New Orleans Food – New Orleans is All About Food, Flavors and Fun

New Orleans may be world famous for Bourbon Street, but its greatest assets are its restaurants, and the innovative chefs who illuminate the Louisiana culinary trail.


COME TO YOUR SENSES was the theme of the 19th Annual New Orleans Food Festival, May 24 -28th, and I was there to participate in this year’s festivities, seminars and the Grand Tastings.


Tuesday May 24th

I arrive and check into the legendary Hotel Monteleone, a dedicated Literary Landmark with a long roster of famous writer guests, including Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Truman Capote. Public Relation Director Andrea Thornton is on hand to greet me. It is a treat to be back in a lovely room, some say is haunted.  With NOWFE turning 19 and the hotel welcoming guests for 125 years, this promises to be a “rock the block” celebration. I check out the hotel’s world famous Carousel Bar, and then head out to shop and browse my favorite boutiques, antique shops and galleries that line Chartres Street.


6: P.M.

Tonight’s Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement Awards Dinner and Auction, honoring legendary Chef Paul Prudhomme, is being held in the Marriott’s Ile de France Grand Ballroom. The award recognizes one individual each year that has made a lifetime commitment to the hospitality industry through extraordinary leadership, personal and professional accomplishments and philanthropic contributions to the community. This is the second year the award has been given.
 The evening begins with a Moet Chandon Champagne Reception; the room is swarming with well wishers, industry leaders, wine makers, chefs and loyal friends. Paul is holding court in his electric wheelchair, having recently had hip replacement; he is elegant and dapper, and loving every accolade being showered upon him. The evening is festive; the wine flows and the four course dinner is a delicious start of this year’s celebration

Paul Prudhomme


Wednesday, May 25th

My day is spent exploring the city, and at the recommendation of a friend, grab a late lunch at Muriel’s Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter. This is a restaurant with a historic ambiance that serves delicious Creole cuisine. The crab meat stuffed crepes are scrumptious, and I manage to convince the chef that I must have the recipe.


Tonight’s schedule includes a selection of winemaker and chef dinners presenting perfectly paired menus. I book a reservation for the dinner at August, owned by chef and restaurateur extraordinaire John Besh. We are seated at round tables; the private dining room is festive, and the food and wine flows with harmony and creativity.


Thursday, May 26th

For the more serious wine connoisseur, there’s the tasting of the “vine” that includes rare and highly valued wines, along with samplings from premiere restaurants.


The Royal Street Stroll, a highlight of the festival, and one big block party, brings together stunning architecture, rare antiques, fine art, and live jazz with some of the world’s most outstanding wines and New Orleans cuisines. We begin with cocktails in the Hotel Monteleone’s famous revolving Carousel Bar, and then follow the Krewe of Cork as they march down the street, stopping at sidewalk stands, wandering in and out of galleries and shops.


Friday, May 27th

I hop on a Grayline Bus, arranged by the New Orleans Visitors and Convention Bureau, for a comprehensive and informative tour of the city that includes the 9th Ward, still struggling to rebuild.


Lunch has been arranged for me at Nola Restaurant, owned by Emeril Lagasse. Chef de cuisine Joshua Laskay presents an array of appetizers and deserts that include: Shrimp with grits in a Creole tomato lemon butter sauce with mushrooms, smoked bacon and red chili flakes, a Louisiana blue crab cake with corn coulis and a glazed banana chocolate cake, dripping with sauce..


May 27th and 28th

Wine and Food Seminars
The 2011 New Orleans Wine and Food Experience seminar series, an important and informative part of the Food and Wine Festival, offered up tastes from celebrated local chefs & exciting discussions about what’s hot in the wine world. Daily workshops by master sommeliers, included: “how sparkling wines are made in the champagne method” and “Kindred Ingredients” with Chef Donald Link, pairing the traditional Creole Cuisine of Louisiana crawfish and rice with Napa Valley Wines.


The Grand Tastings

A fabulous “grand” experience brings foodies and wine connoisseurs together who meet and mingle as they sample delicacies from 75 of New Orleans finest chefs and 1,000 wines from around the world. The Louisiana Seafood Board hosts a seafood cook-off; the music of the Wetlands and Sam’s Big Funky Nation fills the air; there’s a Champagne garden in the middle pouring a wide selection of award winning champagnes and Cochon 555 attracts a large crowd for an afternoon presentation, slide show and pork tasting.


Before leaving town, Sandy Blum, owner of the Spa at the Monteleone, and I drive to Miss Mae’s for lunch, now run by Miss Mae’s granddaughter. The menu was dripping with such local specialties as bourbon mashed sweet potatoes, smoked cheddar grits; apple cider braised pork shank, and stuffed chicken wings served with a homemade hoisin dipping sauce.


At night, we find our way to Jacques-imo’s, 8324 Oak Street, a happening popular neighborhood restaurant and bar . . . before, during and after dinner. There’s an hour wait for a table, but no one seems to mind. We put our names on the list and amble over to the bar to drink our way through the hour. Once seated, owner Jack Leonardi sends over a parade of sumptuous dishes. The menu is innovative and palate challenging with special appetizers that include: shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake and  fried rabbit tenderloin with Creole mustard cream and entrees that deliver culinary surprises like the:  come with  the special house salad and a choice of two sides: butter beans and rice, smothered cabbage, home made potatoes salad, mashed sweet potatoes, The crisp and moist blackened redfish, the mushroom stuffed salmon  rack of lamb, with Creole mustard sauce  New Orleans BBQ shrimp, grilled duck breast with orange soy glaze, shitake mushrooms and pecans. Jack is generous, charming and fun to hang out with, and we end the evening listening to him share tales of his ups and downs as a restaurant owner both in New Orleans and in New York.


Sunday morning

There’s time for me to check out the oyster shucker at the Sonesta Hotel and slurp down a few before heading out to the airport.  


FOR more info on New Orleans’s Food & Wine Festival, 2012

Go to www.NOFE.COM   

It’s the 20th and it promises to be a “rock the culinary world celebration”.

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