Thursday, June 4, 2009

NOWFE, digested

If only wine had no calories! I stepped on the scale and was so frightened that I just fell off without looking. OK, I looked. And I had to avert my eyes. I really should exercise something besides my fingers and my mouth. I was on a walking program with a friend but I think she chose the gym in the end because, unlike walking, it produces measurable effects...

The first day in New Orleans, we shopped. We went to Orleans Coffee Exchange to pick up a grocery bag full of fresh roasted coffee. I always got my coffee from OCE when I lived in N.O.--I was actually one of their early customers back in the old Sandy & Grandma Ruth days. Now Bob runs the place, and the offerings are as delicious, aromatic and diverse as you could wish or dream. I can only drink decaf, and no one else has anything even remotely close to the large selection of decaf coffees that OCE does. We get our coffee via the OCE mail-order program now, but when we are in N.O., we like to make a pilgrimage to their place to get it ourselves.

Our other main shopping goal was seafood. We ended up getting 12 pounds of shrimp and nothing else. And we paid about $35 for them. Fresh (no IQF) shrimp in Dallas--especially shrimp that large--would have cost us 3 to 5 times what we paid. We will be having shrimp for dinner next week, natch.

We weren't able to attend the Royal Street Stroll this year, because we were sharing dinner with our old Dallas next-door neighbors Leo & Bret, who have moved back to New Orleans. They have bought the most incredible 1960's house with a view onto Lake Pontchartrain (ok, onto the levee) and are restoring it to its mod glamor. It's huge--our whole house could fit into the "great room", which is more like the "party room", with Herman Miller built-ins, a wet bar and a koi pond (no new fish yet, but there will be)!! Each bedroom is like a master suite, with a giant bathroom attached. One bathroom has a tub with three steps down into it, my favorite. They even have some of the home's original super-cool HM furniture that was made for the house, and in fact took possession of the home when it was still chock-full of the original residents' belongings. There are so many stories that this house can tell, and it has definitely fallen into the hands of the right couple.

Friday and Saturday we immersed ourselves in the seminars and the Grand tastings of NOWFE. Between us, we heard seminars about 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon, the French bistro craze, Women in the Wine industry, Louisiana-Italian cooking and wine, cooking a whole pig with Donald Link, sustainable production and cooking jambalaya with John Besh, and tête de cuvée champagnes led by Ziggy "The Wine Gal" Eschleman.

A full day of seminars on Friday was followed immediately by the first Grand Tasting, where we had plenty to eat and not too much to drink (this was deliberate). Saturday brought two more seminars and another Grand Tasting. We normally only attend one Grand Tasting but our host and friend Julian decided not to use his own tickets and very generously bestowed them on us. Again, we tried to focus on eating first and drinking second. We have learned from bitter experience that if you don't make sure you get to certain food offerings in the first two (of three) hours, you may just remain empty-handed when you belly up to the booth and there's nothing there but empty pots and pans, and maybe a little pot liquor. Plus it's good to fill up a little bit with food before you dive into the wines, no!? This strategy worked very well for us. I did not feel even tipsy after either tasting, a thing of beauty. It takes discipline to come out standing and smiling rather than staggering and stuffed when there are 75 restaurants dishing up their finest fare and something like a thousand wines being poured. At this point I have it down to a science.

If you've never been to New Orleans, or you have and you are enamored with the fine local cuisine and hedonistic aspect of life there, NOWFE is not to be missed. Of course, it's really a must-do event for wine lovers everywhere. But there are lots of other ways to fill your time there, even if you can't time your trip with NOWFE.

Sunday we crammed in visits with three friends and finally landed at my aunt's house in Baton Rouge, where we spent the last night. It shaves off a bit of the long drive home...

And as soon as we got back, we were in DEEP CLIBURN COMPETITION (see above) with no break in our momentum.

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