Food and Wine Fest kicks off with crowd

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 31, 2010

NATCHEZ — The Food and Wine Festival’s Tastings Along the River had a record-breaking night Friday.

Organizer Stratton W. Hall said they had sold 600 tickets by 7:30 p.m., 100 more tickets than last year.

“The event has been fabulous,” Hall said. “We have an excellent representation of chefs, local and from out of town.”

Out on the floor smells of many types of food wafted by and the musical stylings of Osgood and Blaque kept the crowd “kicking it up,” attendees said.

“I think the event is terrific,” said Charles Lang of Covington, La. “This is my third year, and I think it is better than last year.”

Cindy Jones of Houston made the trip for the second year in a row.

“When I called and found out my friends were going again, I told them that I had to go,” Jones said. “I just love it.”

Tsunami Sushi Regional Manager Fred Nonheo said he loved coming to Natchez too.

“We were guest chefs at the Castle, and they talked us into coming last year,” Nonheo said. “We had an absolute blast, so we decided to come back a second year.”

Nonheo said he has discovered that his Baton Rouge based restaurant had a lot of Natchez clientele.

“Our restaurant gets a lot of visitors from Natchez,” Nonheo said. “We’d love to open a place here.”

NOLA Brewing Company President Kirk Coco took it a step further than Tsunami and has plans to expand into Mississippi, President Kirk Coco said.

“Natchez and New Orleans have sort of a connection — people from New Orleans come up here to stay, and people from Natchez come down to party,” said Coco, whose company won for best beer last year. “It is sort of a natural fit. We hope to move into Mississippi in the next six months.”

Natchez favorite Pearl Street Pasta came back for its sixth year, Owner Cliff Brumfield said, and he brought seafood and wild mushroom risotto — because he had never cooked it before and wanted to do something fun.

“It is fun to come out and see people appreciative of what you prepare,” Brumfield said. “I think the event is great. It is great to get everyone together like this.”

Cee Blaque, of Osgood and Blaque, said she was excited to be brought back a second year in a row.

“After last year, people requested to have us back,” Blaque said. “They really took to what we do.”

When he first arrived, Billy Key of Natchez said he was going to hit the New Orleans tables first, but after exploring a bit, he said the Natchez tables held their own.

“That Natchez food was just as good or better than what is coming out of New Orleans,” Key said. “I think this is a great event we have in Natchez. I think we should have more like it.”

The Food and Wine Festival continues today and Sunday with several events, and Hall said tickets to the Progressive Lunch and Tour of Homes, Wine and Cheese Tasting, an Invitation to the Natchez Table, Mixology Class and the Champagne Jazz Brunch were still available.

For a full schedule visit natchezfoodandwinefest.com.