After the NOWFE Friday Tasting Event, not to mention the Royal Street Stroll and the wine seminars during the day, the thought crossed my mind that I may have to be airlifted out of the Big Easy. But I pushed on. For you. What can I say, I’m a professional 🙂
One of the first treats we had was courtesy of Tory McPhail, executive chef of the acclaimed Commander’s Palace. McPhail did a tongue-in-cheek take Commander’s Palace’s famous turtle soup, creating a Milk Chocolate Turtle Soup with peanuts, chewy caramel, mini marshmallows, mint, and molten chocolate poured over. This dessert took home NOWFE’s award for Best of Show: Sweet.
Best of Show: Savory went to Klaus Happel’s (Soif Faim at Hotel Intercontinental) Mezze Lamb Slider topped with roasted red pepper, olives, and tzatziki.
One of my favorite dishes of the evening was this Chicken and Dumplings from The American Sector, John Besh’s restaurant inside The National World War II Museum. The homey dish featured tender chicken simmered with chanterelle mushrooms, sweet peas, thyme and sage, and served with fluffy ricotta dumplings, sautéed carrots and green onion. The stroke of brilliance though that elevated this dish was the crispy fried chicken skin topping! Win.
Our diet while in New Orleans was very shrimp and crawfish heavy…just when I thought I couldn’t look another crustacean in the eye, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse won me over with their sublime Smoked Crawfish Cakes. Sweet, smoky, with a ton of crawfish meat and rich flavor, the pan-fried cakes were topped with a chive aioli and served with a tangy corn and red onion relish tossed in cane vinegar. Lots of flavors and textures going on. Loved it.
Hotel Monteleone impressed with their eye-catching Flaming Blood Orange and White Chocolate CrÃ¨me Brulee. This flashy dessert was composed of white chocolate Grand Marnier cream topped with caramel shards spritzed with caramel alcohol and lit on fire. A blood orange puree garnished the plate. (Nota bene: if you’re looking for a great hotel in the heart of the French Quarter with a rooftop pool, Hotel Monteleone is your ticket).
While we were busy eating our way up and down the aisles, the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off was in full effect.
Cory Bahr (Sage Restaurant) was officially crowned Seafood King, taking home first place with his North Delta Bouillabaisse. Diana Chauvin (La Thai Uptown) came in second with her Louisiana Seafood Chauvin, and Keith Frentz (LOLA) placed third with his Snapper Ella — pecan crusted snapper with smothered collard greens and crisp andouille in poached oyster broth.
New Orleans has quickly become one of my favorite eating towns. The people here are so fun-loving and friendly, and are quick to give you a rundown of places you should go eat once they find out you’re visiting from out of town. And, where else do they close out a food and wine festival with a bang up drumline performance? I’m already counting down the days to next year’s event!
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
May 24-29, 2011
New Orleans, LA