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 eighth 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.
William Goldring. The Understated New Orleans Philanthropist.
The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (20th year) recently honored Bill Goldring for his incredibly significant philanthropy by presenting him with the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award. It may have been presented a bit early as Goldring at 69 does not appear to have any plans for hanging up his boots and playing golf for the rest of eternity.
Although many media outlets identify Goldring as shy, I found him to be more of a social butterfly than a wallflower. He has an incredible database of knowledge about the booze industry (he should be, he and his family have been in the business for over 100 years), a fine-tuned sense of art and art history (especially as it relates to New Orleans and the southern part of the United States), and a warm, almost paternal, relationship with his staff. He is so unpretentious that he personally returns telephone calls, keeps his own calendar, and drives his own car.
To say that this multimillionaire is modest would be an understatement. If I had not researched his background and the flourishing companies he runs, I would have taken him for a corporate executive who plays only a minor role in the success of his organization. It is particularly interesting, in this city that is so “over-the-top” with its food, wines, music, and history, that Goldring, with his retiring persona, fits comfortably into formal dinners (in his honor), and is just as happy being “one of the guests” at informal cocktail home-hosted parties. Unlike some philanthropists (i.e., Donald Trump), Goldring does not need to be the center of attention. He certainly enjoys the spotlight, but is incredibly generous in sharing it with others.
Upon accepting the Ella Brennan award, Goldring quoted Mark Twain, “New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin,” and Julie Childs, “Your body is not a temple; it’s an amusement park, so give it a good ride.”
Funds raised through the dinner and the wine and food events are donated to Second Harvest Food Bank and various culinary educational programs.
Brennan is a revered figure in the New Orleans restaurant industry. Her family operates a dozen restaurants, including Commander’s Palace, considered to be at the very pinnacle of fine dining. She is credited for introducing nouvelle Creole cuisine, which elevated Louisiana cooking and gave it provenance throughout the world. In addition, her standard of service created a dining experience that has become the industry gold standard. Wanting to share what she knew about fine dining, she turned her kitchen into a teaching environment and many of the finest chefs have been crafted under her tutelage. The most notable chefs that have passed through her kitchen include Jamie Shannon, Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, Danny Trace, Emmanuel Loubier, Richard Bentz, and Tom Robey. Tim Zagat considers Brennan one of the premier restaurateurs in the country.
Goldring Gives Back to the Community
As president of the Goldring Family Foundation and the Woldenberg Foundation, this low-key business leader has donated millions of dollars to local charities and institutions for over 20 years.
Newman Goldring (Bill’s grandfather), started the dynasty in 1898 in Pensacola, Florida. Currently, Goldring chairs the Sazerac Company (America’s largest distiller) and Crescent Crown Distributing (the nation’s second largest beer wholesaler). Sazerac owns and manufactures nearly 200 brands of spirits sold domestically and internationally, with a special focus on vodka products and high quality, award winning bourbons.
In 1948, Sazerac entered the American vodka market by introducing the first American-distilled organic product that is marketed as Taaka; it is one of the largest selling vodka brands in the US. The product goes through four distillations, a charcoal filtration, and is then packaged. In 1987, Sazerac purchased the Nikolai and Crown Russe vodka brands because of their unique production methods and different recipes. In 1992, Goldring acquired The Buffalo Trace Distillery and integrated its unique production vodka distillation equipment and techniques along with a special strain of yeast into his growing portfolio.
Currently, Rain Organics is distilled from white organic corn sourced from a 1500-acre farm in Yale, Illinois. The farm owners take great care to assure that the corn is clean and unbroken with the precise moisture level for perfect cooking, fermentation, and distillation. Rain has won gold medals beating out Grey Goose, Belvedere, Stolichnaya, Absolut, and Three Olives. Platinum 7X vodka is currently available in the marketplace. This vodka is distilled seven times, and undergoes four column distillations, followed by three additional pot still “polishing” distillations.
The latest purchase is of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery, located outside Fredericksburg, Virginia. The oldest operating distillery on the east coast of the US, Bowman was formerly owned by descendants of John Adams and Robert E. Lee.
Sazerac also produces and distributes 100 percent agave tequilas, authentic Mezcals, and 100 percent wild agave Sotol. The brands range from blancos to extra anejos, which are aged for up to 6 years. Sazerac bourbons are produced in 3 distilleries with Buffalo Trace the most highly-decorated distillery in the world. The brands are aged up to 23 years and vary by recipe warehouses.
Official Sazerac Recipe
The Goldring firmly believes that no one should leave New Orleans without sitting at a bar and ordering a Sazerac. The recipe is quite simple, but the taste is very complex.
1 cube sugar
1½ ounces (35ml) Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon
¼ ounce Herbsaint
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
• Pack an Old-Fashioned glass with ice.
• In a second Old-Fashioned glass, place the sugar cube and add the Peychaud’s Bitters to it, then crush the sugar cube.
• Add the Sazerac Rye Whiskey or Buffalo Trace Bourbon to the second glass containing the Peychaud’s Bitters and sugar.
• Empty the ice from the first glass and coat the glass with the Herbsaint, then discard the remaining Herbsaint.
• Empty the whiskey/bitters/sugar mixture from the second glass into the first glass and garnish with lemon peel.