Written by Eddie Ferranti

ImageThey have a saying in Louisiana that goes “Laissez les bons temps rouler” that basically says “Let the good times roll”. Not a better way to describe our recent trip to the great city of New Orleans for the 22nd Annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. Over the last two decades this classic event has raised more than 1 million dollars for local charities and educational causes.

It spans four days and there is something to enjoy at every turn in the form of swirlin’, smellin’, sippin’ and all out food stuffin’ of the most delicious varities! All of it presented in nothing short of First Class treatment from the Hotel Monteleone where we stayed and they hosted a killer kick-off Happy Hour on Thursday chocked full of supreme tidbits like giant shrimp, oysters, ribs , eggplant, chicken waffles and of course wine flowing like rivers.

Walk out the front door and the Royal Street Stroll encompassing the 200-900 blocks was on! For 3 hours you got to engage in a French Quarter street party amid the Vieux Carre’s most opulent and venerable shops. The weather was not as hot and humid as Nawlins can be at this time of year and it added to the fun.

It is hard to describe if you’ve never been, but you wear a wrist band and you get to sample everything from over 100 wineries to countless mouth watering delectables in generous portions. Music is featured on this night at every other block or so from big bands marching featuring the Krewe of Cork to horn playing foursomes to a sweet lady named Elli Perry who we got to have a nice chat with and will see her again! Rose and I covered every inch (including the 4-5 food truck lot) that we could and collapsed in the room with big smiles on our mugs!

Image¬†Friday was extra cool because we had a double dip of deliciousness on hand. Barefoot Wine rolled out the red carpet and invited us to thee epic Galatoire’s where a five course luncheon was served complete with a different wine for each segment. Talk about flat out top notch treatment full of stories behind the creations of the wines themselves to the history of this great company. They’ve been around since 1986 and what they’ve accomplished is quite cool. The name Barefoot itself spawned from the stomping of the grapes to kickin’ off your shoes and enjoying life and as winemaker Jen Wall says : “We like to cork a vacation in every bottle!” Dug that girl!

Randy Arnold is another head cheese with Barefoot and you couldn’t meet a finer group of fun loving people loving their jobs. Barefoot has created a charity program worldwide called Beach Rescue Projects where they get up to 300 volunteers to clean up trash and such while offering a party to go along with it. Their passion is making the world a better place through wine. Houston Music Review has already booked their venture in Austin, Texas cleaning up Lady Bird lake! Hats off big time to Marieke Bianchi and her side kick sweet Lauren Castelluzzo for hooking us up without a hitch.

Just when we thought we were having a great time, Friday and Saturday at the Convention Center happened for the Grand Tastings! Talk about traveling into the land of “skrump- diddley- umpshish!! Ladies get all dolled up and the party is on major for three hours each day. Extensive offerings from 75 chefs and selections of wines from around the world were bestowed upon us. This event is also handled in first class fashion with most of the selections having small wait times if not just walk up and partake of whatever you desire. And do not forget that Guiness 1800 Tequila and Stella Artois are represented also. Impossible to give credit to all of the fantastic grub we stuffed in our jowls, but I’ll try to give some major standouts (which were many!):

-Hot shrimp and crawfish at Redfish Grille

-Sea scallops at Broussard’s

-Braised Chappapeela pork cheek fantastic @ Hyatt Regency New Orleans 8 Block Kitchen & Bar

-Champagne Sorbet at The Creole CreameryImage

-Ceviche Coctail at Victory NOLA

-Bourbon and brown sugar glazed salmon at Dick & Jenny’s

-Eggplant stuffed with shrimp, crabmeat, and ham @ Pascal’s Manale

-Veal osso buco ravioli at Ruth Chris Steak House

-Chicken shrimp marengo pasta at Sodexo-Tulane University

-Chocolate pecan crunch was outstanding at Bourbon House

-Smoked gouda mac n’ cheese at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse

-Superb lobster bisque at Galatoire’s

-Mouth watering grilled hanger steak @ Besh Steak

-Yaka mein @ Ralph’s on the Park

-Plus plenty of refreshing Mountain Valley Spring Water all three days Just reading this list makes me long to be back there to relive how bad ass this event is! Also they have the “King of Louisiana Seafood” crowned at the 7th Annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off going on ,too.

Image On Friday and Saturday they hold multiple cool seminars ranging from 10:30am until 4:45pm covering every inch of wine making inside and out. By the time Sunday rolled around were were definitely shell shocked from all the lavish love that was bestowed upon us and we went to St Loius Cathedral to Thank the Lord for the experience!

In closing, I would like to send out a BIG hugaroo to sweet hard working Liz Bodet who made it all happen for us in a beyond professional manner indeed. Her new side kick Jessica was a peach, too along with all the employees at family owned Hotel Monteleone, especially Jani, Stephani and Raoul. In today’s stress filled world we live in vacations are cherished more than ever when we get to take them. This one has happened three times for us and we can only pray that it comes our way again in the future. “Come To Your Senses” is their slogan and it fits quite well. Highly recommend this chance to enjoy one of the most fun loving cities in the USA………….It’s worth every penny and goes to a good cause.