Armadillo Eggs on Royal Street
At the Royal Street Stroll, food was dished out on the street; for wine, guests ducked into the art galleries that line the historic French Quarter street to fill up their glasses. Here, a chef from Rouse's, a local grocery chain, grills up Armadillo Eggs, or bacon-wrapped stuffed jalepenos.
Grits and Shrimp Etouffee
One of the best bites of the outdoor stroll was the Bombay Club's shrimp etouffee with creamy, dense stone-ground grits.
A lighter bite: chef Bill Taibe's smoked trout dip on 9-grain bread with trout roe and dill.
Royal Street Stroll
A view of Royal Street in its element: art, music, food, and wine mingling on a warm May evening.
Chocolate Pudding with Bacon Brittle
Chef David Guas dishes out chocolate pudding with whipped cream and a bacon brittle topping.
Fried Chicken Salad
Chef Tasha DeSerio's salad reminded us of Mom's Ranch concoctions, but her crispy, tender bite of fried chicken was one of the highlights of the evening.
What's a festival without music? A band provides a funky Southern soundtrack for the evening.
Krewe of Cork
And of course, it wouldn't be New Orleans without a parade. The Krewe of Cork offered golden beads with tiny wine bottles on them - in exchange for a kiss on the cheek.
A Mardi Gras float constructed entirely out of canned goods donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. The New Orleans Wine and Food Experience is a major fundraiser for the food bank, which provides more than 22 million meals a year in southern Louisiana.
Crawfish Andouille Mac & Cheese
Inside the Grand Tasting, the M Bistro table served up a rich, salty mac & cheese with Andouille sausage and Buffalo crawfish - perhaps made more delicious because it came in its own tiny cast-iron skillet.
Crab Remoulade with Sazerac
The M Bistro team was also responsible for one of the more dramatic offerings, a Peek Toe Crab remoulade served over a shot of 90-proof Sazerac cocktail amid a burst of smoke.
Creole Tomato Gazpacho
5 Fifty 5 was the only restaurant to take home a gold, silver, and bronze medal at the event. One of their offerings, a Creole tomato gazpacho with corn and crawfish, provided a refreshing break from the rich bites surrounding it.
Pork Belly with Watermelon
The Green Bar at the Westin Hotel snagged a Best in Show award for its savory offerings. Here, a crispy piece of pork belly is skewered with a fresh chunk of watermelon...
... And a light, slightly sweet, palate-cleansing cucumber sorbet was a favorite with the crowds.
Duck and Crawfish "Po-Baby"
A New Orleans classic: succulent smoked duck, crunchy fried crawfish, and a hint of mayo on a "po-baby" roll, by the Palace Cafe.
Seared Sea Scallop
There was a long line by the table for Mr. B's Bistro, and for good reason: their pan-seared sea scallop was deeply caramelized, the crawfish sauce on top was flavorful enough to mop up with the chewy bread, and together they made one of the best bites of the show.
Scallops with Pea Puree
Scallops were a popular offering. Atchafalaya, a well-regarded restaurant in Uptown New Orleans, paired theirs with a light salad and a pea puree.
Apolline, a newish restaurant on Magazine Street, served a sliver of coriander-seared tuna with remoulade and a pistachio vinaigrette.
Creme Fraiche Ice Cream
Those with a sweet tooth found plenty of treats at the Grand Tastings. Local favorite Creole Creamery offered a scoop of creme fraiche ice cream with caramel sauce and Riesling-poached peaches.
Passion Fruit Verrine
With so many notable restaurants at the tastings, it may be surprising that one of the most interesting and addictive bites came from the Hyatt Regency hotel. Their passion fruit verrine consisted of whipped cream, a lemon basil pound cake, and passion fruit pearls that burst like sophisticated Gushers at the first bite.
Chocolate Dobos Cake
The Link Restaurant Group, the people behind restaurants like Cochon and Herbsaint, served up a crowd-pleasing Creole chocolate dobos cake with caramel sauce.
Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off
The Louisiana Seafood Association sponsored a cook-off to highlight the quality of Louisiana shrimp, crawfish, and other delicacies (a worthy cause, since the recent oil spill threw the livelihood of many Louisiana fishermen into doubt). Here, Chef Drew Dzejak of the Grill Room plates begins to plate his entry.
Assistant Chef Samantha Neal Carroll of Hot Tails Louisiana prepares a crawfish pasta.
The Final Product
The final product: Fried shrimp over crawfish pasta served with a sweet corn and oyster liquor, goat cheese, a poached oyster, and blue crab.
The judges of the seafood cook-off confer. The winner: Chef Keith Frentz of Lola Restaurant in Covington, who served a wild-caught catfish with a red bean and crawfish succotash.