Sometimes you win the lottery without buying a ticket. Janis Vazquez , who co-owns Marisol (437 Esplanade Ave., 943-1912; www.marisolrestaurant.com) with her husband, Chef Peter Vazquez , unexpectedly received a FedEx package telling her that Marisol had been selected as a Distinguished Restaurant of North America (DiRoNA) (www.dirona.com). DiRoNA sends teams of inspectors to secretly evaluate the menu, service and ambiance of selected restaurants; only those deemed worthy of DiRoNA status are told that an evaluation has been conducted. The nearly 800 DiRoNA restaurants represent some of the best fine-dining establishments in the country, including Bayona , Galatoire's and Commander's Palace . Vazquez was overjoyed at the news and completely taken by surprise. 'We're a shrinky-dinky place,' Vazquez says. 'I bet Commander's Palace doesn't have a boss wiping dishes and ordering parts for the toilet.'
Cheese maker Neville McNaughton has spent a lifetime making fine cheeses around the globe. He grew up on a dairy farm in New Zealand, founded that country's Kapiti Cheese (www.kapiticheeses.co.nz) and now helps United States cheese makers both large and small improve their products. McNaughton also judges cheeses at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Wisconsin, where, according to the Wisconsin State Journal , he can be as 'gleefully snarky as Simon on 'American Idol.'' At events sponsored by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (861-0333; www.southernfood.org), McNaughton will lead tastings of some of the finest artisan cheeses produced in the United States, including Cocoa Cardona from Carr Valley, Fair Oaks' award winning Emmenthaler and a triple cream Brie from Cowgirl Creamery. The tastings will be held from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at the Columns Hotel (3811 St. Charles Ave., 899-9308; www.thecolumns.com) and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Country Club (634 Louisa St., 945-0742). Tickets for each event are $30. Call 861-0333 for reservations.
Fine wines only get better when left undisturbed for decades. Buildings and homes need more attention. The Louisiana Landmarks Society (www.louisianalandmarks.com) hopes that four wine-tasting events scheduled for the last Friday of each summer month will draw attention to the organization's work preserving New Orleans' most endangered buildings. The first tasting will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 27, at the Landmarks Society's Pitot House (1440 Moss St., 482-0312; www.pitothouse.org). Jon Smith of Cork and Bottle (3700 Orleans Ave., 934-1386; www.corknola.com), a wine maven with graduate training in urban planning, will provide five different wines for each event. Light hors d'oeuvres will also be served. Ticket are $10 ($5 for Landmarks Society members) and all proceeds benefit the nonprofit Louisiana Landmarks Society.