Iím getting ready for the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience.
NOWFE, they call it: May 22 through 26. They do it every year. What
is NOWFE? To me itís the kiss of Springtime that awakens my appetite
like the kiss of the prince awakened Snow White. For the information
of eaters, its the 4th rated food and wine event in the whole wide
world. Me and the wife celebrate Spring with NOWFE every year.
Well, for you that have been living in caves beside the Tennessee
River eating cold, canned pork and beans, itís the most momentous food
event that this eater has ever enjoyed. Naturally, thatís why itís in
New Orleans, culinary Headquarters USA. And naturally, it involves
subject No. 1 on the ecstasy list - food - way ahead of No. 2, which
you can guess. And this treasure trove is packed with crayfish, tuna,
grouper, andouille sausage, oysters, as well as the traditional veal,
beef, and chicken.
When I return, my friends, of course, donít recognize me - hey, isnít
that Teddy? Yeah, but look how happy and chubby he looks.
NOWFE is a cornucopia of 1) food seminars, 2) strolls down Royal
Street where every antique shop tempts your appetite as well as your
purse - they fill up your wine glass, too - and 3) a grand tasting in
the Convention Center where New Orleansí finest eateries display and
fill your plate with their culinary creations. Seconds and thirds?
Sure. The vintners, too, are anxious to soothe your soul with their
liquid ambrosia. 4) Then there are special dinners at select
restaurants, like Commanders Palace, Broussards, Antoines, Arnauds,
and others who try hard to show you why theyíre the best in their
class and deserve your returning appetite.
No self-respecting gourmet or even gobbler should miss NOWFE.
Picture yourself walking down Royal street; plate and glass ready for
filling. One shop after another. Survey the pictures, figurines, and
furniture. Sample their food. Itís hard to be bored; one after the
other - each offering a mouth watering treat. And out on the street
marches the sassiest, brassy band youíve heard since John Philip Sousa
hit the scene. Like the song says, ďWho Could Ask for Anything
More?Ē Last year on the Royal Street stroll as we observed an amply-
fleshed gentleman mixing up a batch of Jambalaya, I whispered to my
tablemate of 58 years, ďhey, looks just like mineĒ. He must have ears
like a rabbit before heís stewed - ďCome on over here shorty, letís
get a picture.Ē It was Paul Prudhomme himself. And he filled my bowl
with his jambalaya. Yeah, you never know who you'll bump into. and
his dish was as good as mine, I told him.
But itís hard to beat the Champagne Seminar where bubbly that retails
for $85 to $185 awaits your pleasure and the vintner of each explains
his wares. My mouth hasnít been so happy since I put in my new bridge.
But maybe the high point, the mountaintop of ecstasy, was that formal
palace at what is called the Vintner Dinner. You are gracefully
presented with a menu and asked to choose. ďOh, Iíll have the duck.Ē
No, no, you must choose more than one. So you end choosing three
dishes - THREE. The same with desserts among which was a sorbet,
which to this Alabama mouth was sorta a delectable fruit sherbet.
Before this treat I simply never tested the genuine article - more
like an icy frozen fruit that set off pleasure bells all the way down
to your pinky toes.
I havenít even mentioned the Grand Tasting, couple years back, at the
Superdome. Me and hundreds of other epicureans surrounded by outposts
of the 75 best New Orleans restaurants. And 1000 (one thousand)
vintages at hand to wash it down. Is this the real world or am I in
Heaven? I pinch a pretty chubby lady next to me as a test. She
pinches me back. Itís real. I havenít been run over by a dump truck
and gone through those Pearly Gates. Iím alive. And there are
the booths and tables ringing the Superdome. And beside me sits my
wife. I pinch her too just to make sure.
Find an entree that tingles your taste buds - go back. Again and
again. And weíre not talking about hamburgers and hot dogs. But a
rainbow of creative temptations that typify New Orleans cookery - like
crepes in crayfish sauce. This year itís held at the convention center.
After four days of stuffing, we headed home as full as a cow with two
mouths in a field of clover. You can do the same this year by
punching nowfe.com into your browser or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The humor of Ted, the Scribbler on the Roof, appears in newspapers around the U.S., on National Public Radio in Huntsville, Alabama and numerous web sites.