Thursday, May 01, 2008


For this show, we report from the Crescent City about plans for an even bigger and better version of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, an annual event that originally inspired several of our best wine and food festivals in Texas. We start with NOWFE president Howard Brown, talking about an increasing effort to add things (like a big-bucks auction) for well-heeled wine collectors, as well as the organizers’ decision to move the Memorial Day festival to the Louisiana Superdome. A big-ticket wine and food event in the scene of so much chaos during Hurricane Katrina is a message many ought to be savoring.

For several years, Brennan family-trained wine lover Rick Gratia served as president of NOWFE. Having rotated through that job, Rick is now able to enjoy the festival a bit more than in years past – as proprietor of the lovely Muriel’s right on Jackson Square. What’s even better, life’s seasonal rotation of chefs has brought him a top toque in Muriel’s kitchen whom he has worked with in his Brennan past – Gus Martin. Together, Rick and Gus discuss the importance of NOWFE to New Orleans’ continued recovery as a tourism, convention and dining destination.

When feisty food guru Anthony Bourdain visited New Orleans recently for his program “No Reservations,” one of the few segments that wasn’t a downer featured chef Donald Link at a barbecue for family and friends in his backyard. Not only was Link cautiously optimistic about the city’s future, he just seemed like one of those guys who’d rather work to fix things than moan about how broken they are. We chat with Donald about this, as well as about his two sterling restaurants, Herbsaint and Cochon.

Each year, it seems, produces at least one dazzling new cookbook devoted to New Orleans cuisine. At this year’s edition of NOWFE, Ralph Brennan’s brand-new seafood magnum opus is expected to be all the buzz. We sit down with the former president of the National Restaurant Association to talk about the challenges (and perks!) of life as a Brennan, along with the abundant blessings of seafood pulled fresh from the waters south Louisiana shares with the Texas Gulf Coast.

This Week’s Delicious Mischief Recipe…

3 ripe medium-to-large Creole tomatoes
3 avocados, preferably Hass, 7 to 8 ounces each
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups spicy vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked through
Flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Trim ends from tomatoes and cut each into three slices, each about ¾ inch thick. Cut each slice in half crosswise. Cut avocados in half lengthwise, peel, and cut halves lengthwise into three slices. On each of six chilled dinner plates, alternate three tomato halve slices with three avocado slices. Season each portion with a total of ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. In a large bowl, whisk 1 cup vinaigrette to blend ingredients. Add crabmeat and mix gently with a spoon to keep lumps intact.

Divide the crabmeat among the plates, mounding it on the opposite side of the plate from the tomatoes and avocado. Vigorously whisk remaining vinaigrette and drizzle about 2 ½ tablespoons over each serving of tomatoes and avocados. Garnish with parsley sprig. Serves 6 as main course. To make 12 appetizer servings, cut tomato and avocado halves into 4 slices; on 12 salad plates fan two avocado slices around one tomato slice, and drizzle with about 1 tablespoon vinaigrette.

Spicy vinaigrette
Makes 2 cups

¼ cup each minced red onions, red bell pepper and green bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and thyme leaves
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons mild honey

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, whisking until well blended. Cover and refrigerate overnight. If the oil congeals, return vinaigrette to room temperature and whisk vigorously immediately before using.

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