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The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience 2015 

click to enlarge Patrons sample wine and 
food at a New Orleans Wine and Food Grand Tasting.

Photo by Chris Granger

Patrons sample wine and food at a New Orleans Wine and Food Grand Tasting.

The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE) has grown to feature more than 1,000 bottlings from more than 200 vintners, and more than 100 chefs will participate in 2015. But organizers decided this year to work on the "experience" part.

  "This year we got adventurous," says NOWFE Board President Susan Hislop. "People like one-on-one stuff. Nowadays, chef and restaurant culture is so celebrity-driven that people want to get close to the chefs and the sources where (food) comes from. Classroom-style experiences are good, but people want interactive stuff."

  The 23rd annual NOWFE event runs from Wednesday to Sunday and includes the usual lineup of wine and food tastings on Royal Street and in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, multicourse wine dinners at local restaurants on Wednesday, and seminars and narrowly focused tasting events. It also features the popular pastry competition the Big Gateaux Show, and this year, there are several hands-on events.

  Interactive events include "Makin' Groceries" on Friday, May 21. Participants go shopping at Rouses with Kingfish chef Nathan Richard and SoBou mixologist Abigail Gullo and take their purchases to the demonstration kitchen at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB). Participants then work with Richard and Gullo to make their own meals and drinks.

  On Sunday, "Chef on a Line" makes procuring food more challenging. Paricipants will go fishing with Justin Devillier, chef/owner of La Petite Grocery and Balise. They'll return to Balise to dine on whatever they catch, prepared by Devillier and his staff (see 3-Course Interview).

  There also are less strenuous explorations of local food. A coffee micro-roasting demonstration will be held at French Truck Coffee, and participants will create their own micro-roasts to take home.

  For those who want to stick to the most easily procured indulgences, there are NOWFE's hallmark events. Thursday's Royal Street Stroll features vintners offering wine tastings at Royal Street art and antique galleries, and there's entertainment including live music and parading with the Krewe of Cork, the Carnival marching group for wine lovers. The event also includes food from local restaurants.

  Grand tastings take place at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center beginning at 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m Saturday. The events feature more than 1,000 wines and 75 chefs. For a list of each day's participating restaurants and wineries, visit Saturday's tasting includes the Louisiana Seafood Marketing & Promotion Board's seafood cookoff featuring local and visiting chefs.

  The Big Gateaux Show is NOWFE's showcase dessert event. The comptetion features talented pastry chefs: Christopher Cwierz of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Orlando Santos of the MGM Grand Detroit, Charles Barrett of The Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta and Deden Putra from New York luxury hotel The Penninsula. Each pastry team will create 1,000 petit fours and bonbons and a showpiece inspired by burlesque dancers Trixie Minx and Bella Blue, who will perform at the event. Judges include Food Network's Keegan Gerhard, formerly the pastry chef at The Windsor Court, William Flotz of L'Auberge du Lac Casino and Resort in Lake Charles and Megan Forman of Gracious Bakery.

  There also are seminars on topics such as South American wines and New Orleans' old-line Creole restaurants. A full schedule is available on the website.

  Proceeds from NOWFE benefit local organizations and culinary training programs, with SoFAB being the main beneficiary.

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