Attending nonprofit events in New Orleans could be a full-time job (and wouldn’t that be a blast?). This past weekend was no exception, with “Uncork the Cure” benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; “Boudin & Beer” and “Carnivale du Vin” for the Emeril Lagasse Foundation; “A’s & Aces” gala; “What’s Cookin’ with CASA” benefiting Court Appointed Special Advocates; the “Odyssey Ball” benefiting New Orleans Museum of Art and many more.

I was lucky to attend both “Boudin & Beer” and the “Odyssey Ball”* and I can assure you that the nonprofit scene in New Orleans is alive and well.

“Boudin & Beer” heralded the Emeril Lagasse Foundation’s second year back in New Orleans (it was held in Las Vegas for a couple years) and was the first time the party on the evening before had the boudin theme. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the array of libations offered. From stellar wines, to an Abita stout from a bourbon barrel, to a Glenlivet tasting – if you enjoy alcohol, there was something exceptional here for you. Though I wish that they would have allowed the internationally recognized chefs from across the United States to showcase their talents through whatever dish they’d like (as they did at a similar event last year), the theme brought out not only some of the best in cooking, but also some truly inspired “Cajun Cocktail” attire. Co-chairs Mario Batali and Donald Link were not only in attendance (and happy to pose for photos with admirers), they were also cooking and plating the dishes. That is what makes this event so special; though you may eat at fabulous restaurants and, sometimes, receive a visit from the chef to your table, how often do you actually get to see them cooking and plating the food you’re about to eat? My favorite dishes (and ones I hope that these chefs will add to their menus) were Susan Spicer’s shrimp and scallop “boudin” and Sue Zemanick’s pimento cheese-stuffed boudin balls topped with Steen’s cane syrup sauce – I had three.

“Odyssey Ball” is one of the events I look forward to all year long. The entertainment (this year I enjoyed both Deacon John and the Ivories and Leah Chase and ActionActionReaction) is always top-notch and the food … oh, the food. The oysters with caviar; the smoked salmon; the shrimp and lobster ravioli; the truffled mac and cheese; the grilled-to-order lamb chops; the ice cream sundae bar (freshly frozen with dry ice as you watched) … there was much more, but those I remember fondly. And the libations: premium open bar upstairs in the VIP area – which included a lovely scotch – open bar downstairs, two types of Rémy Martin cognac and free-flowing champagne. Then there’s the people-watching. Every year I place at least one bid in the extensive silent auction, mostly to be able to watch the people in that room. Everyone brings their best to the “Odyssey Ball”; the jewelry, shoes, ball gowns, hair-dos and makeup are always impressive.

Of all the events I attended this weekend, my favorite was the couple of hours I was lucky to spend with my fiancé’s family, especially his grandmother and just-walking nephew. As much fun as it is to attend exciting events filled with beautiful people and fabulous food, what’s really special is getting to spend time with family – even if they aren’t family by blood. (See you Thursday Mom and Dad!)

*Note: I attended these events for free at the invitation of the nonprofits. There was no editorial promised in return.