It is amazing what smart people with good intentions can do to increase tourism. A few years ago, New Orleans was discussed with sadness and tears and pity parties. We wondered how this formerly over-the-top tourist extravaganza could ever regain its footing. From Acts of God, to incredibly poor politics, it looked like the glory of New Orleans was going to be a historical study for academics. Culinary artists, gourmets, gourmands, and oenophiles were going to have to take their tastes elsewhere… New Orleans was no longer an option.
Fortunately the city that heralds “Let the Good Times Roll” did not hear the lamenting sounds of outsiders. Business people and political leaders picked themselves up from the debris of Katrina and developed an extravagant city that is flush with good food, good wines, great shopping, interesting museums, and a joie-de-vivre that is constantly in your face. Children running through the streets and hotel lobbies are happy; parents are jubilant; and seniors stroll blissfully along the streets, holding hands, kissing over drinks, and partying through to the following morning.
This seventh in a multi-part series, “My Take on New Orleans,” will, hopefully, capture some of the joyfulness that makes New Orleans a destination that is selected by choice and not by chance.
New Orleans. No Excuses.
No one should need an excuse to spend a long weekend in New Orleans; however, if one becomes necessary, mark your calendar for the New Orleans Wine and Food Festival (NOWFE). Organized yearly by a nonprofit organization, the opportunities to wine and dine as a gourmet deserve time and attention from business and leisure travelers. The event goes beyond linking excellent wineries, New Orleans restaurants, and world-class chefs with foodies. NOWFE’s supra-mission is to bring attention to the locale as a gastronome center and ultimately have happy tourists pour lots of money into the economy, provide jobs for everyone from taxi drivers to hotel employees, plus support local charities (i.e., food and hospitality-based community and educational programs).
Sugar Shock Valued at US$5,000
In addition to excellent seminars and two days of wine and food tastings at the New Orleans Convention Center, a major event was the Big Gateaux, an international cake competition and tasting. Pastry chefs from hotels, restaurants, and bakeries, assisted by Delgado Culinary School students, created a signature version of an anniversary cake inspired by the Burlesque Era of New Orleans and paired with Champagne Nicolas Feuillate.
The winning confection was designed by Pastry Chef Bronwen Weber of Frosted Art Bakery and Studio, Dallas, Texas. It was a sinful creation of black and butter bourbon praline flavors locked into a cake that conjured up memories of Trixie Minx, the producer of New Orleans’ Fleur de Tease and Burlesque Ballroom shows. How to make a decision with all the options? The judges considered: taste, color, movement, execution, technique, imagination, and presentation. They also evaluated on how the chefs worked with their culinary students in preparation for the presentation and cake-tasting. Weber walked off with a US$5,000 prize.
One day started with champagne and ended with chardonnay. Other days started with Rose and ended with Port. After all the incredible things I stuffed into my mouth, I needed to win a trip to Canyon Ranch to diet and dedicate the rest of my life to nothing but carrots and celery.
I cannot be more honest then to encourage everyone to head to New Orleans next May (if not before). The event is superb, the city is more than alive – it is vibrant – and everyone should grab their best friends and head to this wonderful destination.
Look at excellent fares on Jet Blue, which has direct service from JFK to New Orleans. In reality the Jet Blue experience was actually pleasant. The seats are large enough to permit a comfort level that has disappeared from other airlines. I do recommend bringing snacks for the three-hour flight, as chocolate chip cookies and other high-calorie goodies do nothing to keep hunger pangs at bay.
For NOWFE information: www.nowfe.com .