Sunday, October 14, 2012

Finishing Tales with Pig, Punch & Gin

I woke up early, had a quick yoga workout and then went up to the Reincarnation Room at the Hotel Monteleone for breakfast. The sponsor of the day was cognac (the spirit) and samples of cocktails and the straight stuff were everywhere.  I decided to pass, opting instead for a croissant, fruit and tea.

Before I headed upstairs to get organized for the day, I stopped at the pool, where they were sampling some tea cocktails. Somehow a chocolate tea smoothie – even if it was spiked – seemed more logical at 8:00 am.

My first event of the day was the I Love/Hate Cocktails Seminar. It was being led by Belvedere Mixologist Claire Smith, whom I had gotten to know a bit at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Claire was monitoring a panel of six mixologists/liquor representatives who were divided between loving and hating cocktails. It was by far the most fun seminar I had ever been to and I was really glad it I had chosen it for my schedule. 

I had some time so I did a bit more walking around Bourbon Street and definitely got an intro to just how wild and crazy it could get down here. From strip clubs to bars with drinks larger than I could consume in an entire day (for less than one drink anywhere else), New Orleans is certainly a place like no other.

Between it all I could also see the remnants of poverty that were pushed to the limit by Hurricane Katrina. I had family affected in this area and a visit many years later I’m sure just gave me a small glimpse into what happened then.

I actually walked about two miles in downtown New Orleans
and was surprised by the one thing I really wanted and couldn’t find – beignets. Despite the thought that they are so popular in New Orleans, the only place I could find them at was CafĂ© du Mont, and the line was literally a block long.

I decided to forego the beignet and joined some of the Brugal Rum reps at Pigs & Punch.  It was actually a free event in the park. There were snow cones and interesting gelatos (I loved the Dark Chocolate Ginger), as well as tons of food. I had a full plate of shredded pork, cole slaw, potato salad and beans that made me really feel like I was in the south.

We decided to walk the 10 blocks back to the hotel and I was surprised when I was told we were taking a detour – to Francis Ford Coppola’s house. The director owns a modest townhouse across the street from his nephew, actor Nicholas Cage. Though Coppola was not in town, he had allowed a few of his partner brands to showcase in the home.

I sipped Krug Champagne and Ingelnook Cabernet Sauvignon. I also had a chance to pick out and order a complimentary pair of designer glasses from the reasonably priced Warby Parker, which I have since gotten and loved.

After I left Coppola’s house, I went to the Royal Sonesta for a tasting of Dancing Pine. It was packed as they passed out hors d'oeuvres and some unusual treats, such as snow cones (they are a popular choice in the heat of New Orleans) with their Cherry Tart and Brulee Liqueurs and even s’mores made right in front of us.

I made my way back to Hotel Monteleone where their famous Carousel Bar was hosting a Tanqueray Party. They served some very strong gin and tonics, in addition to French 75 and Manhattans. After the tasting I went back for a nap, but ended up sleeping through the Juniperlooza party!

The next morning I went to the Mr. & Mrs. Cocktail Brunch to say farewell to my first Tales of the Cocktail. There were quite a few members of the press there, some enjoying cocktails, but most sipping coffee. They had a nice spread that included Jambalaya, an omelet station (had a great goat cheese and mushroom omelet), salads and desserts (there’s nothing quite like Praline Chocolate Cheesecake).

I was more than ready to go home when the cab arrived, though I’m so glad I finally experienced Tales, the ultimate week-long party.


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