Happy Birthday to me! By the time you read this I will be celebrating is Asheville, North Carolina with my best bud, Cyndi. If  I were here to celebrate a few cool things are on my radar.

Last week I wrote about the opening of Bellegarde’s retail bakery (8300 Apple St., 504-827-0008, bellegardebakery.com) and a community open house to be held on July 13. The event was has been rescheduled to this coming Saturday  from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. On opening day, Bellegarde will extend its hours and host a public open house from 3-5 p.m., giving customers the chance to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the bakery and meet with the staff. Also, the first 50 customers on opening day will receive a FREE country loaf.

Beyond that, I have an art problem. When I was a kid I saved up my lunch money not for games and toys but for interesting objects to which I was attracted. The obsession never stops and my home tells my story through my art collection and my garden. Hence, art markets are very dangerous places for me. If I was around this weekend I would cast caution to the wind and head for Art in the Bend, an indoor art market pop-up in the historic Riverbend at Nuance Gallery (728 Dublin St., 504-865-8466) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. This is the one year anniversary of the event that packs in artist-made scarves, jewelry, photography, glass, paintings and more, more, more. Look for works from Heather Mattingly, Gerry Claude, Fiber Endeavors by Lauren Thomas, Renee Dodge, Kathleen Grumich, Heather Elizabeth Designs, Felt Like Love Designs, and more. Tinis & Paninis will be serving up gourmet fare and complimentary cocktails and will offer a sale on carafes of 504 specialty cocktails.

Shrimp chipotle coleslaw panini and a blackberry tequila martini anyone?

With my birthday week budget pretty much decimated by the art market, if I were in town to celebrate the remainder of said celebration would be done on the cheap. As in happy hours, quite possibly with one or more of my needy elderly female dogs, aka “The Girls”.

Sans the dogs I would head to Delmonico (1300 St Charles Ave., 504-525-4937, emerilsrestaurants.com/delmonico). This elegant, romantic spot on the Avenue hits a happy note every day from 5-7 p.m. with  $.99 char-grilled oysters, $5 small plates (candied bacon, fried green tomatoes with remoulade, pancetta-wrapped dates, fresh sausage of the day, salmon rillettes, shrimp and corn beignets, deviled eggs of the day, and French fries), and half priced specialty and house cocktails, all wines by the glass and select bottles of wine.

With The Girls (and a helper) in tow I would still have a plethora of options. Flamingo A-Go-Go (869 Magazine St., 504-577-2202, flamingonola.com) is as festive as it gets. This fun Warehouse District hot spot welcomes dogs with their own menu for patio dining.  Each Puppy Plate option is $3: Mutt’s Mash (ground beef, white rice, black beans, corn, cucumber), Doggie’s Delight (shredded boneless chicken thighs, white rice, black beans, corn, cucumber), and Fido’s Fresh Fish (salmon, white rice, black beans, corn, cucumber). I once watched my dog, Penny Lane, a small mutt, fiercely defend as her own a lump of uncooked broccoli from other predators (there were none) who might wish to share in her odd delicacy so I am feeling it for these cucumber-plus options for Pen. It’s my birthday so I am going for a $5 top shelf Margarita (Olmeca Altos Tequila  and orange liqueur with a salted rim) and a $5 order of buttermilk-battered Southern fried onion rings, which I find irresistible.

The 17th annual Tales of the Cocktail gathering kicked off on Tuesday and runs through Saturday. The event started as a small gathering of cocktail lovers and has grown into the world’s premier cocktail festival. This year’s theme is “Cultivate” which reflects the non-profit foundation’s goal to actively engage partners and participants through thought leadership and foster meaningful connections within the hospitality industry. This year’s event will feature over 75 seminars focused on education, advancement, and support for the larger beverage community. These seminar topics address virtually every aspect of the cocktail and spirits industries, and are presented by some of the industries’ most highly regarded professionals. Beyond the Bar topics were designed to facilitate dialogue and inspire thinking around pressing topics facing the hospitality and spirits industry from social justice to lifestyle, health, addiction, and sustainability. Events are open to the public. Exclusive Tasting tickets are available for $125, 101 Seminars are available for $35 and all other seminars are $65. Visit talesofthecocktail.com for a full list of events or to purchase tickets.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Use it to celebrate the people and the community you love.