancer Crusaders, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton's Play It Forward Foundation and others. The NOWFE board just approved the Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation as a new beneficiary.
The refocused emphasis on seafood is in addition to other changes highlighting the culinary end of the festival. Both Grand Tastings feature awards for top dishes served, but this year the judging takes place in advance at participating restaurants. The program for the tastings includes recipes and pictures of 40 dishes served at the events as well as a list of the award winners and their locations on the floor of the Louisiana Superdome.
NOWFE's schedule of events includes its regular mix of wine and food tastings, seminars, parties and a wine auction. Vintner dinners take place at participating restaurants on Wednesday, May 26 (visit www.nowfe.com for restaurants and wineries, and make reservations directly with restaurants). The Royal Street Stroll on Thursday, May 27, features wine tastings in art and antique galleries. The Grand Tastings take place in the evening on Friday, May 28, and the afternoon on Saturday, May 29, at the Louisiana Superdome, which will be decorated to look like an outdoor street festival. There will be live music. Contestants from season five and six of Bravo's Top Chef, including Hosea Rosenberg, Jeff McInnis and Ron Duprat, will participate in Grand Tastings and other events.
Wine events include the Vinola Tasting and Auction, featuring higher-end bottlings as well as the cooking of John Besh, Tory McPhail and Anne Kearney, the former chef/owner of Peristyle. Seminars about wine pairing address new culinary trends, including Champagne with sushi, wines to drink with desserts and what to drink with charcuterie boards of pates and cured meats. Chefs Tenney Flynn of GW Fins and Brian Landry of Galatoire's host a seminar on cooking with Louisiana seafood.
One of the unique tasting events is the theatrical production Wine Lovers, a musical about wine that includes a tasting integrated into the show, at Le Petit Theatre (www.lepetittheatre.com).