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May 28, 201410:00 AM
Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

Great Surprises

NOWFE discoveries, and Taste at the Lake

Taste at the Lake, Bunny Matthews, 2014

You’d think at my age, surprises would be few and far between but that has not turned out to be the case at all. I’m constantly amazed at some new piece of information, at least to me, that is sometimes great, sometimes not so much, and mostly in between. 
 
Part of the continuing unfolding of the world to my mind is living in New Orleans. Don’t you find yourself walking down a street you’ve gone down dozens of times, looking around, and realizing, “I’ve never noticed that before”? That happens so often to me, you could set your clock by the occurrence. 
 
What I don’t particularly like is when I’m telling someone about a “new” discovery, and they come back with, “Oh, that. It’s been like that forever.” They might as well end the sentence addressing me as “idiot.” So, please, if we are talking and you know darn well that what I am telling you is not new, simply reply with, “Yes, don’t you just love it?” Be kind. 
 
In the spirit of sharing surprises that really were pleasing, and reflected well on our community, let me share with you a few experiences of the recently concluded New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE). It was a great time, which, if you were there, knew already. 
 
Food Portions
 
At every local festival, at just about every event that raises money for nonprofits, our restaurant community is in the forefront, donating food and time to assure the success of the affair. When you see 800-1000 servings of a creative dish, being prepared by the restaurant’s staff at a festival, you are looking at a lot of money that restaurant has to pay to the people who are doing the work, to the drivers, for the portable food preparation and serving equipment, and for the ingredients themselves. Sometimes the restaurants even have to pay the festival to participate.
 
As I noted last week, I go to a lot of wine festivals in every corner of America. No one — let me repeat — no one else serves the quality of food or the quantity that is served at NOWFE.  It is astounding. 
 
Some of the greatest restaurants in America are there, with their star chefs, preparing and serving amazing portions of dishes from their menus or that they created especially for the occasion. And these are not “tastes." What comes out from behind the counter are portions. Lots of food on the plate, completely indicative of what you would experience if you visited the establishment. 
 
I could not believe what I was seeing being served by these great chefs, notable in their industry and in our town. Name a great restaurant and they were there, having fun, schmoozing, greeting old friends and making new ones. I’m telling you this does not happen anywhere else on this scale. 
 
Oh, and do this: if you found a restaurant you particularly liked at any festival, return the favor and patronize that place. Tell them you enjoyed their contribution to the festival. They live for that feedback and bounce-back.  
 
The Wines
 
Throw a dart at any spot on the wine-growing globe and they were represented. The only real hole I discerned was South Africa, and maybe I just missed something, which is quite likely. 
 
My big surprise here, besides the breadth and the quality of the products offered, was New York State and the Finger Lakes region. Those wines, which are garnering accolades all over the planet, are finally here. Took us long enough but the Rieslings, the Pinot Noirs, the Grüner Veltliners and the Cabernet Francs are among us. 
 
There was quite a bit of trepidation among the attendees – “I don’t like sweet wines – but one taste of the fresh, elegant, fruit-perfect, bright wines convinced even the most skeptical wine lover that “maybe in the near future we should pick up a bottle or two of this juice.”
 
I love these wines and can’t tell you how happy I am that they are here and that they took the time and the trouble to share them with all of us at NOWFE. In case you missed trying them, they are available at most local wine shops and in many of our fine dining restaurants. If you fear them because of some perceived dislike for sugar levels, and many of these have very low levels of sugar, check out the chart on the back label which tells you where a particular wine falls on the scale. Easy to understand and very informative.  
 
Taste at the Lake
 
Just because we are done with one festival, does not mean we aren’t ready for another one. Right now. And so we shall have one this coming weekend, May 31, Taste at the Lake
 
This is the chance for Lakeview to shine. And with Harrison Avenue still enjoying a grand rebirth, they are ready to show off just a bit. Can’t blame them. 
 
Jaeger’s Hamburgers, Velvet Cactus, Cava, Two Tony’s, Mondo, Vincent’s and from the Quarter, Oceana Grill with excellent grilled oysters will all be present and serving. Lots of good adult beverages including craft beers, and Amanda Shaw rocking it out on the stage, along with SolJet and Rock N Soul. 
 
Tickets for everything are $45 — quite a bargain — with patron tickets, including early admission, at $100. 
 
All proceeds are being used for the enhancement of the New Basin Canal Park, that large area between Pontchartrain and West End Boulevards, with the first priority being lighting the area.
 
It’s going to be a big night under the stars, at least the organizers hope so since they had to reschedule from April 5 due to the weather problems on that date.  
 
 

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Happy Hour

All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans

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In New Orleans, when the subject is wine and spirits, it is very difficult to leave Tim McNally out of the discussion. He is considered one of the “go to” resources in the Crescent City for counsel and information about adult beverages and their place in the fabric of life in this great city.

 

Tim is the Wine and Spirits Editor, columnist and feature writer for New Orleans Magazine; the Wine and Spirits Editor and weekly columnist, Happy Hour, for www.MyNewOrleans.com; the Executive Editor and monthly features writer for Gulf Coast Wine + Dine Online; creator and editor of his own website, www.winetalknola.com; all in addition to his daily hosting duties on the radio program, The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, on the air at WGSO – 990AM, every weekday, 3- 5 p.m, and streamed live on www.wgso.com.

 

Over the years, Tim has proved to be an informed interviewer, putting his guests at ease, and covering tactile and technical information so that even a novice can understand difficult agricultural and production concepts. Tim speaks with winemakers, wine and spirit ambassadors, distillers, authors, people who stage events and festivals, and takes questions from listeners and readers, all seamlessly blended together in a program that is unique in America.

 

Tim’s love of wine actually came about many years ago from his then wife-to-be, Brenda Maitland, a noted journalist in her own right, and together they have traveled to the major wine producing areas in the US and Europe, seeking first-hand information about beverages that give us all so much pleasure.

 

They were instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a major national and international well-regarded festival of its type. They both continue to be involved with the planning and staging of this multi-venue, five-day event now over twenty years old.

 

Tim is also considered one of the foremost professional wine judges in the US, being invited to judge more than 11 wine competitions each year, including the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the largest competition of American wines in the world, with more than 6,000 entries), the Riverside, CA International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition, Indiana International Wine Competition, Sandestin, Florida Wine Festival Competition, the State of Michigan Wine Competition, the U.S. National Wine Competition, and the National Wine Competition of Portugal.

 

Tim is a guest lecturer to many local wine and dine organizations, and speaks each year to the senior class in the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama.

 

Staying abreast of the news of the wine and spirits world is a passion for Tim, and he is committed to sharing what he knows with his listeners and readers. “Doing something I love, with products that I truly enjoy, created by interesting people, coupling the experience with culinary excellence, and doing it all in the greatest city in America,” are the words Tim lives by.

 

It’s a good gig. 

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