Friday, February 3, 2012

New Orleans Food & Wine Experience Celebrates 20 Years

What began as a small, intimate, one-day gathering of wineries and chefs 20 years ago has grown into a grand celebration of wine and food attracting more than 10,000 people each year over a 5-day weekend, and giving back to the community through support of various organizations. The 20th Anniversary of the New Orleans Food & Wine Experience, which takes place May 22 – 26, 2012, includes Wine Dinners hosted by more than 30 New Orleans area restaurants; Vinola, NOWFE's premium tasting event; the Royal Street Stroll sponsored by Rouses, NOWFE's signature event, a definitive evening event set in the heart of the French Quarter; and exciting Culinary Seminars which will fill the days and nights with all things wine and food. The weekend culminates with Grand Tastings on Friday and Saturday in true grand fashion with more than 175 wineries showcasing over 1000 wines and 75 chefs serving culinary delights from our region.

In addition, NOWFE will celebrate its 20th Anniversary with an international cake competition and tasting on Friday, May 25th from 8:30 – 11:00 pm. Invited pastry chefs Vanessa Fiorini of Toronto, Canada; Solandie Exantus of the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans; Bronwen Weber of Frosted Art Bakery & Studio in Dallas; and Vinnie and Michelle Garcia of The Bleeding Heart Bakery in Chicago will join in the festivities and create their own signature version of an anniversary cake to be paired with Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte at the Big Gateaux Show. This ticketed event, hosted by Food Network's Keegan Gerhard, Sucre's Tariq Hanna, and the Royal Sonesta Hotel, will feature a burlesque-theme with Trixi Minx & the Beauties from Burlesque Ballroom. Each chef, assisted by a local culinary student, will create spectacularly designed cakes, to be displayed and tasted at a burlesque themed after-party following the Grand Tasting. Celebrity hosts and judges, including World Champion Pastry Chef and winner of Top Chef Desserts, Season 2, Chris Hanmer; native born Chef John Besh; Lee Schrager, founder of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival and New York City Wine & Food Festival; and a member of the editorial team from Fine Cooking Magazine, as well as attendees, will choose their favorite delight. The winning design and pastry chef will be awarded with a $5000 prize sponsored by Valrhona. All cake entries will be on display at the Saturday Grand Tasting in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. "We are so excited about this event; it will certainly highlight the glamour and excitement that New Orleans has to offer, while toasting our milestone," states Mary Beth Romig, New Orleans Wine & Food Experience Board President. "Everyone should celebrate in such grand style on their anniversary."

The event itself has evolved through the years and over its 20-year history NOWFE has contributed more than $1 million to local non-profit organizations. This year 100% of the proceeds will go towards two causes: fighting hunger in our community and supporting culinary education. The 2012 beneficiaries have been named—Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana will receive 40% of the proceeds. Second Harvest Food Bank is leading the fight against hunger in south Louisiana through food distribution, education, advocacy and disaster response. Annually, Second Harvest serves approximately 263,000 people through 240 nonprofit and faith-based agencies across 23 south Louisiana parishes. The following organizations will share the remaining 60% of the proceeds: the Louisiana Restaurant Association Education Foundation's ProStart Program, Delgado Culinary Arts School, New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA), the John Folse Culinary Institute and the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans. "The donations we make to our local non-profits not only benefit them, but it strengthens our community as a whole," states Jamie Peckenpaugh, NOWFE Executive Director. "We are proud to have been a part of this community for 20 years and we look forward to the next twenty."

This year NOWFE welcomes Fine Cooking magazine as its National Media Sponsor and the return of Audi of New Orleans as the Official Automobile Sponsor and Rouse's Markets as the Presenting Sponsor of the Royal Street Stroll. "We are extremely proud that Fine Cooking is joining our returning sponsors in this year's event," states Romig. "Such well respected companies only enhances our reputation and opens the doors for more people to discover the allure of NOWFE."

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