Wow!! What a food and wine weekend it was in the Capital City recently. Kudos to our area chefs, restaurants and caterers, as well as wine purveyors for stepping up to the plate in such fine style.
It started with the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society’s Grace “Mama” Marino Lifetime Achievement Award dinner honoring Capitol City Produce owner Vince Ferachi. The elegant six-course dinner at the Crowne Plaza on Aug. 22 kicked off the seventh annual Fête Rouge, a two-day celebration of food and wine.
Now, when I say elegant, I mean elegant. The evening started off at a reception, where some 800 well-wishers visited with Mr. Vince as they enjoyed a glass of bubbly (Enrico Prosecco DOC Brute) and passed hors d’oeuvres prepared by chef William Wells of Culinary Productions. Among them were last year’s recipient Tullio Saffiott; the Rev. Cleo Milano, who gave the evening’s invocation; and Mayor Kip Holden, who served as master of ceremonies . In addition to the award, presented by Mama and BRES President Mickey Freiberg, Holden gave Mr. Vince the key to the city and proclaimed it “Vince Ferachi Day” throughout East Baton Rouge Parish.
The actual sit-down dinner opened with a scrumptious Tower of Jumbo Lump Blue Crab layered with mango and avocado salsa prepared by chef Jeremy Langlois of Latil’s Landing at Houmas House Plantation. It was accompanied by a 2012 Marziano Abbona Roera Arneis. Next up were Minestrone Ferachi, created by chefs Samantha and Cody Carroll of Hot Tails Restaurant, accompanied by a 2009 Jermann “Red Angel on the Moon Light” IGT; a delicious Heirloom Tomato Salad from chef David Dickensauge of Bin 77 Bistro & Wine, accompanied by a 2009 Contadi Castaldi Rose Sparkling, Franciacorta NV; a yummy Parmesan Gnocchi with Braised Mississippi Rabbit by chefs Peter and Gino Sclafani of Ruffino’s Restaurant; a very tasty Braised Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Capitol City Relish by chef Kelley McCann of Galatoire’s Bistro, accompanied by a 2007 Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino; and, for dessert, a delightful Crosttada alla Frutta Ferachi Con Limncello Crème by chef Gary Schenk of the Crowne Plaza, accompanied by a 2006 Volpaia Vin Santo Del Chianti Classico. I also have to give a shout-out to our wine server for the evening — Blake Hernandez of Galatoire’s, who kept our table’s wine glasses full.
More that 1,300 wine aficionados and foodies filled the Crowne Plaza ballroom the following night for the Fête Rouge taste. Co-workers Sheila Runnels, Art de la Torre and I had the pleasure of serving as judges in the media wine tasting. We got to sample Cabernet Sauvignons; our winners were Billhook, Napa Valley, Calif. –- gold; Laurel Glen “Counterpoint,” Sonoma County, Calif. — silver; and Novelty Hill, Columbia Valley, Washington State — bronze. Chosen as the best overall red was the Barr Estate Petit Verdot, Central Coast, Calif., which got a perfect score of 10. Best overall white bragging rites went to Lola Chardonnay, Sonoma County.
After judging wines and before the doors opened, I spent a few minutes with friends Karen and Bill Profita on their “Fun Friday” broadcast on Talk 107.3. Just as we were about to go on the air, the fire alarm sounded when one of the participating chefs created a little too much smoke. Made for an interesting few minutes. Food editor Cheramie Sonnier was one of the food judges. She’ll have details on that in Thursday’s EatPlayLive, but I will tell you that Crowne Plaza chef Nelson Chang won Best of Show, and chef Chris Motto of Mansurs on the Boulevard captured the People’s Choice Award.
A big round of applause to Freiberg and his fellow BRES officers, Vice President Kevin Kimball; Secretary/Treasurer Bret Smith; past Presidents Peter Scla fa ni, Justin McDonald and Scott Callais; board members Jim Albert, Bruce Attinger, Paul Bologna, Lisa Boudreaux, Michael Boudreaux, Charles Calandro, Chip Chesteen, Laurel Dennis, Patrick Fellows, Jimmy G ould, Bill Hounshell, Jason Johnson, Jeremy Langlois, Gino Marino, Elizabeth McCollister, Dori Murvin, Wendi Poi rrier, Ruffin Rodrigue, Leo Verde, Jimmy Ward, William Wells and John Wolff; and Executive Director Renée Dugas Molbert.
Several of the restaurants that participated in Fête Rouge were at it again Aug. 24 for Baton Rouge Green’s “Green Paradise” gala at LSU’s Rural Life Museum. To work off the calories, the funk/soul band Phat Hat tempted gala-goers to the dance floor. I enjoyed visiting with BR Green board member Kevin Knobloch and wife Debbie, Julie Baxter and Rob Payer, BeBe Facundus, Heather Kleinpeter, Executive Director Diane Losavio and gala co-chairwomen Sage Roberts and Kath eryn Flourn oy.
While I was enjoying dinner with Vince Ferachi and company at the Fête Rouge kickoff, co-worker George Morris was attending a book-signing celebration for former Advocate sportswriter Sam King hosted by Trent Angers of Acadian House Publishing. Sports figures, sportswriters and sports fans jammed into T.J. Ribs for the introduction of “Tiger Beat,” which highlight s King’s 35 years covering LSU sports for Baton Rouge’s newspapers.
King, who turned 75 the next day, was joined by wife Linda Kay King; sons Sammy King, of Baton Rouge, and Terry King, of Diamondhead, Miss.; and daughters Sharon King, of Baton Rouge, and Susan Gremillion, of Cottonport. Among the former LSU coaches, players and administrators in attendance were basketball coaches Dale Brown and Johnny Jones, athletic director and basketball player Joe Dean, tennis coach and player Steve Carter, football players Jim Taylor and Gus Kinchen, and Chancellor James Wharton. Several current and former Advocate sports staff members turned out, as did retired New Orleans Times-Picayune sportswriters Marty Mulé and Bill Bumgarner, former LSU Sports Information Director Bud Johnson and photographer John Musemeche.
“To borrow a quote from Les Miles, I didn’t see this coming,” King said to the section of the restaurant set aside for the event. “Remember, it may not be just the way it happened, but they’re my memories.”
At the same time the Baton Rouge Blues Foundation was celebrating the 100th birthday of the late McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield at its second annual Blues Gala. Rocking the Capitol Park Museum with their renditions of some of the international blues legend’s songs were local blues piano legend Henry Gray, Baton Rouge’s blues superstar Kenny Neal and their respective bands. Both Gray and Neal, as well as Baton Rouge blues legend Buddy Guy , all played with Muddy Waters.
The festivities also included a silent auction, “taste of the blues” gourmet buffet and “swamp blues party.”