In the wake of the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina, devastating large parts of New Orleans, the odd became almost commonplace. Watching houses and cars caught up in the flood was horrifying, but in a city famed for food and drink, the sight of barrels floating down Frenchman Street, in the city's Ninth Ward, brought a catch to the throat of many a long-time "y'at."
Entering the lobby of the august Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter—conference headquarters—I found myself sampling drinks even before I checked in. Dashing to a seat in my first seminar, I heard the promising rattle of ice behind me, and sure enough, there were several cocktails to be served during the hour.
Over the weekend of April 16th to 18th winemakers, sommeliers, restaurateurs, consumers, and many others gathered in New Orleans for one of the biggest showings of champagne and sparkling wine under one roof in the U.S.: the first Independent Champagne and Sparkling Wine Invitational (ICSWI).
That was the system, we recalled. One course at a time. Finish the course, think about the next, talk about it, order it. A perfect way to turn a dinner into a celebration, to have an opportunity to chat, to observe the people in the dining room, even to join in to a couple of choruses of "Happy Birthday." We didn't leave until nearly 10 p.m., comfortably filled but not stuffed.