The Baton Rouge Epicurean Society's two-day Fête Rouge is one of my favorite events and this year it came with a cherry on top. Former Advocate Food editor Tommy Simmons was the recipient of BRES's Grace "Mama" Marino Lifetime Achievement Award at the kickoff dinner Aug. 24 at the L'Auberge Event Center.
Fête Rouge dinner
Several hundred wine and food aficionados joined Tommy's friends and family for the Thursday night celebration, that began with last year's honoree Holly Clegg leading us in a moment of remembrance of Mama, who passed away this past June, as well as former award recipient Tullio Saffiotti, who died last October. That was followed by a video tribute to Tommy, that included touching comments from former Advocate publisher David Manship and from long-time friend and former Advocate artist Sara Lemon. Mayor Sharon Weston Broome presented Tommy with the key to the city, and BRES President William Wells presented Tommy with the Lifetime Achievement Award as members of the board and guests gave her a standing ovation.
Among those cheering Tommy on were husband David and sons Dave Simmons Jr. and wife Karyn, of Dallas, and Carl Simmons and wife Jenny of Marietta, Georgia, as well as former Advocate colleagues Carol Anne Blitzer, Madelyn Carroll, Camille Cassidy, Corinne Cook, Dolly Trick, Mike Nola, Cheramie Sonnier and Linda Wunstel; and current Advocate staff members Sheila Runnels, Charlene Robert, Gary Miller, Betsy McDowell, Lou Hudson, Judy Jumonville and yours truly.
Now for the food and wines. Chef Don Bergeron was in charge of the hors d’oeuvres. While they were all scrumptious, I could have eaten an entire tray or two of the prosciutto-wrapped fresh figs stuffed with honey goat cheese. They were a perfect match with the Veuve Ambal Crémant de Bourgogne Grande Cuvée Brut.
The charcuterie plate featuring a house-smoked duck bacon and Goppelt Farms chicken liver paté served up by chef Ryan André, of City Pork Brasserie & Bar, paired nicely with the 2014 Malat riesling from Germany.
Beausoleil chef Nathan Gresham's Soup of Fishes, a recipe made famous by the late chef Charles Brandt at Chalet Brandt back in the day, is another dish my tablemates and I agreed we could have turned into a meal. We had the wine — 2013 Stephen Ross Estate Chardonnay, Edna Valley — we just needed some crusty French bread.
Chef Joseph Dicapo, of Latil’s Landing at Houmas House, was in charge of the salad, which was paired with a 2014 Grenache from California's Dry Creek Valley from buddy Susie Selby's winery. It was as good as I remembered.
The night's main course, created by chef Jeremy Langlois, of White Oak Plantation, was a melt-in-your-mouth osso bucco served with blue corn stone-ground grits and roasted root vegetables. This was paired with Trefethen's 2014 Oak Knoll cabernet sauvignon.
The meal's finale was a Louisiana Blueberry and Rhubarb Roulade whipped up Jared Tees, chef at L'Auberge's 18 Steak.
Food & Wine Fête
Round 2 of Fête Rouge had us back at L'Auberge Friday evening for the Food & Wine Fête. Co-workers Gary Miller and Betsy McDowell joined me on The Advocate team to judge cabernets. Our top winner from among the 12 we tasted, Honig Cab, placed third in the first cabernet category. No. 1 was Heritage and No.2 was Lucas & Lewellen.
The first-place winners in the other categories were: Shannon Ridge, cabernet 2; Morgan Highlands, chardonnay 1; Joseph Drouhin, chardonnay 2; Seghesio zinfandel, Other Red; Bennett Valley Cellars, pinot noir 1; DeMartino, pinot noir 2; Smith & Hook, red blend 1; Runquist 1448, red blend 2; Rosé de Printemps, rosé; Oyster Bay, sauvignon blanc; Chandon Brut; sparkling.
While we were making our selections, another group was judging the culinary creations of this year's participating chefs. Once we all cast our votes, the doors opened and a record crowd got to sample the wines and dishes while singing along to DJ Otto and visiting with friends — old and new because there's no better way to make friends than talking about food and wine.
At 9 p.m., the winning chefs were announced by emcees Karen and Bill Profita. Tracy Nguyen, of Tsunami, won Best in Show and gold in the seafood category for her yellowtail sashimi tacos. Collin Fontenot, of Galatoire's Bistro, took home the People's Choice award and the silver in the seafood category for his pan-seared scallops. Mark Reilly, of Stroube's, won bronze in the seafood category.
In the soup category winners were Scott Varnadoe, Lava Cantina, gold; Mary Fouchaux, MJ's Café, silver; and Kade Ferachi, Juban's, bronze.
In the salad category: Jourdan Fulbright, Cocha, gold; Celeste Gill, Chef Celeste Bistro, silver; and Y'zell Williamson, Capital City Grill, bronze.
In the meat category: Caleb Melancon, French Market Bistro, gold; Danny Santana, Bin 77, silver; Colt Patin, Louisiana Culinary Institute, bronze.
In the Louisiana Flavor category: Chris Motto, Mansurs on the Boulevard, gold; Jared Tees, 18 Steak, silver; and Kelley McCann, Kalurah Street Grill, bronze.
In the dessert category: Allie Bookman, Cupcake Allie, gold; Janel Rucker, French Market Bistro, silver; and Kaila Kay, Kalurah Street Grill, bronze.
Healing little hearts
Saturday night had me back out at L'Auberge for the Louisiana Pediatric Cardiology Foundation's event, Helping Heal Little Hearts. The V-Tones were playing and toes were a tapping when I got there. Radio host Michael Berry was about to take the stage to conduct a live auction on a tempting array of items such as LSU football season tickets, four nights at an Orange Beach condo, New Orleans getaways and hunting trips.
Even more shopping could be done via the silent auction. The night's finale was dancing to the sounds of the Chee-Weez.