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Carpenter adds spice to annual food festival

On July 31, Havana comes to Natchez.

Or at least, The Elms Owner and Executive Chef Esther Carpenter hopes to bring the feel of a hot Caribbean night to her bed and breakfast during the Natchez Food and Wine Festival’s “An Invitation to the Natchez Table.”

“The Caribbean had so much to do with cuisine in the Southern part of the United States,” Carpenter said. “I love Cuban food — it is not extremely spicy, and I love all the creative ways that they use fruit in their dishes.”

For $85, guests will be able to taste the Cuban fusion, including banana- leaf wrapped Dorado, Cuban grilled pork with mojo and coconut rum flan, starting at 6:30 p.m. prepared by Carpenter, a Culinary Institute of America graduate.

“All Cuban food seems exciting to me,” Carpenter said. “The Elms looks like it could be a Caribbean hacienda, so I thought it would be something exotic and fun for guests. The meals will be served on old family China.

“This is an opportunity for people to try different foods and to taste an unusual cuisine done well.”

At the end of the night, Carpenter plans to have a Hemingway farewell.

“Ernest Hemingway was known for his love of Cuba,” Carpenter said. “We will have chocolate cigars, coffee and real cigars on the veranda.”

Carpenter has participated in the Natchez Food and Wine Festival for the past three years.

“This is a huge draw for Natchez, and I will do anything to market this town because there is so much going on here,” Carpenter said. “I also think it is important to have a Food and Wine Festival because it shows off all of the local talent.”

The Elms has been in Carpenter’s family for 140 years, being passed down the female line, and Carpenter inherited the house from her mother in 2006.

“It being a family home gives it a uniquely personal feel,” Carpenter said. “The people that come here for the weekend feel like they are visiting a friend’s country estate, instead of going to stay at a hotel.

“I think that is really important. It is what the South is famous for — Southern hospitality.”

Other restaurants participating in “An Invitation to the Natchez Table” will be Monmouth, Twin Oaks, Upstairs Pearl Street Pasta and The Carriage House.

The Food and Wine Festival begins 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 30, at the Natchez Convention Center with Tastings Along the River, with a Chef’s Party to follow at Bowie’s Tavern for $50.

At 9 a.m. July 31, the second day will kick off with the seventh annual Martha White Biscuit Cook-Off, which is free, at the Natchez Visitor Reception Center.

For $45, lunch and a tour can be bought for the Governor Holmes House, Greenlea and Texada.

A wine and cheese tasting can be experienced at the Castle Restaurant from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. for $45.

Bowie’s Tavern will have a mixology class at $35 at 3 p.m.

The final event will be a Champagne Jazz Brunch at The Carriage House at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Aug. 1 for $50.

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