Natchez Food & Wine Festival starts Friday

Published 11:51 pm Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This weekend will be a chance for everyday folks and high rollers to wine and dine — and if you don’t like wine, there will be beer, too.

The eighth annual Natchez Food and Wine Festival kicks off Friday, and will run through Sunday afternoon.

One of the goals of the festival is to raise money for the Lee Barnes Scholarship Fund, Regina Charboneau, a festival organizer, said.

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Barnes was in culinary school in New Orleans when she died at a young age of a brain tumor.

Though lots of out-of-towners will come to the festival, Charboneau said locals should participate in the events as well.

“Everyone should participate in at least one element in the food festival,” Charboneau said. “I think for the quality of the events they are very reasonably priced. Food is definitely that one uniting factor everyone loves.”

The first event of the festival is Tastings Along the River at 6:30 Friday evening at the Natchez Convention Center.

There will be 16 different food vendors, four different wine brokers and four beer distributors at the event, Stratton Hall said.

Later Friday evening, there will be a private party at Bowie’s Tavern to which only ticket holders from the Tastings Along the River event will be allowed entrance.

Saturday morning, the Martha White Biscuit Cook-off will be at the Main Street Marketplace Café.

The biscuit cook-off is free to the public, and three $100 prizes will be given in the children’s, professional and home cook categories.

“All you have to do is come with biscuits,” Charboneau said.

Following the biscuit cook-off will be a progressive lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Starting at the Mellen House, the first course of the lunch, catered by Pearl Street Pasta, will be crunchy French bread topped with an asparagus tapanade spread, with fresh Parmesan cheese.

The second course, which will be served at The Elms, will be sliced Ahi tuna with tri-colored ritoni pasta, tossed with sesame seed vinaigrette.

Ending at Greenleaves, the final course of the lunch will be chocolate baked fudge topped with a vanilla bean cream sauce.

Other events that day include a film showing at the Historic Natchez Foundation from 1:30-3:30 p.m., a wine and cheese tasting from 2-3:30 p.m. at The Castle and mixology classes at 2 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. at Under-the-Hill Saloon.

The film showing is a free event.

Saturday evening, starting at 5 p.m. will be Brews on the Bluff at Bowie’s Tavern, which will offer Abita Beer, Lazy Magnolia Beer and Heiner Brau Beer, as well as a bocce ball tournament.

Bocce ball is a kind of Italian lawn bowling.

The other event happening Saturday evening is An Invitation to the Natchez Table, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Different chefs will serve ticket holders at different venues. Those include Chef Martha Foose at Monmouth Plantation, Chef Bingo Star and Chef Jason Roland at Twin Oaks, Chef Doug Hosford at Glen Auburn and Chef Scott Varnedoe at The Burn.

“We decided to do the Brews on the Bluffs because they were looking to do something that would be a little more relaxing, and because there is limited seating in the (Invitation to the Natchez Table) homes,” Charboneau said.

The festival will end Sunday afternoon with a Champagne Jazz Brunch at the Carriage House Restaurant. Musicians Osgood and Blaque will provide entertainment.

“Osgood and Blaque play only Mississippi music, music that was either written by Mississippi artists or recorded by Mississippi artists,” Hall said. “They also tell you the story behind it.”

The best part of the festival is that it is all-inclusive, Charboneau said.

“Although there are dinners that are $85 a person, there are also free events,” she said.

Though some tickets are already beginning to sell out, if they are available tickets can be purchased right up until the beginning of an event, Hall said.

For tickets purchase or pricing information, contact Natchez Pilgrimage Tours at 601-446-6631 or 1-800-647-6742.

Tickets can be purchased online at