by Ian McNulty
Falling between the most likely Mardi Gras dates and the music festivals of April, March is a good month to plan other events. So many event planners have figured this out, however, that now March is pretty darn busy itself, as a look at just the upcoming food events on the calendar next week confirms.
Grazing in a Garden
The busy weekend actually starts early, on Thursday, March 22, with a garden party featuring food from a highly diverse assortment of local restaurants, all benefiting a pioneering local food education program.
The Edible Evening is hosted by the Edible Schoolyard program, which incorporates organic gardening and healthy cooking into the school day. It’s held in the teaching garden at the Samuel J. Green Charter School (2319 Valence St.), just off Freret Street, where 30 restaurants set up booths amid the garden beds while wine flows from the Presqu’ile Winery of Santa Maria, Calif., a family-run company that has made major contributions to the Edible Schoolyard.
The cause, the setting and the enthusiasm of the participants made last year’s Edible Evening one of the more memorable food-themed benefits I’d attended in a while, and this year’s edition looks just as promising. The event is from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. General admission is $45, and details are here.
Roadfood and Radio
Next up, the New Orleans Roadfood Festival rolls back into town, with a block party in the French Quarter and a kickoff party featuring some visiting food media heavies.
The festival is based on Roadfood.com, a Web site from Jane and Michael Stern, the husband-and-wife team of country-roaming food hounds who have written several books (and for years wrote a monthly column for Gourmet magazine) about the casual eateries they find. The Roadfood Festival collects a sampling of restaurants — in this case, mostly from New Orleans, plus a few from other Louisiana cities and other states — and on March 24 and 25, starting at 11 a.m., they’ll be selling samples of their food at the French Market. Admission is free.
The Sterns contribute to the weekly NPR food program “The Splendid Table,” and the host of that nationally-distributed show, Lynne Rossetto Kasper, will be in town for the festival’s kickoff party at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on March 23. The evening begins with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by on-stage interviews with Kasper, the Sterns and Poppy Tooker, the host of the “Louisiana Eats” radio show on WWNO 89.9 FM. There will be book signings, a Roadfood award presentation and live music from Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. Tickets are $60, and proceeds help support Café Reconcile, the nonprofit teaching restaurant in Central City. Details here.
Kegs and Smokers
In last week’s feature on the city’s growing barbecue scene, I wrote about Hogs for the Cause, a cook-off and benefit for pediatric brain cancer that has turned into something of a festival with bands, beer and lots of food prepared by competitive teams. That’s on March 24 at City Park, and details are here.
The same day brings the New Orleans International Beer Festival to Champions Square, the festival area in the shadow of the Superdome. Previously held in Mandeville and called the Top of the Hops Beer Festival, this event features a series of beer gardens pouring 150 beers and a pay-one-price admission to sample the field. The event is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., tickets start at $40 (or $20 for designated drivers) and details are here.
Lakefront and Tableside
That same weekend sees the return of Taste at the Lake, a civic-minded food festival in Lakeview scheduled for March 24, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. in the lot adjacent to the Robert Fresh Market at 135 Robert E. Lee Blvd.
Lakeview neighborhood associations and other sponsors host the event, now in its second year, and they’ve invited some 40 restaurants and other food and drink purveyors to serve samples through the night. The event includes bands and open bars and its proceeds benefit a project to illuminate Lakeview’s New Basin Canal Park. Tickets are $45 in advance, $55 at the event or $100 for patron party admission at 6 p.m. Details here.
Devouring a Good Read
The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival is also on tap next week, March 21-25, and once again the festival features a number of food-related events.
For instance, on Friday, March 23, at 5:30 p.m., Esquire magazine restaurant columnist John Mariani will hold court at the Windsor Court Hotel for a discussion of food trends, along with a sampling of wine and hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $40.
On Saturday, March 24, at 1 p.m., John Besh hosts a cooking demonstration and discussion of this new family-oriented cookbook “My Family Table” at his Besh Steak restaurant inside Harrah’s Casino. Tickets are $35.
And on Sunday, March 25, at 11:30 a.m., WYES-TV producer Peggy Scott Laborde and local food personality Tom Fitzmorris discuss the book they recently co-authored “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans,” which documents bygone eateries around the city. Mariani of Esquire will join the discussion, which will be held at the Pelican Club and includes food and drinks. Tickets are $25. For tickets and more event details, click here.
There are so many events in the offing next week, two of them even intersect. The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival will have a booth at the Roadfood Festival in the French Market, serving up mint juleps to go.