It appears to me that New Orleanians are always “up” for the multi-tasking challenge. We do so many things all at once that I notice our visitors, and other friends I have that don’t live here, are not quite so attuned to doing everything all at the same time.

We eat foods that are complicated in their preparation and construction, layered with flavors. No one thing satisfies. We have a reputation of loving spices (guilty!) but there is so much more to our cuisine than just that.

Remember Nick’s Original Big Train Bar, right off of Tulane Avenue across from the Dixie Brewery? Mr. Nick was the master of the pousse-café, a cocktail invented in New Orleans in the mid-19th century by Joe Santina at the City Exchange Bar on Gravier.

Anyway, Nick Castrogiovanni was reputed to be able to layer 34 spirits, coffee, and liqueurs in the construction of his infamous pousse-café. I was in that bar many times but never saw him do it. Moments and opportunities lost forever.

The point is that only in New Orleans would we apply talent and deft touches to making a drink with way too many ingredients that makes no sense. But it was pretty, and indicative of the bartender’s talents. That works for us. Besides, it was a lot of stuff in one glass and that too is fine for New Orleanians.

I am reminded of such craziness because we are in the midst of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE). It’s not enough that at both Grand Tastings we have over 800 wines available. Not enough that we have more than 45 chefs and restaurants involved. Not even enough that we stretch this festival over 5 days. We are excellent multi-taskers so bring it all on … at once.

Honestly even drinking and dining professionals, which includes just about every adult resident of the metropolitan area, cannot enter into such a large affair as NOWFE without a plan. If you do, you are likely to return home later and regret missing opportunities to enjoy something special, both in the food and the drink categories.

Spend a few moments, as you would for any endeavor, to at least figure out what you really want to enjoy, if not by specific name then by category. If you are on the pinot noir bandwagon, then that narrows matters down a bit. Yet, here is your chance to enjoy that grape in a sparkling wine form, or maybe you like pinot noir from California. Consider those from Oregon, New Zealand, even Chile, as well as the home turf of Burgundy, France.

If you have turned your back on merlot, thanks to Hollywood’s influence, break that rule. There are some excellent merlots for you to taste, and you will be walking right by them. Why not just take a sip? 

Even at tonight’s Royal Street Stroll, more like a neighborhood block party than a wine tasting, you will have the chance to taste a lot of wines that are reasonably priced at the retail level. There are treasures here. Mine for them.

Previous Happy Hour columns have discussed my philosophy of enjoying wine festivals. Head for the sparkling wine first. Eat. Drink plenty of water along the way. Start with wines that have the least sugar levels then if you want move towards the wines that have the most. Try wines you would not normally buy but which you may be curious about. Ask questions of the person pouring the wine. Even though you are not being poured but a taste, at the end of the event you will have consumed quite a bit. Taxis are cheaper than DUI citations and easier than delays in your life spent among new friends in Central Lockup.

I love wine-tasting and food-sampling activities as I think we convince ourselves that we have so much more to learn. If you are seeking affirmation for your current tastes, you can do that, but why? Find comfort with those wines you enjoy. Find excitement in those wines you have never had.

Of course, as in life, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to get to the royalty. But you have time and grand opportunities at NOWFE. And you are a New Orleanian. Tasting many wines at once is what you do best. Enjoy!