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Perfect Pairings

NOWFE Wine Dinners
For oenophiles it doesn’t get much better than the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience. From May 20-24, 75 local restaurants will join forces with 175 wineries to offer up a stellar series of tastings, live auctions, seminars and strolls.

Among the highlights are the Winery Dinners, during which restaurants pair up with vintners to compose special tasting menus highlighting each other’s offerings. Participating restaurants range from stalwarts like Brennan’s in the French Quarter to newcomers like Calas Bistro & Wine Cellar in Kenner. Galatoire’s will pair up with J Winery and Vineyards for its five-course menu, which jumps to a quick start with Fried Oysters with Celeriac Remoulade and Choupique Caviar paired with an effervescent J Vintage Brut from the Russian River Valley. At the nearby GW Fins, Chef Tenney Flynn gets together with St. Supery Vineyards to offer his own tasting menu featuring Jumbo Lump Crab Stuffed Flounder with wilted arugula, morel mushrooms, red pepper coulis and hollandaise paired with a St. Supery Rose.

Along with the Winery Dinners, other events include the Folse Fine-Wine Dinner on May 20, a cooking demonstration focusing on how to match fine wine with wild game. Get an inside peek at the mind of the chef who brought you the authoritative game cookbook After the Hunt. Chef John Folse’s menu will feature Stuffed Breast of Pheasant and Braised Creole Duck. Clay Gregory, president of Jackson Family Wines, will speak as well.

Grand Tastings take place on Friday and Saturday in the Superdome, where the wines are paired with great food and live entertainment. Wrap the event with Cocoa Vin, a tasting where wine and chocolate come together in a sumptuous combination that leaves peanut butter out in the cold.

Ralph Brennan’s New Orleans Seafood
Spring means live crawfish and soft shells for local seafood lovers. Find exciting new ways to prepare such bounty in Ralph Brennan’s New Orleans Seafood Cookbook. A work-in-progress for over 10 years, this collection of 170 recipes offers plenty of seafood-specific ideas. Intended as a soup-to-nuts guide for all things seafood, the work includes plenty of practical advice, such as how to clean live soft shell crabs to how to correctly shuck oysters. An appendix in the back features sources for some of the harder-to-find specialty ingredients such as turtle and alligator meat, Tasso and frog legs.

With about a quarter of the recipes traditional and the remaining three quarters contemporary, the book covers plenty of new ground. Neat appetizers include Red Fish Grill Barbecue Oysters with Bleu-Cheese Dipping Sauce. For a lighter start, try the Chilled Smoked Scallops with Tomato and Onion Marmalade. For main courses, uniquely traditional preparations such as Pompano en Papillotes are covered along with more inventive fare such as Mahi-Mahi with an Andouille Crust and Creole-Mustard Aioli. 

Also included is a useful section compiling sauces, compound butters and dressings used in preparations throughout the book. A Hot-Pepper-Jelly Sauce is one tempting example, along with a brightly-nuanced lemon mayonnaise that goes great with just about any kind of seafood. Compound butters, such as the Maitre d’Hotel Butter seasoned with fresh thyme, lemon and shallots, can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer to be used as needed. Items such as these will add versatility to the pantry of any home chef.

The book was a mammoth team effort, bringing together the efforts of Haley Bittermann, Executive Chef of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group along with chefs from all of the restaurants in the group. Photography was handled by Kerri McCaffety and recipe testing by Paulette Rittenberg, formerly of The Times-Picayune. The whole ensemble was edited under the watchful eyes of Gene Bourg, whose thoughtful introduction helps put the scope of the book into a regional and historic context.

BBQ Supplies

It is the time of the year again when balmy weather beckons barbecue aficionados to linger over the backyard grill for an additional hour – or three. For those who enjoy the noble art of true barbeque, here are a couple places where you can pick up supplies that will give your creations a bit of a competitive edge. Bassil’s Hardware in Metairie has a particularly nice selection of grilling and smoking supplies. They sell lots of different types of hardwood chunks that will help custom-tailor your ’cue’s flavor. They’ve got apple wood and sugar maple also, which work wonders with pork. Try the sugar maple with salmon and other lighter fare. For beef, try their robust black cherry. The hickory works well with pork, beef and poultry and the clean-flavored, hot burning Acadian oak is good for just about everything.

Bassil’s also sells marinade injectors which are great for infusing larger cuts like roasts and briskets with the marinade of your choice. This can save a backyard cook lots of time and are essential for keeping the center of big cuts moist and flavorful. They also offer several different bottled marinades perfect for injection, such as lemon pepper marinade, cayenne garlic marinade, and Praline and honey marinade which is a natural for ham.

They also have a pretty nice selection of grills and smokers in case you are looking to get started or upgrade, along with personable and knowledgeable services that only a neighborhood shop can provide.

One other good place is Baldwin-Taylor Ace Hardware on Jefferson Highway, which puts more of an emphasis on seafood boiling equipment great for crab and crawfish boils. They’ve got all the gas supply fittings you would ever need, along with the big pots, paddles, burners and odds and ends that are often essential but hard to find.

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