Hundreds flock to food, wine festival

Published 12:02 am Sunday, July 26, 2015

NATCHEZ — Louis LaRose took his time Friday night, making sure he achieved the perfect blend of Tai chili, cilantro, onion and garlic for his shrimp Escabeche.

“It’s basically the opposite of a ceviche,” said Larose, owner of Lou’s Full-Serve, a seafood restaurant located in the historic Belhaven neighborhood in Jackson.

LaRose was just one of some 700 locals, visitors, vendors and chefs who packed the Natchez Convention Center Friday night for the opening of the Natchez Food and Wine Festival.

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While guests walked about the event space with plates of food and specialty cocktails in hand, festival organizer Lyn Fortenbery said she couldn’t have asked for a better kickoff night.

“We’re sold out, and I think that says something,” Fortenbery said. “I think it’s obvious that everyone is having a great time.”

Cameron Razavi, chef at Biloxi-based Magnolia House restaurant, said he couldn’t serve his smoked, deviled crab dip fast enough.

Every time he turned around, his small sample plates seemed to fly off the table.

“I didn’t realize how big of an event this is,” Razavi said while scooping another serving of the dip onto a plate for an eager guest. “I’m very excited to be here. It’s an honor.”

Fortenbery said each year the festival celebrates food, wine and beer from local and regional vendors.

The festival gives attendees a chance to relax, and be exposed to some of the state’s best food and drink, she said.

For Tom and Brenda Read of Mandeville, La., making the two and a hour drive to Natchez for the festival was more than worth it.

“This is our second time coming, and we always enjoy ourselves,” Brenda Read said while taking a break outside the convention center.

“We’ve only made it through about half of the vendors, and it’s tough to say what my favorite is so far because they’re all so good,” Tom Read added.

Natchez resident Lance Adams said the festival is something he always looks forward to.

“It’s awesome because you get to try food from so many different places,” Adams said while waiting in line to sample cheese from the New Orleans-based St. James Cheese Company. “I haven’t made it all the way around yet, but I started off with some beer from the Natchez Brewing Company, sampled some catfish and now I’m trying some cheese.”

If ticket sales and satisfied guests are any indicator of the fest’s success, Fortenbery said she believes everything went off without a hitch.

“It’s just great to see how many people and vendors come out for this every year,” she said.

The festival will wrap up with a jazz brunch at 11 a.m. today, hosted at The Vue Hotel. No ticket is needed for the brunch.