In January, Karla Kilgore, an internationally celebrated sommelier and New Orleans native, opened Barrel Wine Bar in Covington offering tastes, flights, by-the-glass and bottles of over 50 wines from all over the world. Small-plates include savory cheese and charcuterie boards, baked brie, buttery escargot and addictive bacon-wrapped dates. A small selection of desserts changes frequently.

“People on the Northshore are sophisticated and well-traveled,” Kilgore says. “There is enough interest for them to support a diverse wine portfolio that spans the globe and reaches all price points.”

Starting in the 1990s, she built her expertise in the San Francisco when the California wine scene was really coming into its own.

“We are now in a period where wines of incredible quality are being made by families dedicated to their craft. However, because they have such limited production, you may not have heard of them or had an opportunity to try their wines. At Barrel I’m specializing in introducing just these types of wines to our customers most effortlessly through our weekly wine flights where four small portions of wine are tasted in a group with a theme.” She continues, “First week of every month is focused on wines from California, third week on wines from the Pacific Northwest, other weeks we offer international or mixed flights to keep things rotating and fresh. We also have wine socials every other Wednesday and we support local artists with a gallery wall which rotates monthly and occasional live music.”

In May she launched a monthly wine dinner series with the intention of hosting a different guest chef or cook from outside of the Northshore community. For each five-course dinner Kilgore will provide wine pairings. The series, offered for the extremely reasonable price of $65 per dinner, kicked off with New Orleans chef Adolfo Garcia (of La Bocca, High Hat Café and Ancora).

As humbling as it feels to follow that act, on July 19 I’ll be the one in the kitchen. The offerings for the evening come from the various cookbooks I’ve written as well as my menu for the in-house catering operation at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. I will be serving edamame, fresh corn, and heirloom tomato salad with fresh herbs; fried potato “tots” stuffed with andouille from Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse and Manchego cheese with a Romanesco dipping sauce; Gulf shrimp in pimenton de la vera cream; fresh sausage, cumin and cilantro hand pies with pickled carrot ribbons and citrus crème fraiche; and fresh, seasonal berry clafoutis.

Join us. We will be celebrating my, yikes, 50th birthday.

Barrel Wine Bar

69305 Highway 21, Covington, (985) 272-8485,

Chef Serigne Mbaye at SoFab

1504 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., 569-0405,

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So dear to my heart, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFab) recently named chef Serigne “Love” Mbaye, 24, the second recipient of the McIlhenny Family Culinary Entrepreneurship Scholarship. Born in New York and raised in his family’s native Senegal, Mbaye currently serves as a sous chef at Cafe Adelaide and previously worked at Commander’s Palace as a senior line cook. His personal mission, one shared by those of us at SoFab (where I’m Director of Culinary Programming) is to draw attention to the culinary contributions the enslaved West African people made to the culinary traditions of the American South. Put a bowl of West African soupoukandia next to one of New Orleans’ seafood gumbo and there will be no doubt as to the root of our most defining dish.

Throughout the next year, Mbaye will be hosting frequent pop-up dinners with wine pairings provided by sommelier Karla Kilgore at SoFab. His menus frequently include Akra (black-eye pea fritters with smothered onions sauce); a salad of funio (a gluten-free African grain) tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pickled red onions and lemon vinaigrette; Yassa (seared Gulf fish simmered in a sauce of citrus and onions with Senegalese spices); and a dessert with seasonal fruit.

You will often find me washing dishes in the kitchen for such affairs. I do get all the glory! Check out for information on upcoming events with chef Mbaye.