Food Fest features demonstrations, special events

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

NATCHEZ&045;&045;From cheddar-herb biscuits and &uot;kitchen-sink&uot; pizzas to corn and crabmeat bisque and shrimp-spiced redeye gravy, Natchez food-lovers enjoyed a variety of tastes at the third annual Great River Road Food Festival Saturday.

Festival chairman Regina Charboneau said the two-day event has grown steadily since its inception.

&uot;Each year it’s gotten better. I really think we’re there now,&uot; Charboneau said.

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Saturday’s culinary adventures started at 8 a.m. with the Martha White biscuit cook-off at the Main Street Marketplace.

Charboneau said she patterned the biscuit-baking competition after a Martha White cornbread cook-off held each year in Tennessee.

&uot;We try new things each year to keep the interest up. We’d like to get more sponsors involved next year,&uot; Charboneau said.

Starting at noon, guests at Bowie’s Tavern were treated to hot slices of a variety of Soulshine pizzas along with their choice of ice-cold Abita beers.

Jackson native Chris Sartin operates three Soulshine outlets&045;&045;named for an Allman Brothers song&045;&045;in the capitol city area.

&uot;We make everything from scratch. Quality is the most important thing&045;&045;everything has to be the best,&uot; Sartin said.

Outside, an Abita representative served a full selection of the brewery’s Louisiana beers&045;&045;including a root beer made with pure cane sugar&045;&045;to guests who strolled across the street to the Bluffs to try their hand at the Italian lawn game of bocce ball.

Elsewhere, reception-style progressive lunches were served in the Garden District at The Elms, The Lawrence House and Twin Oaks.

Fine-dining cuisines were also explored Saturday evening in the Great Chefs, Great Houses event held at Gloucester, Monmouth and Stanton Hall.

Hattiesburg chef and culinary author Robert St. John prepared a tantalizing course for guests at Gloucester, starting with his corn and crabmeat bisque, followed by seared tuna Caesar salad.

St. John, who owns the Purple Parrot Caf/ in Hattiesburg, described his cooking as &uot;contemporary seasonal Southern cuisine.&uot;

&uot;The bisque is something we’ve served at our restaurant for many years,&uot; he said.

St. John’s main course included bronzed Gulf shrimp and stone-ground grits, saut/ed spinach and caramelized shallots served with shrimp-spiced redeye gravy.

Charboneau said the festival now supports a scholarship each year for a Co-Lin graduate to attend the Culinary School at Nicholls State University.

The scholarship honors Natchez native and New Orleans culinary instructor Lee Barnes.