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NorCal Wine Blog

Boudin & Beer (and Wine) in New Orleans

Boudin & Beer was a pre-event for Emeril Lagasse's 2011 Carnivale du Vin. Both took place in New Orleans this past weekend. Proceeds went to the Ermeril Lagasse Foundation which works "to improve the quality of young people's lives." It does this, in part, by being a major supporter of thinigs such as the NOCCA High School Culinary Arts Program, the Edible Schoolyard at Green Charter School and the St. Michael Special School.



Boudin & Beer brought together more than 30 New Orleans restaurants, out-of-town friends of Emeril and craft brewers to showcase the local food scene. It was a walk-around tasting festival and the focus was sausage, but the chef's got very creative. There was an overwhelming array of great food.

Boudin & Beer was held at The Foundry in New Orleans Warehouse District.


Attending the early VIP portion of the event allowed me to get some good photos, try a wide assortment of the food and chat with many of the chefs.

Emeril Lagasse, here with Eva Swan, was on hand to meet with folks throughout much of the event.


Emeril's Delmonico restaurant also represented with food, offering what I'll call "deconstructed sausage."


At the other end of the spectrum was this dish from Paul Prudhomme's K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen. He and Chef Paul Miller turned a pig into andouille sausage and combined that with chicken in these grillades, served on cheese grits. It was tremendously good. The meat was tender and flavorful, the sauce rich and tangy but not "spicy." The grits were fabulously creamy.


Chef Paul Prudhomme was there all evening himself, greeting guests.


There were so many different preparations of sausage, boudin, etc. that I can't do justice to them all here. Instead I'll highlight some favorites. But first, Iet's take a detour and talk wine. While the official beverage of the evening was beer and Abita was a primary sponsor, there was also one winery in house. And it was from California.

PRESQU'ILE from the Santa Maria AVA was pouring Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I had not tried their wines before because they are south of "NorCal." However, it didn't take long for me to start thinking about paying them a visit. The wines were very good and are well worth seeking out. The Sauvignon Blanc bears a strong aromatic resemblance to the best versions from South Africa — not a coincidence as the winemaker hails from there. However, the palate was solidly Californian, though leaner and more restrained than many. A very refreshing wine. The Chardonnay was good too, but I found myself going back for the Santa Maria Pinot Noir. It offered earthy red fruit, spice box and savory herb with a supple palate and only 13.7% alcohol. (It's sold out at the winery, but I just bought their two single-vineyard Pinots to try.)

Presqu'Ile winemaker Dieter Cronje, above in black-tie casual, was pouring along with winery president Matt Murphy. Dieter was very interesting to talk with and I'm looking forward to continuing our discussion at the winery soon.


Napa Vailley winemaker Pam Starr (Crocker & Starr, Adastra, Bridesmaid and, formerly, Spottswoode Estate) was in attendance with her husband Norm Larsen. Pam told me that the 2011 vintage was the toughest she's seen in California during her 29 years making wine here. However, all of that experience — and a lot of knowledge gained from places such as Bordeaux that regularly deal with poor weather — worked to her advantage. She's very confident about the vintage for her labels.

Betty O'Shauhgnessy (O'Shauhgnessy Winery) was at the event too, as were Gary Pisoni (Pisoni Vineyards) Dan Kosta (Kosta Brown), Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat) and Bob Cabral (Williams-Selyem). So was chef/vintner Michael Chiarello (Chiarello Family Vineyards) who would prepare one of the courses the following evening. He told me that his winery got the majority of its fruit in and most of it was in pretty good shape. He lost about 25% of the Cabernet Sauvignon. "That Botrytis," he said shaking his head, "snuck in like a cat."

While we're talking Iron Chefs (Michael Chiarello is currently a contestant on "The Next Iron Chef"), here are former-Iron Chef Mario Batali and Chef Mark Ladner (a frequent Batali helper on Iron Chef).

Mario Batali is a good friend of Emeril's and has been a big fundraiser for his foundation. He offered food at both Boudin & Beer and Carnivale du Vin this year.


At Boudin & Beer, the Batali dish was a very good blood sausage (Biroldo in Italian). It's served at a restaurant in Eataly called La Birreria.


Chef Mark Ladner was a key part of the Batali efforts on both nights. He's executive chef at Lupa, Otto and Del Posto, where he's been given much of the credit for that restaurant's gaining a four star rating from the New York Times. Ladner was quiet but very personable.


Back to boudin...

Among my favorites was this Smoked Boudin with Apple Brandy Chutney from Rouses, largely on the strength of the chutney. The apple chunks were just firm enough and the chutney flavoring on the sweet side, yet tangy. It would have made a great pie.


Another standout was this dish from Hilton Riverside Hotel. Both of the Italian sausages were excellent and the Fennel Pollen Boudin Balls beat hush puppies hands down.


Some restaurants innovated by using unexpected proteins in their sausages. There were scallops, duck and antelope, among others.

Mr. B's Bistro went that direction too. They served Rabbit Sausage with Pear and Chili Chutney.


Commander's  Palace, the New Orleans icon at which both Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse got their starts, used antelope. And they "kicked it up a notch" with complexity. The sausages also included poblano peppers and pepper jack cheese. on top was a sauce of Grand Marnier, grilled onions and whiskey-coated cranberries.

New Orleans is a city where places that sound like local grocery stores, and often are local grocery stores, make great food too. Some of the best po-boy and muffaletta sandwiches are found in markets. City Grocery is not one of those places though. It's a full-on, two-story restaurant with fine dining on the ground floor and a bar with casual food upstairs. For Friday's event, they stuffed quail with boudin, sauced it with Creole mustard creme and topped it with a crunchy something that looked like a pork rind but was less dense and much more delicate in flavor. More please!

Speaking of more, I did go back for more of the fare from Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. I went back twice in fact. One lady I met went back five times.

The dish was Chaurice with "homemade" mustard and pickles. I didn't try the mustard. The chaurice (a Creole pork sausage) didn't need it. But that's not why people kept going back. It was the pickles! They were quite possibly the best I've ever tasted. Bread and butter pickles on the sweet side of sweet and sour, they were thinly sliced and generously spiced with allspice, cinnamon, cardamom and who knows what else. The best news I heard all night was that the guys from Crescent — Bart C. Bell and Jeff Baron — are opening a shop next to the restaurant and will be selling various sausages and canned items that they make, such as those pickles. I can't wait!

You may also enjoy our coverage of Carnevale du Vin.

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This article is original to All photos by Fred Swan. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.