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2011 NOWFE Grand Tasting

Posted by perle0 on 2011-10-16 20:59:10 (12189 views)

[New Orleans]
Held each Memorial Day weekend, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience culminates in the two Grand Tasting sessions on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. This year's event was spectacular, as always.

Though these events have been held in the Superdome during the past few years, it was under renovation this year. So the Grand Tastings took place in the Hilton, a very appealing space but perhaps a little small for the crowds who flock to this event. The decor, however, was probably the most successful I've seen yet. Ghostly fabric trees lit from inside with strings of lights formed the centerpieces, and on the periphery, tables with luminescent plastic footing in brilliant colors gave these edges of the scene a lovely glow.

There were, naturally, hundreds of wines being offered for tasting, from Alexander Valley Vineyards to Zonin US. At least five continents were represented--and my apologies if I missed any wines from Asia or Antarctica. As usual, there were far too many wines to taste all of them in the time alloted, and only so much the human liver could endure...but it was fun trying.

We recommend, as always, attending both sessions of the Grand Tastings if your schedule and pocketbook allow. This gives you the opportunity to try far more of the wines available. It also ensures that you can at least try to sample the offerings from all of the restaurants. You can't, of course--I know, because I tried very hard. But you can get pretty close. And while some restaurants come to both sessions, many will come to only one of the two sessions. So if you want to try everything, you have to come to both.

As an example, if you wanted to try the Best in Show award-winning Milk Chocolate "Turtle Soup" from Commander's Palace, you had to show up on Saturday. Ditto for the second-place award-winning Flaming Blood Orange and White Chocolate Creme Brulee in Pastry Shell, offered by the Hotel Monteleone. And yes, this last dish was presented to each and every person ON FIRE. I know that's what flaming means, but somehow I thought they'd extinguish it before passing it over to a bunch of wine-soused people with greasy fingers. But no! And even more amazing, as far as I could tell, there were no injuries! This was easily the most visually impressive dish of the show. It's hard to beat fire.

On the other hand, if you wanted Shrimp with Watermelon (a surprisingly good combo) from The Grill Room, or Pulled Pork Tacos from Squeal, you had to come on Friday. And some booths, no matter how many days they came, always seemed to run out quickly, like Bee Sweet Cupcakes and Sugaree's Bakery. It doesn't matter how few wines go with cake--people still want it. Review the program for the dishes and wines you can't miss and make them your priority!

All in all, though the slightly smaller space made for a little bit more crowding than usual, it was still a very pleasant space, people were friendly, and there seemed to be more available tables and bottles of water than in previous years, both much appreciated. Everyone had a great time, and after the final band gave folks a chance to sober up briefly before heading out, they all left stuffed and tipsy. And if not, they had only themselves to blame.

It's never too early to start planning for NOWFE 2012!


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