So, I’m reading about Halloween treats. You know, snacks, candy, even mixed drinks and wines. And on some of the stories I found, from a few U.S. metropolitan newspapers, they are carrying on about how overlooked Halloween is, and what a great holiday it is to celebrate.

And I’m thinking, “What?!” Do you mean that the rest of America does not put the same energy or creativity into this time of year that we do in New Orleans? Do you mean that everyone is not going to celebrate from Friday lunch through Monday night? Will there not be parties and gatherings – mostly for adults – for four days? (And only then do we encourage the kids to have their fun Monday night.)

I’m practically speechless (thankfully not written-word-less) that one of the great times of the year in New Orleans is not quite the same all-out celebration in, say, Phoenix. Do we now get bragging rights to BOTH Mardi Gras and Halloween among the 50 states?

A number of years ago, my wife and I decided that Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts would be a quest worthy of us leaving home to experience. Without boring you with the crazy details, it was not. In Salem, we were feeling the moment with our usual in-good-taste costumes, done with the same level of intensity as we do for Mardi Gras. Okay, so maybe what works in the Quarter does not to translate to Salem. But, hey, those people were all about the occult and witches, killing probably innocent women just to satisfy some Pilgrim lifestyle. That never happened here.

Needless to say, with the looks we were getting from staid New Englanders, we became pretty uncomfortable with our choice of gear. Look, when you walk into a bar full of cowboys and princesses in what we were wearing, and the crowds part so as not to come within 10 feet of you, that sort of thing can make you self-conscious. Let me assure you, on Mardi Gras, we would not have rated a second look from anyone here. Up there, it was like we were still carrying yellow fever from the mid-1800s.

Anyway here we are in 2011, ready to party again in our usual moderated, evidently only-in-New Orleans fashion, and now staging massive music festivals named for the Black Arts just in case you would miss the point that New Orleans loves Halloween.  Maybe we are different. D’ya think?

Still, let’s not abandon our usual modicum of good taste. Let’s not drink overly-sugared, ridiculously alcohol-ed drinks just because it is Halloween. You still have to function throughout whatever evening(s) you will be celebrating, and there will be a morning after.

One of the websites I found went to great lengths to explain what wines went with what Halloween candies. Please allow me to add my views to that: No wines can be paired with bags of candies bought at CVS. Don’t even think of trying it. And if you feel I am wrong and you have the perfect wine for Reese’s Pieces, please keep that information strictly to yourself. That’s the sort of thing that builds reputations, and not good ones.

Some high-end dark and milk chocolates are okay with certain wines. But in very small quantities for each. Piece of dark chocolate. Sip of expensive Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Savor. Then it’s over. Move on.

At Halloween you are at a party, munching on party food, carrying on party-talk, maybe even heading for the Quarter. You don’t need, nor will you appreciate, any high-end anything. At this time, it’s about socialization, not breaking out your $80 bottle of Cognac. Maybe later on, you will be tempted because you will think you are still in shape to appreciate the subtle aromas and lightly nuanced flavors. Don’t go there. The only thing you will understand about your decision to indulge in the “good stuff” will occur the following morning when regret and a sensitive stomach are with you.

Look around for some fun Halloween beverages. As far as wines are concerned, there are a few labels out there that can be conversation-starters. Many of these wines come from Lodi, California, and they are primarily zinfandel-based. They carry names like Seven Deadly Zins and Vampire. They are just fine for this occasion.

Or you can focus on some quality, budget-priced wines from Argentina and Chile. Malbecs and carmeneres, respectively, are fine beverages, reasonably priced, and not outrageous in alcohol. These quaffing wines won’t cramp your style or your party.  For white wines, head for the pinot grigio from anywhere, but best from Italy; or the chardonnays from Central Coast, California.

It also is true that Halloween offers fine opportunities for punch-style drinks. They are easily made in advance, in large quantities, and guests help themselves. Or if this is your supply for the evening and you are moving along, simply pour the punch into an empty large water bottle or well-cleaned empty milk jug.

Witch’s Brew Punch

2 bottles of champagne
1 gallon orange juice
1/2 gallon orange sherbet
1 bunch peeled black grapes
Sugar to taste
1/2 bottle vodka
Small pieces of dry ice
Bunches of grapes for garnish

Mix champagne and orange juice in large punch bowl, scoop sherbet into bowl until it has produced a nice film over the top. Add sugar to taste. Float peeled grapes in mixture, and garnish bowl with the rest of the grapes. Drop in pieces of dry ice for effect (do not eat dry ice). If you want to raise or lower the alcohol content in the punch, add vodka or clear soda.

Rotting Swamp Punch

2 cans (12 oz. each) frozen lemonade concentrate, partly thawed
2 cans (12 oz. each) frozen limeade concentrate, partly thawed
1 bottle (750 ml) light rum
2 bottles (2 liters each) lemon-lime soda
2 quarts of lime sherbet

In a large punch bowl, the uglier and creepier the better, stir together the lemonade and limeade concentrates. Add the soda.

Pour in rum. Stir. Float scoops of lime sherbet on top. For an even grosser, grey-tinged look, you can use rainbow sherbet (this gives your punch a dirty, swampy look, and is popular with lots of Halloween punch recipes).(

As always, we leave you with cautionary advice. Have fun. Be careful. Don’t take leave of your good senses. If you are going to drink adult beverages, stay out of the driver’s seat. Convince a friend who is not as appreciative of wine or spirits to be the designated driver. Take a taxi. Or even get a hotel room. Make a real night of it.

This city will be offering a lot of pleasures and diversions. You don’t want to miss a moment. Happy Halloween!