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Diary For Sunday, April 7/2019. The Twenty-Seventh Annual New Orleans Wine And Food Experience

Arrives Successfully. In the middle 1980s, wine became the rave of the upcoming generation. Which, luckily for wine producers and merchants, was the Baby Boom revolution. By the time this pampered children was old enough to drink, they began to develop a taste for good wine. They were accustomed to the likes of Boone’s Farm, Ripple and other cheap, sweet near-wines. When the Boomers found that many much better wines were available if you just looked for them, they were making enough money to buy serious wines. And there were plenty of those waiting for them.

And that’s when wine festivals appeared. They took place mostly in California and in the West. In the East and New Orleans, the phenomenon was mostly confined to French wines. But they all were aimed at people whose tastes in wine were growing dramatically. The wineries began to compete with one another, and their special events evolved into extended wine festivals.

New Orleans was among the first American cities outside the wine-growing districts to organize a major wine-and-food bacchanal. (In Europe, wine festivals were long entrenched.) That was how things were in 1992, when the predecessor of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience premiered. It followed a number of previous festivals dating back to the late 1960s. All of those were failures after a few years, but they were well attended as long as they remained, offering much more food than wine.

But NOW&FE (the common name for New Orleans Wine and Food Experience) had the magic formula. Almost from the outset, its widely varied multi-day program was the talk of the town. The mix of food and wine was just right. So was the assortment of inexpensive events and deluxe ones. It was the kind of festival in which you knew everybody you ran into, then compared notes about the relative goodness of the eats and the sips.

NOW&FE has evolved quite a lot over the years. A major component of conversation in recent years were the crowds in the Grand Tastings and the bad layout of the trash cans, a lack or oversupply of air conditioning), too wide a stretch between the most expensive events and the least, and the food and wine in the Royal Street Stroll. When most of the prices went over $100, there was the predictable outrage.

This year showed a major adjustment. The prices moved up as much as I expected, with a few $200 events. On the other hand, $129 would supply a satisfactory participation. The Vintner Dinner at Broussard’s, for example, was not only a pretty-good repast with interesting wines, but became a full-room party that everybody in the place seemed to enjoy greatly. The food at the Friday Grand Tasting (the key item on the NOWF&E) was the best that my wife Mary Ann could remember, and she’s a stickler. I agree with her assessment, and would add that there were some fascinating port-style wines I wasn’t expecting.

Although I heard from the usual assortment of gripers–and there are always reasons for griping at NOWF&E–I almost everybody I spoke with at the Grand Tastings. Although there will always be some attendees who can afford the top strata of the offerings, it’s a pleasure to attend NOWF&E.

One major change which will surely be followed by another one next year was the move of NOWF&E from Memorial Day weekend to the first week of April. Turns out that winemakers and attendees have more time to show up at this earlier time. It doesn’t seem to make much difference for the locals. Let’s at least hope that the streets around the Convention Center are back in service by then.

And one more thing: can the music at the Grand Tastings be taken down a few decibels, especially at the end? It is virtually impossible to make oneself heard to the person standing next to you at the Grand Tasting. How about offering a tasting of ports in a small, quiet room with people dressed up a little? Must we always be yelling when we dine out?

Information about next year’s New Orleans Wine and Food Experience can be found here: https://www.nowfe.com/events

The Orient Express Diary

A Full Report On Our Recent Trip Aboard the Orient Express, London to Venice, By Mary Ann Fitzmorris. MA and I are in Los Angeles this weekend for our grandchildren’s birthdays. In lieu of our usual NOMenu newsletter, we will publish our whole Orient Express diary on Wednesday through Friday. Enjoy!

Join Tom Fitzmorris And Friends In Metairie For
Five Courses Of The Sicilian-New Orleans
Cooking And Fettuccine, Among Other Things

Wed., April 17, 6:30 p.m.
3400 16th St @ N. Hullen
Reservations: 504-455-1545

MENU: Five Courses With Wines
Crabmeat Cannelloni & Shrimp Au Gratin
Wine: Au Contraire Chardonnay
House-Made Fettuccine Alfredo
Wine: Bottega Cinaia Pinot Grigio
Jim Bob Salad
Green salad, artichokes, salami, olives,
anchovies, tomatoes, house dressing
Wine: Bertani Berta Rose
Choose One Entree:
Smoked Filet Mignon
Redfish Marcello
Linguine With Crawfish
Wine: Rocca Delle Macie Chianti
Choose Any House Desserts
Wine: Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port
Wed., April 17, 6:30 p.m.
3400 16th St @ N. Hullen
Reservations: 504-455-1545
Live Music with Roy Picou and Tom Fitzmorris.

AlmanacSquare April 7, 2019

Upcoming Deliciousness

French Quarter Festival April 11-14
Easter April 21
Jazz Festival April 26-May 5
Eat Club Dinner @ Impastato’s April 17

Drink And The Law

Today in 1933, Utah ratified the Twenty-First Amendment, thereby putting the final nail into the coffin of Prohibition. President Franklin Roosevelt signed legislation allowing 3.2 percent alcohol beer immediately. And there was rejoicing in the land–except in Oklahoma, where Prohibition continued until, coincidentally, this same day in 1959.

The Physiology Of Eating

The man who created the word ptomaine (from the Greek ptomas, meaning “corpse”) was born today in 1817. Francesco Selmi thought that the nitrogenous compounds in spoiled food were responsible for food poisoning. That’s not exactly true; those ammonia-like aromas are a symptom, not a cause. The expression “ptomaine poisoning” is no longer used in the medical world for food poisoning, although many laymen still call it that.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:

It is much less likely than you think that your bout of food poisoning came from a restaurant.

Today’s Flavor

It’s National Coffee Cake Day. I once overheard someone in a bakery say that he didn’t like coffee cake because he didn’t like the taste of coffee. Of course, there’s no coffee in coffee cake–unless you spill your mug into it. The basic coffee cake is a sweet, crumbly, thick cake of flour, eggs, sugar, and butter, topped with a streusel of sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. It’s often baked in a tube pan, leaving a hole in the center. Coffee cakes often include other ingredients; apples and blueberries are common. They’re best eaten right after they finish cooling. With a cup of coffee, naturally. I have a recipe for a basic coffee cake here.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Duck, West Virginia is right in the center of the mountainous state, on the east bank of the Elk River. It’s mostly woods in those hills, with some farming here and there and plenty of coal mining. Maybe the name is a reference to what you do when entering a coal mine. The nearest restaurant is Granny’s Kitchen in Frametown, four miles away.

Edible Dictionary

tagliatelle, [tah-ghlee-ah-TEL-eh], Italian, n.–A pasta shape made by slicing thin sheets of dough into long, wide (a quarter to a half-inch) ribbons, preferably by hand. The cutting of the pasta sheets is reflected in the pasta’s name, from the Italian verb meaning to cut. Tagliatelle is something like fettuccine, but wider and longer. Its exact dimensions are literally cast in gold in a display case at the Bologna Chamber of Commerce. It’s six millimeters wide by one millimeter thick.

Deft Dining Rule #169:

If the little espresso cup is more than half-full with a single shot, it isn’t really an espresso.

Annals Of Processed Food

It’s the birthday in 1860 of William K. Kellogg, the founder of the cereal company that bears his name and the creator of modern processed cereal. He developed the original corn flakes with his brother John. It was not an entirely new idea. The Aztecs also made and liked processed corn products that were almost identical to modern cereal. The two Kellogg brothers were health nuts–vegetarians for starters, but with a lot of much less valid ideas.

The Saints

Today is the feast day of St. John Baptist de la Salle. Born in 1651 in Reims, France to a wealthy family, he became a priest, and took on a mission to improve education among the poor. To that purpose, he founded a Catholic religious order, the Christian Brothers. The brothers still operate schools around the world. Both my son and I are beneficiaries of Christian Brothers education (he at Christian Brothers School in City Park, I at Archbishop Rummel High School). The Christian Brothers also became well-known in this country for their winery, built in 1882, in the impressive, castle-like Greystone just north of St. Helena in Napa. They sold the winery in 1989; Greystone is now the home of the Napa campus of the Culinary Institute of America. So the legacy of teaching goes on. Christian Brothers Brandy is still around, too.

People We’d Like To Have Dinner With

This is the birthday, in 1939, of film director and winemaker Francis Ford Coppola. More than a few restaurant and food scenes appear inThe Godfather and its two sequels, the movies for which he’s most famous. Coppola’s career as a vintner is equally impressive. He bought the old Inglenook estate in Napa, including the Victorian house of the Gustave Neibaum family, who founded the winery in the 1880s. Coppola recently renamed the estate Rubicon, a reference to the marvelous meritage-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and its usual partners that he makes there. Maybe he’ll bring a few vintages. (Actually, I’ve had lunch with Coppola already, at his home in Napa. He grilled some great pizzas.)

Fine Dining On Television

Andrew Sachs, the actor who played Manuel, the incomprehensibly incompetent waiter on the British TV comedy Fawlty Towers, was born today in 1930. He might have been able to get by were his boss Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese) not such a ninny himself.

Food Namesakes

Peanuts Hucko, a clarinetist on the Lawrence Welk orchestra, was born today in 1918. . . Yvonne Lime, an actress on television (Dobie Gillis, Happy, and Father Knows Best) was born in 1938. . . John Oates, of the rock duo Hall and Oates, was born today in 1949. . . Pro baseball pitcher Ricky Bones was born today in 1969.

Words To Eat By

“How can you eat anything with eyes?”–W. K. Kellogg, cereal magnate, born today in 1860.

Words To Drink By

“A drinking man’s someone who wants to forget he isn’t still young and believing.”–Tennessee Williams.