You’d think at my age, surprises would be few and far between but that has not turned out to be the case at all. I’m constantly amazed at some new piece of information, at least to me, that is sometimes great, sometimes not so much, and mostly in between. 
 
Part of the continuing unfolding of the world to my mind is living in New Orleans. Don’t you find yourself walking down a street you’ve gone down dozens of times, looking around, and realizing, “I’ve never noticed that before”? That happens so often to me, you could set your clock by the occurrence. 
 
What I don’t particularly like is when I’m telling someone about a “new” discovery, and they come back with, “Oh, that. It’s been like that forever.” They might as well end the sentence addressing me as “idiot.” So, please, if we are talking and you know darn well that what I am telling you is not new, simply reply with, “Yes, don’t you just love it?” Be kind. 
 
In the spirit of sharing surprises that really were pleasing, and reflected well on our community, let me share with you a few experiences of the recently concluded New Orleans Wine and Food Experience (NOWFE). It was a great time, which, if you were there, knew already. 
 
Food Portions
 
At every local festival, at just about every event that raises money for nonprofits, our restaurant community is in the forefront, donating food and time to assure the success of the affair. When you see 800-1000 servings of a creative dish, being prepared by the restaurant’s staff at a festival, you are looking at a lot of money that restaurant has to pay to the people who are doing the work, to the drivers, for the portable food preparation and serving equipment, and for the ingredients themselves. Sometimes the restaurants even have to pay the festival to participate.
 
As I noted last week, I go to a lot of wine festivals in every corner of America. No one — let me repeat — no one else serves the quality of food or the quantity that is served at NOWFE.  It is astounding. 
 
Some of the greatest restaurants in America are there, with their star chefs, preparing and serving amazing portions of dishes from their menus or that they created especially for the occasion. And these are not “tastes." What comes out from behind the counter are portions. Lots of food on the plate, completely indicative of what you would experience if you visited the establishment. 
 
I could not believe what I was seeing being served by these great chefs, notable in their industry and in our town. Name a great restaurant and they were there, having fun, schmoozing, greeting old friends and making new ones. I’m telling you this does not happen anywhere else on this scale. 
 
Oh, and do this: if you found a restaurant you particularly liked at any festival, return the favor and patronize that place. Tell them you enjoyed their contribution to the festival. They live for that feedback and bounce-back.  
 
The Wines
 
Throw a dart at any spot on the wine-growing globe and they were represented. The only real hole I discerned was South Africa, and maybe I just missed something, which is quite likely. 
 
My big surprise here, besides the breadth and the quality of the products offered, was New York State and the Finger Lakes region. Those wines, which are garnering accolades all over the planet, are finally here. Took us long enough but the Rieslings, the Pinot Noirs, the Grüner Veltliners and the Cabernet Francs are among us. 
 
There was quite a bit of trepidation among the attendees – “I don’t like sweet wines – but one taste of the fresh, elegant, fruit-perfect, bright wines convinced even the most skeptical wine lover that “maybe in the near future we should pick up a bottle or two of this juice.”
 
I love these wines and can’t tell you how happy I am that they are here and that they took the time and the trouble to share them with all of us at NOWFE. In case you missed trying them, they are available at most local wine shops and in many of our fine dining restaurants. If you fear them because of some perceived dislike for sugar levels, and many of these have very low levels of sugar, check out the chart on the back label which tells you where a particular wine falls on the scale. Easy to understand and very informative.  
 
Taste at the Lake
 
Just because we are done with one festival, does not mean we aren’t ready for another one. Right now. And so we shall have one this coming weekend, May 31, Taste at the Lake
 
This is the chance for Lakeview to shine. And with Harrison Avenue still enjoying a grand rebirth, they are ready to show off just a bit. Can’t blame them. 
 
Jaeger’s Hamburgers, Velvet Cactus, Cava, Two Tony’s, Mondo, Vincent’s and from the Quarter, Oceana Grill with excellent grilled oysters will all be present and serving. Lots of good adult beverages including craft beers, and Amanda Shaw rocking it out on the stage, along with SolJet and Rock N Soul. 
 
Tickets for everything are $45 — quite a bargain — with patron tickets, including early admission, at $100. 
 
All proceeds are being used for the enhancement of the New Basin Canal Park, that large area between Pontchartrain and West End Boulevards, with the first priority being lighting the area.
 
It’s going to be a big night under the stars, at least the organizers hope so since they had to reschedule from April 5 due to the weather problems on that date.