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I had been hearing about the Acadiana Wine and Food Festival for over a year now.  It’s first year (2010) was a huge success, so I expected even more this year! With Chef Pat Mould (www.louisianaschoolofcooking.com) at the helm and the Paul and Lulu Hilliard University Art Museum as the site – how could it not be fabulous?!  Then, I started seeing the list of participating chefs…yes, it was going to be “the” place to be.  October 28th and 29th seemed like a great weekend for this event.  Friday night, the “Joie du Vin” Dinner was taking place: a 6 course dinner with wine pairings.  Then, Saturday night the “Grand Tasting”: 14 different local restaurants and chefs were preparing specialties along with wine tasting from numerous regions and vendors – both events to be held under tents adjoining the waterfall wall at the museum.  I had to go!

Now, it just “happened” to be on the weekend before my birthday…Perfect gift, a whole weekend of tasting fine food and wine –  Dress me up, put a bow on my glass and hand me a plate…Happy Birthday to me!

Friday Night Joie Du Vin Dinner:

Champagne Reception in the beautiful museum, then off to be seated at “Table 8″… what a wonderful surprise we had at our table – a couple that we had met at a pre-opening party for Cochon Restaurant a few months ago (we promised to be in touch and get together after the party, but never had!) just happened to be sitting at the same table, along with another precious fun couple.  It seemed like we were all old friends – I love it when that happens!  Now to the food and wine…

Louisiana Gulf Oysters on the Half Shell with Fresh Horseradish, Lemon, Cucumber & Dill (I did taste hints of wonderful fresh fennel) prepared by Chef Justin Girouad of The French Press in Lafayette, La. (www.thefrenchpresslafayette.com).  Paired with Casa Blanc Sauvignon Blanc Nimbus.  I absolutely adore fresh oysters and these were sooo briny and sweet with the brightness of the crisp toppings – could have eaten at least a dozen!

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque with Wild Mushrooms and Jumbo Lump Crabmeat prepared by Chef Colt Patin of Louisiana Culinary Institute in Baton Rouge, La. (www.Louisianaculinary.com).  Paired with Creme de lys Chardonnay.  When this bisque was placed at our table, I think that we all knew we were in for a treat…then with the first spoonful, we knew it!   It was surprisingly light cream-colored, not the orangey pumpkin color that you expect from a butternut squash bisque – when I had a chance to ask “precious” Chef Patin about this (after the dinner – as he was mingling with all of the happy campers!) he explained that adding the mushrooms, created this creamy white hue.  He took the time to explain the steps in preparing this luscious soup.  Loved it!

Ruby Red Beets Slow Cooked in Balsamic Vinegar and Herbs Topped with Smoked Goat Cheese, Caramelized Walnuts and Frisee Lettuce tossed in Truffled Lemon Vinaigrette prepared by Chef Craig Crosby of Pamplona in Lafayette, La. (www.pamplomatapas.com).  Paired with Adentus Mediterraneo Malbec – Syrah – Temperanillo.  These beets were perfect – all of the flavors married beautifully to give you a rich deep earthiness in each bite.  I have loved beets since I was very young…my grandmother would always have them canned in jars and serve them with almost every “important” meal.  She would be so amazed to see how those simple beets that she once prepared (using only salt, pepper, a little sugar, and white vinegar) have evolved into such complex beautiful elements of our meals!

Gulf Coast Bouillabaisse: Fennel + Saffron scented Bouillabaisse with Grilled Redfish, Shrimp, Smoked Scallops, and Louisiana Jumbo Lump Crabmeat prepared by Chef Holly Goeting of Charley G’s in Lafayette, La. (www.charleygs.com).  Paired with Dalila Grillo-Viognier. These were like little bowls of gold! How Chef Goeting and her staff succeeded in serving over 200 bowls of perfectly cooked combinations of fish, scallops, shrimp and crabmeat and at the perfect temperature in the fabulous boulliabasse…is beyond me! Can you tell that I loved it?!!  Bowls were empty at Table 8!

Braised Short Rib with Mash Potatoes Topped with a Pickled Onion Salad prepared by Chef Kyle Waters of Cochon in Lafayette, La. (www.cochonlafayette.com).  Paired with Daou Cabernet Savignon.  Having a personal love of Restaurant Cochon, I expected this to be outstanding…and I surely was not disappointed!  No knives were needed…that is how tender the short ribs were – bold and rich with the slight tartness of the pickled onion, then add a bite of the smooth buttery mashed potatoes…well, just a fabulous bite of deliciousness!

And the Finale…

Almond Sponge Cake, Chocolate Ganache, Strawberry Butter Cream & Chocolate Butter Cream prepared by Pastry Chef Brad Sonnier of Poupart’s in Lafayette, La.  (www.poupartsbakery.com). Paired with Banfi Rosa Regale.  When I saw the description of this dessert, my first thought was “which one will I choose”!  Then it appeared…a gorgeous layering of all of the above!  Perfect balance of sweet, rich and light flavors – great way to end an extraordinary meal…

Top all of that off with new friends and a few hundred people singing “Happy Birthday” to you – well, in my book, it just doesn’t get much better than that!

Acadiana Wine and Food Festival 2012?  Return of Table 8?  Absolutely, Works for me!