Although there is a focus on things delicious, this is always a nostalgic event. For me, it is a reunion of friends and colleagues who share common interests, particularly carpe diem. Two of the high-profile program participants in the 2004 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, Michael Green and John Larchet are alone worth the price.

Returning to New Orleans is the culmination of a series of spring wine and food events that took me from the island delights of Lauderdale By The Sea to South Beach (where, of all people, Willie Nelson was one of SoBe’s Wine and Food Festival’s celebrity entertainers), to Atlanta’s spectacular High Museum of Art Wine Auction extravaganza. New Orleans, for many solid reasons, (not the least of which is the abundance of renowned restaurants), is the venue that brings all the culinary and taste experiences together.

The five-day gala—a rich gumbo of fine dining, wine enjoyment and genuine learning-- is witness to the pouring of more than 800 vintages from around the world at a series of unprecedented and elegant indoor and outdoor events, beginning with Vintner’s Dinners at over 34 of the country’s top restaurants. One of my favorite outdoor events is the fabled “Royal Street Stroll” a festive walk down the legendary French Quarter avenue of elegant antique stores and fine art galleries. With live New Orleans music as a backdrop, wines and food are offered at some of the city’s most stylish shops and galleries. I always begin at Brennan’s the world-famous Royal Street restaurant with a stop in and tour of Brennan’s incredible cellar at the back of the courtyard. Brennan’s Cellar Master Harry Hill becomes our tour guide in one of the planet’s greatest on-premises restaurant wine cellars.

Only in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience hosts two days of Grand Tastings with dishes from more than 100 of New Orleans’ finest restaurants and wines from producers from the earth’s four corners. Live Dixieland jazz is, of course, played in classic Crescent City style during the tastings and you really get into the festive mood by watching all the wine and food being consumed by toe-tapping, hip-shaking revelers. The educational aspect of the event is emphasized up front and has few equals. Three days of seminars at a wine and food festival is rare indeed, but they do such bold things in the Big Easy. Two of my favorites, Michael Green, Gourmet Magazine’s esteemed wine and food consultant and the incomparable John Larchet, president of Australian Premium Wines are seminar features along with a special collaboration by Chef David McCelvey, culinary director for Emeril’s restaurants and Matt Lirette, Head Sommelier at Emeril’s New Orleans who will share their journey of choices and prerequisites for creating an almost perfect marriage of food and wine.

A New Orleans tradition.

Larchet, a charming Aussie originally from Dublin, is a frequent lecturer at prestigious wine-related events in America and throughout the world. According to Larchet, he got the idea for his company when he was getting married in Chicago 10 years ago and the available Australian wines for his wedding reception were unacceptable to him. So, he had wines he liked imported from down under and thus Australian Premium Wines was born. Michael Green, on the other hand, is a familiar face in the fine wine and gourmet food culture. His “Thirsty for Knowledge" which combines five wine courses in one sitting, will play to a packed auditorium. From an inside source, I have learned that this seminar will be “demystifying, educational and highly entertaining.”

The seminars also include presentations by two Masters of Wine, D. C. Flynt and Joel Butler, Simi winemaker Steve Reeder, Elaine Honig of Honig Winery, and third-generation winemaker Michael Martini of Louis M. Martini Winery. The food seminars are particularly popular and one is enticing: New Orleans Puts Its Stamp on Italy. For those who visit this Deep South old world city, you already know that dining in a New Orleans Italian restaurant is not the same as anywhere else. Here, when traditional European cuisine meets local talent, things really change. It’s amore with a Southern accent.

There are vigorous competitions among winemakers for the hallowed Fleur de Lis Awards which recognize the Best of Show. But, all the fun, food, wine and merrymaking reaches its zenith at the finale, “Bubbles and Brunch”, the ultimate champagne Sunday spread-- New Orleans style-- at the luxurious Omni Royal Orleans. Gourmet food prepared under the supervision of acclaimed Executive Chef Anthony Spizale and brilliantly presented is consumed with ample flutes of the best Champagne. After a few hours, there might be time for one last stroll through Jackson Square or a final streetcar ride before returning.

New Orleans is a wine and food center.

I was asked why this very intensive event was important. During my first New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, I had the great fortune to attend a seminar on Champagne led by the authors of Wine for Dummies, Mary Ewing-Mulligan, a Master of Wine, and her husband, Ed McCarthy, Certified Wine Educator. In a memorable post-lecture conversation, Mary answered that same question. “Few cities on Earth have the food and wine traditions so embedded as New Orleans. Knowing that this wine and food focus is a venerable part of the local culture just makes learning even more enjoyable here.”

New Orleans has much to offer if you need a respite from fine wine and great food. Ride the Streetcar to the world-renowned Audubon Zoo. The New Orleans Museum of Art is a world-class facility. Likewise, Andy Attipas’ folk art gallery, Barrister’s, is the best I’ve seen in the country. If you decide to sneak away from the French Quarter, go eat the turtle soup and barbeque shrimp at Pascal’s Manale Restaurant on Napoleon Avenue. Have someone take your photo with the statue of Ignatius J. Reilly on Canal Street near the posh Ritz-Carlton. Then, buy the book, A Confederacy of Dunces, and discover some New Orleans humor that earned a Pulitzer Prize.

After all this, you’ll need a glass of something cool and refreshing. After all, in May it’s just starting to warm up in New Orleans.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Doc Lawrence’s favorite city remains New Orleans and he describes this event glowingly: The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is an event of global importance, he says, “and at the top of my list for quality and affordability.” Doc adds that any readers interested in attending the event (May 26-30) can buy tickets online at www.nowfe.com or call (504) 529.WINE. Contact Doc for suggestions regarding New Orleans cultural attractions: theater, museums, galleries, etc. at editors@docsnews.com.

 


KUDOS FROM TIM MCNALLY, NOWFE ORGANIZER:

" Doc, I don't know how you continue to do it, but your artistry with words and your kindness to us always amaze. On behalf of all of us here, thanks.

Wonderful article. In one fell swoop, you have confirmed what everyone knows about our town, the end-of-the-thermometer temperature, matched equally by the same number in percentages of humidity, but you, good sir, make it seem positively like a brag from the local Chamber of Commerce. Yes, you say, those elements are palpable, but they are also bearable, made more so by establishments perfectly located and providing libations of incomparable delight. Be well, dear friend. Tim"

One of the seminars at the 2003 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience featured a wine list with the actual "descendants" of President Thomas Jefferson's favorite wines. Click on the arrow to read about our Renaissance man's viticulture

 

To enhance your next New Orleans stay take a look at:

Doc's Crescent City Restaurant Recommendations

Folk Art in the Big Easy

Other unique galleries

Legendary wine cellars

To read on your balcony in the Quarter :

A Confederacy of Dunces

Read Doc's account of the Jazz Funeral of Rhythm and Blues icon Ernie K-Doe

If you enjoy wine and food, follow these other interesting links:

Doc's Wine Choices

In Vino Veritas

Why We Dine - John Mariani's inspiring essay

Andrea Immer's Great Wine Made Simple

Doc's Restaurant Recommendations


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