Restaurant Insider

The first weekend of this month is, of course, the last weekend of Jazz Fest, which is known almost as much for the food as the music. But May is also significant in the dining scene because of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, which holds its 17th annual celebration May 20-24. 

NOWFE’s centerpiece event is the two-day “grand tastings,” held this year in the Superdome and featuring wines from over 150 wineries and food from 75 restaurants. Other events include numerous seminars and the Royal Street Stroll, when galleries and shops on Royal Street roll out canapés and wine for strolling participants. 

NOWFE is also responsible for one of the most frustrating nights of the year, at least for me. Wednesday, May 21, is the night that 30 New Orleans restaurants host vintner’s dinners. Chefs pair multi-course tasting menus with pourings from two wineries each. Picking a single dinner is always a serious challenge because the wine and the food are always top-notch at the dinners I’ve attended.  For more information visit www.nowfe.com.
Coffea [3218 Dauphine St.] (from the Latin name of the plant which produces the coffee bean – coffea arabica or coffea canephora), is a great little coffee shop in the Bywater, recently purchased by Chris Starnes, who previously ran things at the Marigny Brasserie. As I write this, in addition to coffee and tea, they serve a limited menu of sandwiches, pastries, tacos and crêpes and are planning more food options with an eventual eye towards expanding the tiny kitchen. The building was the original post office for the Bywater neighborhood and boasts among its many interesting features the original bar top from Tipitina’s. Coffea is like most coffee shops, it’s largely patronized by neighborhood residents but with an expanded kitchen and menu you may want to give it a shot the next time you’re in the area, regardless of where you live. 

Filipino food has been only periodically available at restaurants in New Orleans and to my knowledge is at the moment only available at Streetcar Bistro [Baronne Plaza Hotel, 201 Baronne St.]. During the week, the restaurant serves a “Cajun & Asian Executive Buffet,” which actually looked pretty good but which wasn’t the point of my trip. Nor was another oddity: a three station “Shabu Shabu/Hot Pot” area that features simmering vessels of beef, chicken and seafood broth. You choose from a series of pre-cut vegetables and beef, chicken and/or seafood (shrimp, generally) and quickly poach it yourself before scooping the results into a bowl, along with some of the broth. It reminded me of a dish I used to order at the old Genghis Khan restaurant on Tulane Avenue, which coincidentally relocated prior to Katrina into the same space now occupied by Streetcar. The restaurant has a fairly limited menu of Filipino food during the week (you need to request the Filipino menu or ask what’s available), but it also has a Sunday lunch buffet of Filipino specialties such as Lumpia, the fantastic pork spring rolls native to the Archipelago, and vinegar-sharp Adobos of pork and chicken.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Email Peyton: rdpeyton@gmail.com.

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