This year marks The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience 20th year celebrating New Orleans's culture in food and spirits.

It's hard to believe that NOWFE has only been around 20 years. Ever since I could remember, The New Orleans Wine & Food Experience has been a local NOLA social staple, featuring some of the best food and wine known to man. For those of you who are unaware of this magical event, here's what they're about:

"Over the past 20 years, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience has raised more than $1 million for non-profit organizations right here in our community while showcasing local food and chefs, and national and international wines."

With that said, this year NOWFE "will share 100% of the proceeds. Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana will receive 40% and the following will share the remaining 60%: the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation's ProStart Program, Delgado Culinary Arts School, New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts’ Culinary Program, the John Folse Culinary Institute and the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans." At it's core, NOWFE gives back in a huge way and continues to support programs that continue to develop carry on our unique culture.

Of the over 400 festivals New Orleans hosts each year, NOWFE is certainly among the top 5 events that standout above the rest. I tend to wonder sometimes if my passion and intense emotional connection I have to New Orleans makes me a bit delusional. By that I mean, what other city on earth is more connected emotionally, spiritually, and culturally to food? Sit down and talk with a visiting tourist and ask them to describe the food of NOLA. The reactions you'll receive will almost always be linked to their heart.

I may be blinded by the boudin, but no other city can compete. Before you put me up on the cross, I have been to other cities, major and minor, and have had good meals at each destination, but I always crave my native menu. This year at the ripe young age of 20, NOWFE proves to rock it out in a big way.

Local celebrity stalwarts from across town include : John Besh, Tariq Hanna, David Guas, Susan Spicer, Brian Landry, Rhonda Ruckman as well visiting celebrities from around the world including : Ron Ben-Israel, Craig Collins, Vanessa Fiorini, Johnny Iuzzini, Chris Hanmer, Lee Schrager, Kim Sunée, and Megan Murphy, to name a few. With hundreds of the best NOLA restaurants participating as well as nearly 200 wineries, I can't imagine anyone going hungry. Below are some of the highlights we've included in our 2012 NOWFE Roundup...


Ella Brennan Award Dinner & Auction: Exclusive Seated Dinner, Honoring the 2012 Recipient - Bill Goldring

Each year, the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award is presented to a recipient who has made a lifetime commitment to the hospitality industry through extraordinary leadership, personal and professional accomplishments, and philanthropic contributions to the community. The award, designed by Mignon Faget, is presented to the honoree at an exclusive dinner to kick off the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience.

This event is SOLD OUT - click here to check out the event page to find out more about the dinner & auction.


Wine Dinners:

Chefs & Winemakers are Perfectly Paired! - "New Orleans’ premier restaurants match up with renowned vineyards. Chefs and Vintners plan the menus together, ensuring outstanding food and wine pairings. Reservations and payments can be made by contacting the restaurant directly. Credit card confirmation may be required. NOWFE cannot guarantee reservations in any restaurant. Jackets suggested. Dinners, winery details, prices and menus will be posted as they become available."

Some of the standout pairings include :

• 5 Fifty 5 at the Marriott Hotel featuring Plumpjack/ CADE Winery • Calcasieu featuring Rudi Wiest Selections • Le Foret featuring Moet Chandon ft/ Dom Perignon • Maximo’s Italian Grill featuring Palm Bay International • Red Fish Grill featuring Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyard

Click here to see the full list of restaurants & their vineyard pairings -->


Vinola Tasting: Super-Premium Wine Tasting! 2 – 4pm, The Theatre at Harrah’s, 8 Canal Street, $150 per person (Must be 21 to Enter)

"NOWFE’s premium tasting event is a rare opportunity for 200 wine enthusiasts to mingle with notable winemakers, while sampling elite wines from around the world. The Theatre will host approximately 40 wineries, pouring their most revered and highly rated wines, (each exceeding a retail value of $75.) Vinola has only a limited number of tickets available, and is usually a sell-out, so don’t wait to get your tickets!"

Featuring Culinary Arts From:

• Chef Jared Tees of Besh Steak • Chef Nathaniel Zimet of Boucherie • Chef Phillip Lopez of Root • Chef Michael Stoltzfus of Coquette • Chef Michael Doyle of Maurepas Foods

Besides the "Grand Tastings" later on in the week, the events on Thursday of NOWFE are the ones I'm most excited about. Besides having mad respect for the chefs mentioned above, I've enjoyed their food immensely in the past and I'm excited to see what they have in waiting for us.

Below are some of the vineyards I'm looking forward to checking out :

• Amizetta Estate Family Winery • CADE & PlumpJack Winery • Dierberg /Star Lane Vineyards • Joseph Phelps Vineyards • Moet Hennessy USA • Quintessa

Royal Street Stroll: The Most Unique Wine Tasting in the World!

Royal Street Stroll Sponsored by Rouses 5:30 – 8:30 pm, 200 – 900 Blocks of Royal Street • Tickets $75 advance/$90 on-site ***NOTE: Two Entrances, the 900 Block & the 400 Block

For many NOWFE vets, this is the most anticipated event of the entire experience. I'd have to second that emotion. Here's a brief description :

"A definitive evening event of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, which brings together New Orleans’ greatest gifts: rare antiques, fine art, live jazz and stunning historic architecture with the world’s outstanding wines. Shop the enchanting galleries of Royal Street while experiencing wine offerings at each stop, as live jazz music fills the air. As always, we will be joined by the Krewe of Cork, as they parade down Royal Street."

Some of the restaurants participate include :

• Antoine's Restaurant • Bourbon House • GW Fins • Nola Restaurant

Nowhere else in the world can replicate this event, period. What better backdrop than Royal Street for such an event featuring food, wine, live music, and culture in the air. Take that NYC, Miami, Chicago, and all the rest. I cannot wait for the stroll.

Click here for more info on Thurs. night's events -->

Friday & Saturday

Friday and Saturday of NOWFE are always the most feature packed and begin with seminars throughout the day and end with their stellar "Grand Tastings".

Seminars: What's Hot in Wine & Food!

FRIDAY highlights :

Sip n' Slide

Join Chefs Brack May of Cowbell, Isaac Toups of Toup's Meatery and Matt Regan of Lüke as they pair robust reds with bold burgers. With the craze of designer burgers descending on New Orleans, what better way to sample a slider than with a full-bodied Bordeaux or Rioja? 1:00-2:00pm; $55 per person; Blaine Kern C/D

The New [Old] Beaujolais

A tasting of the Crus of Beaujolais and a discussion of the return to traditional winemaking methods in the great wines of this region and expression of terroir. Debunk the myths about ageability and depth of flavor.

SATURDAY highlights :

Yes Way, Rosé!

Pink wine scares some folks. If you go to a party filled with wine people though, the first thing gone is the rosé! Joe Briand of Carte des Vins and Colin O'Neill of Herbsaint will pair six rosés from around the globe with food from Herbsaint Chef de Cuisine Rebecca Wilcomb to show the versatility of this wonderful vino. Then, the next time someone asks if you want some, you'll say "Yes way, rosé!" 3:30-4:30pm; $75 per person; River Bend Ballroom

Around the Bend: A Tribute to Anne Gooch

Join local food critic Tom Fitzmorris for a seminar in memory of NOWFE founding member Anne Gooch. The seminar will include history about the culinary twists and turns of New Orleans’ historic Carrollton neighborhood and feature a quartet of its current extraordinary chefs and eateries. (Chef Scotty Snodgrass of One Restaurant, Chef Nathanial Zimet of Boucherie, Chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen's and Chef Eman Loubier of Dante's Kitchen)

"One" Chef Scotty Snodgrass' dish: Pepper Seared Tuna with Asian Vegetables and Citrus Ponzu Wine Pairing: 2011 Chateau de Campuget Rose', southern France


"Brigtsen's" Chef Frank Brigtsen's dish: Shrimp Cornbread with Jalapeno Smoked Corn Butter Wine Pairing: 2011 Vidal-Fleurie Viognier, Rhone, France


"Boucherie" Chef Nathanial Zimet's dish: Crispy Skin Duck Confit with truffled baby root vegetables in a truffle vinaigrette Wine Pairing: 2009 Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir


"Dante's KItchen" Chef Eman Loubier's dish: Confit Pork Butt Steak with Beluga Lentils and Farm Greens, topped with Confit Tomatoes11:30am–12:30pm; $75 per person; Blaine Kern A

Distinctly Different

Discover the difference a glass makes in this special tasting showcasing the “Riedel Vinum XL” line of crystal stemware. Join Doug Reed of Riedel Crystal of America, as he demonstrates how glassware affects the flavors and aromas of wine. You’ll also receive a set of four Riedel Vinum XL glasses to keep (retail price, $123)! 11:30am–12:30pm; $75 per person; Blaine Kern E/F

Grand Tastings: 175 Wineries & 75 Chefs Come Together for a Truly Grand Experience!

The Grand Tastings are the cornerstone of NOWFE, and is the premier event of the experience.

"A truly “Grand” experience for both foodies and wine connoisseurs, with offerings from New Orleans’ finest chefs and selections of wines from around the world. The 2012 Grand Tastings will feature Fine Cooking’s award-winning contributing chefs and the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off, a competition between Louisiana’s top 10 Chefs!"

The New Orleans Convention Center, HALL J / Tickets $89 (Advance) $100 (Day of Event) Friday May 25th 6:00 – 9:00pm / Close-out performance by Ingrid Lucia!

Click here to get more info about all the rest of the events going on Friday/Saturday --->

NOWFE's 20th Anniversary Celebration: The Big Gateaux Show

An International Cake Competition and Tasting Friday, May 25th from 8:30 – 11:00 pm, in the Grand Ballroom at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Tickets $75.00

"Invited pastry chefs will join in the festivities and create their own signature version of a burlesque-themed anniversary cake to be paired with Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte at the “Big Gateaux Show.” This ticketed event, hosted by Top Chef Just Desserts' Johnny Iuzzini & Sucre’s Tariq Hanna and the Royal Sonesta Hotel, will feature Trixi Minx & the Beauties from Burlesque Ballroom. Each chef, will be assisted by a local culinary student to create a spectacularly designed cake, to be displayed and tasted at a festive after-party following the Friday Night Grand Tasting. Celebrity judges; as well as attendees, will choose their favorite delight. The winning design and pastry chef will be awarded with a $5000 prize sponsored by Valrhona."