Friday, May 22, 2015


NEW ORLEANS--Nothing stops a party in the Vieux Carre, and that proved to be the case when a downpour showed up, just like clockwork, at the annual Royal Street Stroll that was the inaugural event of the 2015 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. More than 400 hearty souls, donning rain slickers and toting umbrellas, braved the wind and rain to slog through the rain soaked cobble stone streets of the French Quarter  to scoop up Shrimp 'Martinis', Crawfish Beignets, Catfish Sliders and Lobster Mac 'N Cheese, all washed down with copious amounts of Barefoot Wine and Hendricks Gin Pimm's Cups. The Krew of Cork cut a lively step through the crowd with a jazz  band playing N'Awlins favorites as the wine flowed in the art galleries and antique shops along the way. Award-winning winemaker Jeff Farthing of Michael David winery  poured his Incognito and Gluttony wines from Lodi, California at the Vincent Mann Gallery, while Willamette Valley Vineyards  held forth with its marvelous Pinot Noir from Washington State at the Gallery Rinard. Jen Wall, winemaker at Barefoot, poured an unlimited stream of fruit flavored Barefoot Bubbly as NOLA Restaurant and The Wine Group kept things flowing in the 500 block of Royal Street. Rouses Market served up a mean Muffaletta, the classic New Orleans sub sandwich while Hendrick's Gin mixed up some original twists on classic New Orleans cocktails and Kelly Love Jones kept the party swaying with lively swing music. Martin's Famous Pastry Shop provided a tasty after glow in the Food Truck Park on St. Phillip Street, while Tito's Lemonade Stand served up Stella Artois and Stella Cidre to "Let The Good Times Roll" into the night.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2015 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience begins with Royal Street Stroll

Nation's biggest block party unites greatest gifts of the Crescent City, food, wine, art, antiques and jazz

NEW ORLEANS--The Royal Street Stroll brings thousands of foodies and wine lovers to the heart of the nation's largest living architectural treasure, the French Quarter in New Orleans. Its a night of experiencing fine wine, great local cuisine, rare antiques and fine art all amidst stunning historic architecture.

The stroll begins at the very doorstep of the Hotel Monteleone, one of the city's oldest hospitality landmarks, which once housed the likes of the legendary playwright Tennessee Williams, whose tome, "A Streetcar Named Desire" put the French Quarter and its many haunts on the world's literary map. Each stop along the way, food stands with outdoor "field kitchens" manned by New Orleans top chefs from such renowned restaurants as Brennan's, Galatoires, The Pelican Club, Broussard's, Commander's Palace and Arnaud's, will offer savory bites, while winemakers from around the globe will personally pour their outstanding wines. Live jazz music fills the air as revelers are joined by the Krew of Cork, who will parade down Royal Street in full Mardi Gras regalia with a "Second Line" brass and drum band and line dancers in tow. It's a colorful and joyful display that happens only in New Orleans!

The "stroll," as it is affectionately known, is the prelude to the 2015 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a three-day celebration of everything that makes New Orleans the culinary capital of the country. Besides the Grand Tastings, which feature 75 chefs and 1000 vintages of wine selections from around the world and live jazz from Louisiana's best musicians, seminars will feature chef demonstrations  and wine and champagne tastings. Seminar leaders include the likes of Chef Nathan Richard from Kingfish and Bar Chef Abigail Gullo from SoBou and varied Champagne styles from Thomas Henriot, CEO of Champagne Henriot of France. Also showcased this year are the Wines of South America, in a tasting seminar led by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein, author of "Wines of South America; The Essential Guide" paired with cuisine by Edgar Caro from Baru Bistro and Tapas of New Orleans.

The "King of Louisiana Seafood" will be crowned at the eighth annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, hosted by the LA Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. Ten chefs from across the State of Louisiana will compete for the coveted title with the winner representing the Louisiana Seafood Industry at events throughout the year. This year, participating chefs include Lynn Broussard of Jack Daniel's Bar and Grill, Ryan Gaudet of Spahr's Seafood and Mike Nelson of GW Fins in the French Quarter.

Rouses Market and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum will be the venues for a unique offering at this year's NOWFE, a "moving" seminar, called Makin' Groceries will have participants accompanying chefs Nathan Richard of Kingfish and Bar Chef Abigail Gullo of SoBou to Rouses Market in the French Quarter to shop the aisles and pick up food supplies to be brought back to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum to be transformed into a sumptuous 'cook-it-yourself' lunch to be enjoyed with wine pairings. Later that day, attendees will get to play Sommelier for a day when they blind taste a variety of wines and see how their opinions compare with those of top wine writers, sommeliers and critics in the "Ratings Battle" at the New Orleans Downtown Marriott at Convention Center.

At "Bean to Cup: Micro-Roasting Demonstration," participants get to watch green coffee beans transformed into a steaming cup of coffee at Geoffrey Meeker's micro-roasting French Truck parked at 1200 Magazine Street in the Warehouse District. Food historian Liz Williams of the Southern Food and  Beverage Museum will explain the historical importance of coffee to New Orleans' heritage. Everyone will take home a signature roast of their own creation.

New Orleans' Grande Dames of Creole Cuisine take center stage in a seminar focusing on the city's endearing and enduring old-line dining establishments-Antoine's, Galatoire's and Arnauds with tall tales and samples from each, also at the Convention Center.

Finally, it all wines up with Rise and Dine: Brunch at Broussard's, the revitalization of this French Quarter legend. Founded in 1920, Broussard's chef Neal Swidler has made this landmark restaurant a 'must-visit' dining destination with his reinterpretations of New Orleans culinary treasures and classic cocktails. He'll whip up a morning feast while previous owners of Broussard's regale the diners with tales from the restaurant's storied past.

There's something for everyone at this year's 2015 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and many ways to get involved and work up an appetite and a thirst for the best food and drink to be had anywhere on the planet.

 Dawn at the Hotel Monteleone
 Chef Nathan Richard in the kitchen at Kingfish
 GW Fins Executive Chef Tenney Flynn prepares the night's pre fixe menu selections
 Below: An example of authentic Wasabi root of sushi, called Crudo at GW Fins
Seafood Gumbo at GW Fins

 Scalibut, an original creation of Kingfish Chef du Cuisine Nathan Richard and
(below) Crawfish Etouffee
 N'Awlins Cheesecake with homemade ginger  ice cream
 Famous Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce
 Exterior: GW Fins
 The steaming kitchens at GW Fins

Some New Orleans culinary and cultural legends

 Biegnets at Cafe du Monde in the French Market
 More New Orleans cuisine legends

Sunday, May 17, 2015

South African Wines Seek U.S. Acceptance

National Restaurant Association Show a forum for new South African Wines

The South African Consulate in Chicago was the setting for a premiere presentation of the Wines of
South Africa, a unique collection of food-friendly and affordable wines that reflect the terroir and taste of this unique, emerging nation.

"South Africa is a new country politically, but it is actually one of the oldest commercial wine producing regions in the world, with a history that dates back more than 300 years." said Jim Clarke, Marketing Director for Wines of South Africa." In the 1700s, the members of the French court and the intelligentia extolled the virtues of South African wine, even though that had some tremendous wines of their own production."

The wines, poured personally, in many instances, by the winemakers themselves, not only showed their mastery of such international grapes as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but indigenous grapes, such as Pinotage. considered the national flagship grape of South Africa.

The majority of wines presented are currently available in both the Chicago and New York markets and are beginning to fan out in distribution around the country.

"When we first started presenting South African wines to the wine-drinking public, we were initially told, 'these wines are fantastic, why haven't we heard about them!' We are now creating the answer to that initial response by starting an aggressive marketing and sales campaign that will put South African wines on the shelves and in restaurant cellars in every major market in the United States.

Among the standouts at the tasting, which also featured bites that reflected the local cuisine, were those from Seven Sisters Wines, develop by the seven sisters of the Brutus family from the tiny fishing village of Paternoster on the West Coast of South Africa. Evicted from their tranquil home at an early age, due to unfavorable circumstances, they vowed to return, reuniting to buy back the land twenty years later, with the goal of creating fine wines. The warm summers with their low humidity, the copious winter rainfall and the complex soil type dominated by the celebrated Malmesbury Shale and patches of Granite and Table Mountain Sandstone resulted in wines of complex, bright, fruit character and  depth of flavor with intense floral aromas. 

Each of the wines is named for a sister. For example,  Odealia is a naturally sweet white wine made from 100% Bukettraube grapes, a local varietal. It's a terrific accompaniment with a favorite dessert, as an aperitif or an after dinner drink. Vivian is an elegant Sauvignon Blanc with tropical flavors and an underlying note of green pepper and sage. The wine pairs nicely with seafood, which is found in abundance off the coast of South Africa.

Ernst Gouws wines of Stellenbosch are a reflection of the family's heritage, dating back to 1694, when the first French Huguenots came to South Africa and the first Gouws (then called d'Gauche') began producing wines. In 1975, Ernst Gouws traveled to Europe to begin his tutelage under both French and German winemaster. Marrying his childhood sweetheart, Gwenda, he returned to South Africa and founded the winery that  he now runs with his sons Ernst Jr. and Ezanne Gouws-Du Toit and daughter Inke Gouws-Sandri, who  all pursued an education in winemaking in order to follow in their father's footsteps. The result is wines of a highly sophisticated character that reflect the finest wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy or the Rheingau. The wines have been recognized in this country by both Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator and reflect the winemaster oeuvre and dedication to the principals and methodologies of traditional European winemaking. Yet, the wines reflect the complex terroir and flavor that is unique to South Africa.

Ernst Gouws Chenin Blanc is a wine that is perfect for summer. Scents of baked apples, hints of kiwi fruit and the freshness of a sliced grapefruit or ripe honeydew melon, the wine is great with a light salad, grilled Bronzini white fish or lighly grilled shrimp or scallops. The Merlot, with its potpourri of black pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and hints of paprika and a toasty nose that belied its aging in new French limousine oak barrels was by far the most intriguing offering of the tasting. This is a marvelous expression of one of the noblest of all international grapes. Perfect with grilled meats, pizza or pasta, the wine would make a welcome guest at any backyard barbecue or garden party. With Ernst Gouws wines priced at $16-$24, they fit nicely into the weekend fun budget. 

Women in Wine CEO Beverly Farmer presented an enticing array of wines from the Stellenbosch region created by a collective of women wine makers. "The tradition of women in winemaking actually goes back for several decades, with many women first coming into the industry creating wines side-by-side with their husbands, then many of them became widowed and continued on with the business of producing wines. That formed the basis for a tradition of younger women actively pursuing careers in wine and creating some truly outstanding wines that we're now bringing to market."

Vernon Henn of Thandi wines was on hand to introduce his delicate sparkling wines that are perfect for drinking on the patio. His wines provided a perfect end to an evening that was enhanced by the strains of South African music playing over the interoffice sound system as the party enlivened with the  tinkle of glasses  as guests savored the taste of South Africa.

 Ernst Gouws, founder, Ernst Gouws and Co.
 Vivian Kleynhans, Managing Director, Seven Sisters winery
 Denise Subbs, Director of business Development, Thokozani Wines/Conferences/Accommodation, Wellington, South Africa with Jaclyn Beasley, Sales and Marketing, TASTINGS, Powered by the Beverage Tasting Institute Since 1981
 Karabo Letlaka, Consul Political, South African Consulate General
Beverly Farmer, CEO, Women in Wine-Stellenbosch, South Africa

Below: Nadine Smith-Clarke, Export Development Manager, WESGRO, Cape Town and Western Cape tourism, trade and investment

 Vernon Henn-Thandi Wines

Sir Charles Stanfield, Esther Fillmore, Ron Lundquist, South African Consulate