A Potpourri of News Items of Interest…or Not

Can It!

NOLA Brewing, located at 3001 Tchoupitoulas, has acquired funds to become the only New Orleans-based brewery to make their line of beers available in cans. It was made possible by a new person-to-business lending model, headed by Tulane MBA graduates Chonchol Gupta and Xavier Cabo. The primary lender was ASI Federal Credit Union.

I’m not certain which aspect of this deal is more exciting. Is it the fact that NOLA Brewing will now be available, possibly nationwide, in cans? Or is it more amazing that a new business financial model for raising capital has been created locally, and has started out assisting a local company? (New Orleans has not had readily available venture capitalists in the past.) Or is it just pretty wonderful that the NOLA name, both the beer and the city, will have additional exposure on retail shelves everywhere?

I’m going with all three. NOLA Brewing beer, up to this point, has only been available in kegs for bars and restaurants (and, I guess, fraternity houses), or for consumers in refrigerator containers with dispensing taps (known as “draft packs”, which are the equivalent of two cases of beer).

The beers of NOLA Brewing are:

Blonde – a pale ale, very easy to drink, with good structure and quite approachable.

Brown Ale – an English dark mild ale, heavier style but not with too much weight for a New Orleans August.

Hopitoulas – perfect name for a New Orleans rendition of an Indian Pale Ale (IPA)

7th Street Wheat – named in honor of the wharf directly across the street from the brewery, and in the style of a European wheat beer;Flambeau Red Ale – German by heritage, but American on the palate, and boasting balances of three distinct hop varieties

Seasonal brews now include:

Hurricane Saison – odd name for a Spring offering but would be quite appropriate now, using unmalted raw wheat

Irish Channel Stout – a Winter product, very dark and quite bold

Many of the NOLA Brewing beers are available on tap at brew-centric bars and restaurants, as well as some grocery stores and spirits retailers where the draft-packs are kept in the refrigerated section. And this fall, it will be available in cans sold everywhere.  

Congratulations, Chef Happel

Evidently shining his light under a basket, or hiding in plain sight, Chef Klaus Happel of the Intercontinental Hotel has won a major Fleur de Lis award for culinary excellence at the recent New Orleans Wine and Food Experience.

NOWFE awards two major culinary medals each year, one for a savory dish and the other for a sweet concoction.

Chef Happel’s Mezze Lamb Slider with Tzatziki, the best savory dish at NOWFE, was a combination of ground lamb, roasted red peppers, kalamata olives, and soft slider buns. Happel can be found in the lobby restaurant of the Intercontinental Hotel, SoifFaim, which features Mediterranean cuisine infused into New Orleans traditions.

For those of you always looking for the next “big thing,” maybe it’s located on St. Charles Avenue at Poydras Street, right where you drive past about five times a month, if not more often.

Hit Me!

I just received a pack of fun—a new product that offers discounts in bars and restaurants, and is perfect for your next card game.

New Orleans Drink Deck is a deck of playing cards. On each card, all 52 of them, is a different discount offer from local watering holes and restaurants. As you use the offer, usually a flat $10 discount or a percentage off of your tab, a corner of the card is removed, indicating you need to move along to another establishment. Or not.

Anyway, even after the corner is removed, you still have a very respectable deck of playing cards. I can see where a game of strip poker, coupled with an all-over-town scavenger hunt, could take on increased significance, and maybe even…well, never mind.

New Orleans Drink Deck does offer some strong discounts, like 25 percent off your bill at Sylvain or Coquette, or 30 percent off your tab at Tujague’s. You can use the “card” for drinks, food or both. And there is no expiration date on the program so you don’t have to get all the offers in by a week from Friday.

New Orleans Drink Deck encourages you to move to new venues and see what they are all about. There are some restrictions, but they seem fair, like the requirement to spend $30 (before tax and tip) for the cards to be valid. But that can still add up to a $10 discount or more on your food or drink purchase.

The concept has already been quite successful in Chicago and Portland and is moving on to Miami after the official New Orleans launch on June 27. The New Orleans Drink Deck costs $29.99 and, if you are a regular visitor to our area’s bars and restaurants, it looks like you could recoup your initial investment pretty quickly, then enjoy significant savings.

The website where you can purchase Drink Deck is http://drinkdeck.bigcartel.com/product/drink-deck-nola, and some of the bars involved are also selling the product. Retailers are listed at http://thedrinkdeck.com/retailers/.

Worst case scenario: you have a good quality deck of cards for solitaire at a bar where you are earning a discount.

Big-Time Reminder

In case you nodded off after NOWFE and are now coming back to a state of semi-consciousness, you had better rev it up and make your reservations for whatever it is you want to do at Tales of the Cocktail, which is unfolding here July 20-24 all over the French Quarter and CBD.

Under the topic heading of “you snooze, you lose,” the festival is filling up fast. Even hotel rooms may be in short supply. You may not realize this but people in other communities don’t devote five days in the middle of their summer to glorifying cocktails. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

You also may not realize it that this festival is homegrown and attracts professionals and aficionados from all over the world. Head over to www.talesofthecocktail.com and wade through the line-up of seminars, tastings, product introductions, etc.

All the Way Back to 2010

How strange it is to write those words!

Anyway, since summer is here (and, boy, is it ever), you may be looking for something different in the way of wine. You may want something a bit lighter, but still red; something not so tannic and with more fruit; and something that goes well with both grilled salmon and Creole tomatoes, although probably not both at once.

I just came across some news that the folks in Beaujolais, France are quite proud of the 2010 vintage, particularly the wines from Beaujolais proper and the Maconnais. It looks like they may be right about this. The famous producer Georges Duboeuf is loudly singing the vintage’s praises, and while that is self-serving, it ain’t bragging if it’s the truth.

The 2010 Beaujolais wines are receiving glowing reviews overall. It was an excellent year, with fine weather conditions, and the only reason for any tempering of the praise for vintage 2010 is the fact that the 2009 vintage was also superb, and few wine reviewers are going to give Beaujolais high praise two years running. Actually, many wine reviewers avoid acknowledging the area completely (another story for another day).

Anyway, these wines don’t knock you in the head with big alcohol or tannin levels that make your mouth feel like the inside of a package of cotton. They are young, very approachable right now, and the fruit aspects are rewarding, coming at you with fresh berries, like cherries, both on the nose and the palate.

Put a bit of a chill on them before serving, just a bit, and they will be an excellent accompaniment to a light summer meal, a well-constructed salad, or really savored before the meal as an aperitif.

One final note: the other night, my neighbor actually had the incredible nerve to come knocking at my door at 2:30 a.m. Can you imagine? Luckily, I was still up playing my bagpipes.