Let me start my recap of this year's Carnivale du Vin weekend, Emeril Lagasse's gala affair in New Orleans, by saying that on Saturday, I ended up walking back to my hotel in my socks, having auctioned off my beloved Crocs. If I had been anywhere else in the world, I might be thinking I had a pretty lousy weekend. But since I was in NOLA with some of my best friends in the biz, and raising money for children's charity, walking back in my socks was a small price to pay ... hell, it was actually really fun! But I'll get back to that a bit later.
One of my first stops in NOLA was lunch with Del Posto's Mark Ladner, whose help I enlisted for the weekend. It was his birthday and he's had a big year, so we had a lot to celebrate. We headed to Emeril's and started off with a Sazerac (when in Rome!), some steamed mussels, and heavenly Louisiana crawfish in Creole cream. Then on to some gumbo and Gulf shrimp, and we finished off with just a few bites of Emeril's famous banana cream pie. Ridiculously good.
On to the big night.
As a philanthropist and a chef, Emeril constantly impresses me. Over 725 guests, including actress Blythe Danner and New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, showed up at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, including Emeril's "Krewe du Vin" chefs, the group cooking for the evening, which consisted of Gale Gand, Norman Van Aken, Kevin Rathbun, Emeril, and me.
For the dinner, Emeril and us "Krewe du Vin" chefs and vintners served a five-course tasting dinner paired with remarkable wines. The menu included...
• Kevin Rathbun's Parsnip Bisque and Citrus Bacon Gastrique paired with G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge
• My Cavatelli with Homemade Red Wattle Sausage and Pesto di Rapini paired with Clendenen Family Vineyards Nebbiolo "Punta Esclamativa" Estate Grown Santa Maria Valley 2003
• Norman Van Aken's Louisiana Drum paired with Rubicon Estate CASK Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
• Emeril Lagasse's Salt Roasted, Dry-Aged Ribeye with Black Truffles paired with Grace Family Vineyards Blank Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
• Gale Gand's Chocolate Pot de Crème with Salt and Pepper paired with Quinta do Crasto Unfiltered Late Bottle Vintage Port
I'm not just being biased but Emeril's ribeye was out of this world—definitely one of my favorite dishes of the night!
One detail I loved was that each guest wore a commemorative shrimp lapel pin in a tribute to Louisiana's resilient fishing community and seafood industry. A portion of the proceeds from the Carnivale du Vin live auction will assist children of fishing families in South Louisiana as the region continues to recover from the Gulf Coast oil spill.
That Emeril—he's one good guy and exceptional philanthropist. Here's a short list of a FEW of the projects that the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and Carnivale du Vin help make possible in and around the city of New Orleans: