Special to Dwight The Wine Doctor
NEW ORLEANS—A sure sign that summer is here is the annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience and the Royal Street Stroll, the world’s most unique wine tasting and ‘moveable feast.” This year, NOWFE celebrated its 21st anniversary. The event, which attracts thousands of foodies and wine lovers from around the globe, is a celebration of one of the world’s favorite destinations (TripAdvisor (r) recently rated New Orleans one of the Top 25 Traveler's Choices for U.S. Destinations for 2013 and Favorite City Overall), and a recognition of the city as America’s culinary capitol.
The Royal Street Stroll is NOWFE’s signature event and one of the most unique wine and food experiences of its kind. An entire main street is blocked off in the French Quarter and the city’s top chefs and Food Trucks prepare delicacies al fresco in specially designed field kitchens. The delicacies are accompanied by some of the country’s finest wines, poured by the winemakers and vintner owners themselves in the various art galleries, antique shops and boutiques that line one of the French Quarters most renowned thoroughfares, Royal Street. Sponsored by Rouse’s, the French Quarters premiere purveyor of fine foods and wine, the Royal Street Stroll combines great food, wine, celebratory music and the visual ambiance of the streets that inspired great American writers such as Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway and still inspires some of the greatest artists in the world.
VINOLA, NOWFE’s premiere tasting event, kicked off the evening of festivities. New this year was The Big Gateaux Show, a culinary confection hosted by New Orleans Celebrity Chef John Besh at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans near the Superdome. It featured presentation of the Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award to Ms. Leah Chase, owner of the legendary Dookie Chase Restaurant, one of the city’s most honored African American Businesses and an institution among New Orleans’s most famous restaurants. At 90 years old, Leah Chase is a New Orleans treasure!
More than 75 restaurants and winemakers pouring more than a thousand wines came together for the weekend’s two Grand Tastings at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, named for the city’s first African American Mayor and one of its most revered leaders.
The Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off was the centerpiece spectator event at the Saturday Grand Tasting. A panel of judges selected unique creations from 10 chefs from top restaurants across the state of Louisiana, who went ‘toque to toque’ competing for the coveted title of “King of Louisiana Seafood.” The winner will represent the Bayou State at the National Championship in August.
Chef Cody Carrola of Hot Tails Louisiana Crawfish House of New Roads, Louisiana took the crown with Chef Tommy Giovanni of Arnaud's in the French Quarter taking second place. Chefs competing included Troy Deano of 18 Steak, Dean Terrebonne of Belle Tere Country Club, Laplace. Louisiana, Manny Augello of Jolie's Louisiana Bistro in Lafayette, Kevin Bourg of Wine Country Bistro and Bottle Shop in Shreveport, Guy Sockrider of Tomas Bistro in New Orleans, Dustie Latiolais of Crawfish Town USA in Henderson/Cecelia, Bret Duffee of Susan Spicer's Bayona in the French Quarter and Chef Austin Kirzner of Red Fish Grill in the Quarter.
NOWFE Seminars, always a centerpiece of the weekend, featured spectacular in-depth tastings for foodies and oenophiles alike. Bubble, Bubbles and more Bubbles, the popular opening seminar, drew a capacity crowd to taste Bollinger “La Grande Anee” Rose 2004 and Duval Leroy Brut . Burgundy's Best Kept Secret was another seminar that provided an opportunity to experience Louis Jadot's Beaujolais, Maconnaise and Cote Chalonnaise wines with special guest Thibault Gagey, the son of Pierre-Henry Gagey, the President of Louis Jadot. Israeli Street Foods, with Chef Alon Shaya of New Orleans’ Dominica restaurant and visiting chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav simulated the experience of Israel’s thriving street food scene and its mouth-watering morsels. Other seminars included Outstanding Oregon, featuring the winemakers from Elk Cove Vineyards, Moises Wines and Chehalem and a diverse selection of wines from the Pacific Northwest and Savor the Flavor, with internationally acclaimed New Orleans Celebrity Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona restaurant.