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2012 NOWFE Review - Better Than Ever!

Posted by Mike P. on 2012-06-30 18:03:38 (13268 views)

In a city where parties and festivals are on a seemingly endless breakneck pace, NOWFE week is perfectly placed as a late spring finale where the hedonistic celebration of food, wine, and spirits is taken to an epic level.

Listen to LAW's latest writer, Michael Dominici share his first experience with one of New Orleans' premier culinary events...

After a full week of amazing wine dinners at our city's finest restaurants paired off with some of the world's most prominent wine makers, NOWFE's "Grand Tasting" is a celebration of excess and debauchery cleverly kept in check by its relatively short time frame.

For a few short hours between lunch and dinner on Saturday, May 26th 2012 the The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center was turned into a massive indoor bacchanalian extravaganza featuring dozens of chefs and winemakers in a spectacle that is far beyond over-the-top in terms of sheer scale and ambition. As one enters this carnival atmosphere armed with simply a wine glass and a simple tray the daunting task of navigating the labyrinthine array awaits. The only way to survive such an onslaught of the senses is to smartly pace oneself. (Having worked on the other side of the restaurant industry for over two decades, this was actually my first time as a guest. I was impressed that such a large-scale operation went off without a hitch!)

Upon arriving and taking stock of the enterprise, as your eyes dart across the room the focal centerpiece is the dazzling aerialists suspended mid-air, upside down doing what else? Pouring champagne to delighted guests. A nice touch, indeed! Behind them, a massive display area showcases various chefs in cooking contests and tasting demonstrations topped off with the 5th annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off hosted by the Louisiana Seafood Board, celebrating our 2 and half BILLION dollar a year local seafood industry!

I arrived with my associate, Michael Perry who was both our designated driver and photographer. Having been to this event several times, his advice was to take note of the crowds and follow their lead, but also tread off the path and find hidden gems. This undoubtedly lead to the best food and wine displays.
We tried dozens of dishes but, our favorites came from the following restaurants: 5 Fifty 5, Cafe Atchafalaya, Besh Steak, Borgne, Brennan's Restaurant, Calcasieu, Crescent City Steakhouse, Grand Isle Restaurant, The Irish House, and Ralph's on the Park. Our top choices were: Seared scallops with spring vegetables and pea pure prepared by Chef Baruch Rabasa from Cafe Atchafala, The Turducken with Abita Beer, Braised Greens and Satsuma Glaze (and everything else!) prepared by Chef Mark Quitney from Mariott's 5 Fifty 5, and the decadent salmon preparation from Ralph's on the Park were the standouts. Classic dishes such as Brennan's Banana's Foster were matched by interesting twists including the outrageously over-the-top fried bread pudding po-boy (also from 5 Fifty 5.) The Summer Cucumber Sorbet prepared by Chef Gregg Zeringue was also a highlight in it perfect simplicity and refreshing flavor. The most popular dishes seemed to involve either crawfish or beef. The block long line for Besh's Steakhouse paid off with a handsome plate of steak with a robust reduction sauce garnished with pureed parsnips and crispy parsnip chips.

The task of wine tasting was challenging to say the least. Hundreds of different wine and spirits were offered, yet there still wasn't a stand without a line! Our favorites included: Antinori Family Wine Estate, Cain Vineyard & Winery, Eberle, Gloria Ferrer, Graham's and Dow's Ports, Jordan, Joseph Phelps, Miner Family, Newton, Ramey, Reynolds Family, Roth, Lancaster Estate, and Toad Hollow Vineyards. Most of the offerings were classic varietals with chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet, pinot noir, and merlot being the heavy hitters. Occasionally, a sparkling wine was poured, namely by the aerialists in the center of the room and I managed to find an interesting glass of moscato just before leaving.

2012 NOWFE's Grand Tasting was a grand success!

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