I started collecting wine almost by accident.  Actually, entirely by accident.  I was working in the restaurant industry and frequently received wine as a gift.  Bottles came from colleagues, grateful customers, friends and representatives of wineries.  During this time I also worked 6 nights a week so I had a lot of wine but did not have a ton of time to drink it.  I brought home more bottles than I could consume so, by definition, a collection began.

As the years went on my collection turned more into the cluster of wines I passed over in order to drink other wines.  I did not have a clear idea of what I was doing and I had no idea whether the wines I had been holding onto would still be good when I got around to drinking them.  The collection, such as it was, followed me around from move to move poorly stored and more burdensome than enjoyable.

When I left the restaurant world I decided to undertake wine education for real.  I began a multi-year program of study with The American Sommelier Society and Wine & Spirits Education Trust and that is when I shed the old and began a wine collection for real.  I started to strategize about what wines I wanted to keep, how long I wanted to keep them and why.  In June, my family and I left New Orleans for a move to London and my husband and I had to put our entire collection in storage.  It was at that point that I was forced to sit down and write down every single bottle we owned.  We ended up putting about 20 cases of wine in storage, and while going through bottle after bottle, noting exactly where each came from, what we thought of it and then whether it could stand the next 3 years in storage, I realized I had made the successful transition from just buying more than I could drink to actually having a wine “collection.”

I love collecting wine.  I am not a great accumulator of “things,” preferring the experience to the souvenir, but I find wine sentimental.  Romantic.  Fun.  Interesting.  I love the vintages, the regions, the labels and the mystery.  I collect now because I want to submerse myself in knowledge and enjoy the quest to understand the world of wine one bottle at a time.  I can handle occasional disappointment when wines do not turn out as I’d hoped, and I love nothing more than sharing my success and rare discoveries when they come along.   I may have started collecting by accident, but I continue now with absolute dedication and discipline.   

If you are interested in beginning a wine collection, in beginning a lifelong journey in wine appreciation and all the varied and wonderful experiences that come with that, then what follows is a four-step primer to doing so.

STEP ONE: Establish a budget.

Wine collection is not reserved for the NetJets and Ferrari crowd, but you do need to first confirm that your income is greater than your outgoings before you set off on this adventure.  Maybe you are going to budget in other areas to create room for wine buying - eating out less, buying cheaper shoes, letting your housekeeper go or diverting your childrens’ college funds into your checking account. However you do it, make sure you have the money.  Starting a wine collection is not an undertaking for austere years.  

STEP TWO: Create storage

Don’t start buying before you have somewhere to put the wines. A large wine refrigerator, a wine closet or a cellar will all do.  Of utmost importance is a location that is cool, dark, and vibration free.  No great wine collection starts in boxes stacked on top of your refrigerator.  Well, they might start there - but they won't last.  For wines you plan to hold for 5+ years or potentially sell later, you should avoid taking delivery of them at all.  Call the better wine stores in your area and ask whether they manage wine storage or whether they have someone they recommend who does so.  (In New Orleans, we store with Martin's Wine Cellar.  In the UK we store at my in-laws’ cellar.)

STEP THREE:  Figure out what you like.  (It is about to get fun)

Are you a New World wine drinker or an Old World budding connoisseur?  Do you like heavy alcohol or light?  Red or white?  Sparkling or still?  There are loads of options and you should have a general idea of what wines you like to drink before you start collecting.  (Keep in mind not all wines age well).  The best way to figure out what you really love is to drink a lot of wine.  There is no way around that.  (Sorrynotsorry).  Attend wine tastings, go to restaurants or wine shops that offer wines by the glass or tasting portions.  If you are meeting friends for a drink, suggest a restaurant instead of a bar.  Show up early and talk to the bartender.  Chances are he or she would happily let you try a few wines before you select the wine you want.  Start a tasting group – have friends come over and each bring a bottle of white, or a bottle of French wine, or a bottle of California Cabernet so you can start to compare and contrast the wines.  Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink.  Spitting is optional.


STEP FOUR:  Establish Relationships

Whether you go the niche route – where you study, collect and enjoy one type of wine in the hopes of becoming an expert – or you go the generalist route, where you dabble in a little of this and a little of that, it is extraordinarily helpful to purchase wines from someone you trust and who you can talk to about your goals in collecting.  It is a little different if you order direct from a winery or order online, but establishing a relationship with a local wine shop will help you in many ways.  They will think of you when they get special wines in.  They will alert you to tastings and special events.  They may even connect you with other collectors in the area.  Don’t underestimate the value of a personal touch and personal connection when it comes to wine.  Also remember the women and men selling wine taste far more than you are ever likely to taste.  They can help steer you in the right direction when making choices.  


And now the fun begins!


Begin purchasing 3 to 4 identical bottles of wine.  Record your purchase (something as simple as a notebook stashed in your wine closet will work but Excel is good for this too) including purchase price and purchase location.  Drink a bottle and make a few tasting notes, and then put the others aside for storage.  Open another bottle a year or two later.  Then try another two years after that one.  Notice the difference and how the wines mellow out, get more complex or more velvety.  Let your collection be about the journey, not the destination.  Don’t just buy buy buy  - take your time and collect for sentimental reasons, educated reasons and advice from friends.  If there is an article that turned you on to a certain wine, consider clipping it and folding it into your notebook.  Try to buy wine when you travel; there is little that is a better keepsake from a trip than a wine with sentimental value.  If there is a wine that you want to remember trying on a certain date, hang a note from the neck (buy inexpensive gift labels and tie them on the neck of the bottle).

Once you are ready to start collecting, here are a few categories and specific wines.  Remember, buy 3-4 at a time.  Taste one, save three.  Make notes.  Be sentimental.  Take your time collecting and remember it is about the journey; there is no destination.



Chardonnay can make for an interesting wine given a few years of aging.  Try a mid to high-end California Chardonnay or a white Burgundy and drink a bottle a year after purchase and then two years after that.  It will give you an invaluable lesson on what happens to whites when given some time in the bottle.  

Sauternes (sweet white dessert wines from Bordeaux, France) can age for years – decades really.  Buy them in half bottles and give them at least 5 years before you even think about opening them.  Even better, stash them all the way in the back and forget about them until your kids leave for college.  

Champagne.  There is disagreement over whether Champagnes get better with age or should be greedily consumed seconds after bottling.  I, personally, like the extra yeasty, bready feature of Champagnes when they have a few extra years on them.  Many people (the French) like them as fresh as possible.  Buy a few bottles of a sold vintage Champagne and try them now and a few years down the line to see which side you are on. Solid choices here are vintage Champagnes from Pol Roger, Bollinger, Deutz and Louis Roederer.




Pinot Noir from Burgundy, Oregon or California

Burgundy is a difficult region to understand but can be quickly simplified if you first understand that their red wines are made from Pinot Noir grapes.  The better ones age extremely well, and keep your eyes open for wines from the Côte de Nuits.  There is no cheat sheet available; you just have to experience them and learn which producers and sub regions you like the best and how they differ.  Ask for local recommendations and buy the best ones you can afford.  Pick up a few bottles of Pinot Noir from Oregon or California as well and notice how they compare – both with their French counterparts and also how they compare from today to 5 years down the line.  Recommended American pinot noirs for aging: Flowers (any of their wines) from California, Rex Hill and Domaine Drouhin from Oregon.  

Rhone Valley Reds

You can find good values in Rhone Valley reds.  The area is split into Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone so if you want to try both look for Northern Rhone wines from St-Joseph (a region within the region) from large, reliable producers like Guigal, Chapoutier and Delas.  For Southern Rhone Wines you are going to pay a little more, but this is worth splashing out on.  These are some of my favorite wines in the world.  Look for La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape, M. Chapoutier, Chapelle St. Theodoric, Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe. If these are out of your price range, try looking in Vacqueyras, a region just to the east of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and still reasonably priced.  


American Cabernet

You can splash out and join the Hedge Fund / Dot Com / Wall Street (whoever else is rolling in dough and vilified in the press) crowd and go for the extremely expensive and mostly elusive “California Cult Cabs” or you can take a chance on some mid-priced California Cabernet Sauvignons and watch how they mature over a few years. Hall Winery Napa Valley, Ramey Napa Valley, Stags Leap Wine Cellars Artemis and Frei Brothers all cost under $70 a bottle and will be a great education for you over a period of years.  (Or try a recent discovery of mine, Hope & Grace Stags Leap, for $75)



The red wines of Bordeaux are, of course, famous for their ageing potential.  They are also famous for their price.  There are plenty that are available for under $50 a bottle though.  Start out small and see how you like them.  Château Brane-Cantenac, Château Phélan Ségur, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Château Talbot, Domaine de Chevalier Rouge are wines I have enjoyed for years that have never disappointed me.


Italian Reds

Italian wines can be even harder to understand than French – if that is possible.  For a starter wine collection keep it simple and go with Brunello di Montalcino wines from Tuscany.  After you begin to understand the flavor profiles and aging potential, you can then branch out and compare to other Italian wines and understand blends, regions, producers and grapes.  For your starter collection look for Brunello di Montalcino from Caparzo, Sancarlo and Talenti.   




By: Chef Erick Loos
La Provence 

Six years ago I started to keep bees at our French-Creole restaurant, La Provence. The restaurant sits upon the lush countryside of the northshore where I have also had the opportunity to garden, pick fresh eggs and become a proper hog slopper. The beekeeping has been an interesting and intimidating endeavor. The sound that a beehive makes as you become closer and closer used to make me feel very uneasy. I would remember all of the scary movies of bees attacking people or becoming stung several times as a kid. However, now that I have spent more time with them, I realize that they don’t even look at me twice anymore as I pick the produce from our farm.  They are just busy and have a job to perform.

It’s amazing to see and understand how the bees are a vital part of growing our herbs and vegetables in our garden. I love showing our guests how we grow our produce with the help of the pollination the bees provide. Although bees produce many products such as wax, royal jelly, and propolis (a bee glue they take form the sap flowers used to construct the hive), the true prize we enjoy from the bees is the sweet sweet honey. Honey has a palatable aroma that reminds you of being in nature and has a thick, rich texture that begs to be eaten raw right from the comb. We use it to flavor ice cream, bake our honey cakes and even infuse the honey in bourbon for one of our specialty cocktails.

During the fall, we harvest the honeycombs from the hives while leaving enough stored for the bees to get through the winter. We then strain the honey into jars to use in our sweet deserts, unique drinks and to share with our sister restaurants. It is a great feeling when I am able to offer a tiny honey dipper to our guests to flavor their tea and tell them all about the bees I keep on the property. It truly is a magical process.


Dear New Orleans,

My love affair was not love at first sight, which happens to so many. It was that kind of love that sneaks up on you, that becomes apart of you, that becomes a passion. That kind of love that grows slowly without noticing.

I arrived in Louisiana from California the same night as Hurricane Rita with the Red Cross. I was brought to an old Armory building outside of Baton Rouge. I arrived after lights out and so they showed me to my bunk with a flashlight I was sharing a room with over 200 others. Rita was due to arrive within the hour. I could hear her coming for the Armory was made of tin. The sound was indescribable. Here I am in a new land wondering, what am I doing? Why was I so called to do this?

My very first time in New Orleans was Halloween day 2005. It was my first day off and we borrowed a car to go down to New Orleans. Even at its absolute worst, the city was beautiful. She was hurt and in pain but still beautiful. There were refrigerators up and down the streets, some sealed with duct tape, some not. The smell in some areas worse than others. The kind of smell that makes you immediately cover your nose and your gut wrenches. The French Quarter had no make up on. The ferns and flowers that fall from balconies like waterfalls were gone. Signs from building and streets were either gone or falling and replaced with handmade signs. Every building was labeled with a code that, once understood, was like a knife to the heart. Yet New Orleans was still hauntingly beautiful and mystical. I still saw her beauty. I felt her beauty. Her inhabitants were welcoming and excited for visitors. Yes, they looked beat down and tired, just like the city they lived in, but they had the most sincere, sweet smiles. They were so gracious and thankful at a time when they did not need to be. Her strength and resilience still shined brightly. She had survived again and made it clear she always would.

I left in November after I finished my time with the Red Cross and didn’t think I would ever be back. Upon my return to California, I dropped myself back into my old life like I never left. It wasn’t working – how does one get a slap in the face reminder to live every day with passion and joy and not move in that direction? I was confused, depressed after my return, not sure what to do next. I couldn’t describe it to people back home – I was able to tell short stories as I remembered them. It was like looking at snapshots from a dream that didn’t seem real, my minds way of dealing with what I saw, heard and smelled. The things that attacked the senses were beyond comprehension. The suffering that occurred in the city was beyond comprehension. To be present in that situation I often needed to shut off, disconnect, so that I could help in the moment.

New Orleans is like that love you didn’t even know existed until it is gone. Like that friend you didn’t realize meant so much until that absence is felt. Looking back now I see that was the beginning of the path back to New Orleans.

I woke up one day in late February, 2009 and I knew I had to go back. It was an immediate need. That same day I went into work and I gave my notice. I got my things together and boarded a plane with the idea that this was what was suppose to be.

I don’t think I realized until a year and half later what it is about New Orleans that grabs one’s soul. It is her passion, her passion to survive, her inhabitants’ passion for life. One summer day there was this elderly woman that got on the bus with her walker. It was covered in beads, Saints paraphernalia, twinkle lights. She was wearing a hat in the shape of a football. That was the moment I knew what it is about New Orleans that drew me back so strongly. It is the passion.



Chef Lisa White submitted her love letter to New Orleans as part of the Love, Write, Light campaign, a project of and Dear World, in commemoration of the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The Love, Write, Light campaign is currently working to raise awareness and funds to light to the 17 “Evacuspots” around New Orleans, the locations where those without transportation can access a free and safe ride out of the city before the next major hurricane. You can submit your own love letter to New Orleans and help light the Evacuspots at

Chef Lisa opens Willa Jean, a bakery and cafe, along with Chef Kelly Fields in late Summer 2015. Chef Lisa White can be reached at

Kelly Fields: Sweet and Spicy


In March, The John Besh Foundation hosted their first solo fundraiser Fetes des Chefs: one night with 10 dinners cooked by 10 different chefs from all over the country happening all at the same time at 10 different homes all over New Orleans. It was an incredible feat and when the team was in the planning process, I walked upstairs to their office and noticed they were thinking about a dessert after party. As they tell it, I casually asked if I could invite some friends too, and before we knew it, there were just as many pastry chefs coming to New Orleans as culinary chefs. When Tabasco said they would sponsor the after party along with Valrhona, I knew I had to create something special to showcase the unmistakable flavor of the Original Red Sauce.

Conceptually I wanted to create a fun and surprising dessert to showcase the versatility of Tabasco Original Red Sauce.  Taking inspiration from Mexican Chocolate (as well as dipping french fries in my chocolate shake as a kid..or an adult), I realized Valrhona chocolate was the perfect vessel to translate the complexity of Tabasco flavors into a sweet application.

I can't wait for next year's bigger and better Fetes des Chefs!

Kelly Fields can be reached at She opens Willa Jean, a bakery and cafe named for her grandmother with Chef Lisa White in late Summer 2015. For more information about The John Besh Foundation, visit

Belle Annee: After the Crawfish Boil

From the beginning of February until the beginning of June, New Orleanians go into a festive frenzy.  It begins with Mardi Gras, then the first warm weekend that falls, followed by St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day, Easter, French Quarter Fest, Jazz Fest and then end of school and start of summer vacations.  The frenzy is not this collection of special events but rather the accessory to all of it:   The frenzy is Crawfish Season.  

The big plastic letters outside of Big Fisherman on Magazine Street or KJeans in Mid City  spell out the magic words “Hot Boiled Crawfish Today” and those signs remain until the beginning of summer.  During that time the seafood departments of grocery stores smell differently, weekends are planned differently, we look at draft beer with more affinity, and our Mardi Gras cups get used with more frequency.

Crawfish boils are comprised of collecting newspapers, setting up plastic tables, ordering kegs of beer, purging the crawfish, chopping the veggies, getting the seasoning juuuust so and then, finally, boiling the crawfish.   Friends and family tear into the steaming red trough of crustaceans, picking their favorite accoutrements along the way – potatoes, corn, mushrooms, sausage, and maybe artichokes and garlic.  Everyone comments on the size of the crawfish, the seasoning and the weather and they stand shoulder to shoulder pinching the tails, sucking the heads and enjoying their part in this Southern Louisiana ritual.

There is a a backside to all of this for the host though.  When the friends have gone, when the tables are folded up, and when the garbage has been relocated to black contractor bags for pick up early Monday morning, there is usually – almost always – a leftover pile of crawfish that did not get eaten.  So much work goes into the boil that it is disproportionately painful to discard anything uneaten, but what are you really going to do with any leftovers?  There is not enough to make Crawfish Étouffée or or Crawfish Bisque and too many to just quickly peel them and pop them into your mouth.

I pondered this while eating my very own pile of crawfish at a friend’s boil recently.  I looked around and realized the key to a good leftover recipe is finding a use not just for the crawfish but for the veggies and extras also.  That’s how you differentiate it from just a plain crawfish recipe.  And that is where Sunday Morning Crawfish Crepes come in.

Embrace the Saturday-afternoon crawfish boil as your first step toward Sunday brunch.  With advance planning you have a great use not just for your leftover crawfish but for any of the “extras” you can snag including corn, garlic, mushrooms, sausage and just about anything else.  The key to this being a success is to split up the work making the crepes on Friday, grabbing your leftover crawfish on Saturday and then mixing everything together on Sunday.

The recipe is really simple.  The basic idea is to peel your crawfish, cut up your veggies and add them to a spicy béchamel .  Then ladle that into and over crepes with asparagus.  The asparagus aren’t really that crawfish boil-y but they do look nice and the fresh green crunch adds to an otherwise rich filling.

So fold up the plastic tables and break out the wine glasses and silverware: Brunch is served!

Click here for the recipe!

For more from Jessica Bride, visit


BY LINDSAY NATIONS, Great Raft Brewing

We are excited to formally introduce you to our collaboration series with The John Besh Foundation. Andrew has always been intrigued by the similarities that chefs and brewers possess and had long wanted to brew a chef-driven, collaborative beer.

When we heard about The John Besh Foundation, we knew it was a perfect opportunity to pitch them on the idea of working together. The Foundation works to preserve the rich culinary history of Louisiana by sending aspiring chefs to culinary school, as well as offering interest-free microloans for farmers. Andrew reached out to the Foundation to explore the creative process with some of the state’s best chefs, celebrate Louisiana ingredients, and give back through the Foundation with a charitable beer. We were thrilled that the Foundation was willing to work with us on this project and the brainstorming started right away. In December, Andrew and I put the high level plan together. Then we sat down with Chief Brewer Harvey Kenney and Borgne Head Chef Brian Landry to plan Volume One of the series.

We approached the conversation with no preconceived notions of what this beer would be. It was critical that the creative process and planning be truly organically creative, collaborative and representative of both Harvey and Brian. We started by tasting the Great Raft Brewing flagship beers to give Brian a solid understanding of the type of beers we brew year-around. We also drank a few saisons to start the conversation around different versatile styles of beer. Borgne is located near the French Quarter in the Hyatt Regency hotel and focuses on coastal cuisine. Although this beer will be widely available throughout the state, we wanted to be sure the beer would lend itself especially well to the menu at Borgne and Louisiana seafood.

Harvey introduced the idea of brewing something with Louisiana rice. Rice gets a bad wrap in the brewing game because some of the larger breweries use it to stretch the dollar and serve as a less expensive starch source. In our case, we wanted to explore how the rice would affect the flavor and body of a beer.  We went back and forth about if a lager was the way to go. Ultimately, we felt a kolsch would be the best vessel to feature the rice and also still give us great body and drinkability.

Volume One is a kolsch with Louisiana Cajun Country™ rice that we dry-hopped with Amarillo and Nelson Sauvin hops. This duet of hops is super citrusy and loaded with unique aromas, making them some of the most sought after hops in the world. It was important for us to preserve the characteristics of the kolsch and show restrain with dry hopping. The result is beautiful aroma that heightens the beer while showcasing a new look at an old style.

Please enjoy Volume One of Provisions and Traditions.  $1 of each bottle sold will go to the John Besh Foundation to help change the life of aspiring chefs and farmers who contribute so much to our rich culinary culture.

To learn more about the Foundation, click here. To read more about Volume One, click here.

Belle Annee on Brandy Milk Punch

New Orleans is full of rituals. There is early morning at Cafe Du Monde when the French Quarter businesses and residents are hosing off their sidewalks, washing down the sins from the night before and steadying themselves for a new batch of visitors. All Saints Day at the cemetery where you cut down, clean up and tidy around the ancient stone monuments to loved ones since passed. Thanksgiving at "The Track" when you wear a silly hat or posh fascinator purchased at Fleur de Paris, long drunken Friday lunches at Galatoire's, only ordering fish on Fridays and always having your red beans and rice on Mondays. And always, always, WWOZ on the radio.


Photo by Gabrielle Geiselman //

Then there are drinks. Drinks are a bit of a rite of passage. Hurricanes and Hand Grenades are the beverage of choice in college when you can miraculously survive the onslaught of cheep booze and bright artificial colors. Spicy Bloody Marys call Sunday home as you say goodbye to the weekend and prepare for the business ahead. Pimm's are very best in the heat of summer when the fruits that adorn them are at their ripest and juiciest. Sazaracs become the aperitif of choice once you establish an appreciation for whiskey and then, one day, you are turned onto the best daytime cocktail ever. Ever. The Brandy Milk Punch.

Like so many things in New Orleans the origins of Brandy Milk Punch were likely beyond the shores of America but it was the restaurateurs of the city that gave the drink a rebirth as the preemenint Brunch cocktail. Today's version is a combination of brandy (sometimes bourbon), milk, simple syrup and vanilla. It goes down smoothly and is appreciated by spirited young men, elegant elderly women and just about everyone in between.

The very best way to make Brandy Milk Punch is by the jar. My friend Julie does that and it has become her hostess gift when invited to dinner parties. You have never seen someone invited to as many dinner parties as Julie. If you are going to make it by the batch, like Julie, my favorite bottle is this one because it looks really nice and pours easily. You just need a funnel to fill it. You can also make it in Mason jars - easier to mix but not as neat to pour. Life is a trade off, ya know?

This is a fantastic cocktail for this time of year, when it's a little cold, a little wet, a little rainy and you just want to start your Sunday brunch a little later and enjoy it a little more.

Brandy Milk Punch By The Glass:

2 ounces Brandy

1 ounce simple syrup (if you are anywhere near New Orleans try to find Locally Preserved cane simple syrup - it is a little richer in flavor than regular simple syrup)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 ounce milk

1/2 ounce whipping cream

fresh nutmeg

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and add a cup of ice. Shake it until your arms hurt, then strain into a champagne coupe or strain over a fresh whiskey glass of ice. Top with fresh grated nutmeg.


Brandy Milk Punch By the 24-oz Bottle:

10 ounces Brandy

5 ounces simple syrup

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

7 ounces milk

2 1/2 ounces whipping cream

Add ingredients into the bottle through a funnel. Give it a good shake and then put it in the freezer for one to two hours. Take it out, give it another shake and then show up at the dinner party of your choosing. Invited or not. It won't matter.


For more from Jessica Bride, visit www.belleannee.comPhotos by Gabrielle Geiselman //

Belle Annee's Mardi Gras Survival Guide

Mardi Gras in New Orleans means different things to different people. Whether you are a visitor, a local, a writer, a dancer or a banker there is somewhere for you to fit in and to have the time of your life. And like any good venture in life, you get out of it what you put into it. So here is your guide to getting the most out of Mardi Gras.

1. The 101.

Mardi Gras (French for Fat Tuesday) is both a single day and a season. The day falls, technically, the day before Ash Wednesday but people interchangeably use the terms Mardi Gras and Carnival to refer to the time period starting on Twelfth Night (January 6th) and concluding at midnight (sharp) the night before Ash Wednesday. What you need to know is that the real party lasts the final six days of Carnival. It begins in earnest the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday and increases in intensity until Mardi Gras Day when you are up and in costume by 8am very possibly a fragile shell of your former self.

The most important thing to know is that Mardi Gras is not a sprint. It is not even a marathon. It is an endurance race - one of those multi-day things that goes through the desert and if you get lost you'll have only your wits and an occasional flying rodent to sustain you. Pace yourself. It’s okay to turn things down. Don’t peak early and tumble down the other side.

2. The Po-Po.

The police you see in the street are overworked, overstressed, cold and tired of dealing with drunk people. That said they are also really fantastic at their job during Mardi Gras. They keep the peace, keep people safe and usually have a decent time. They will turn the other cheek to most transgressions but two that they will quickly make you regret are relieving yourself in public and fighting. Both will get you thrown in jail. It is important to know that if you do get tossed in the slammer you don't get out until after Mardi Gras Day. So find a bathroom and keep your hands to yourself.

3. Know where you belong.

Mardi Gras provides something for everyone. College kids, families, European visitors, single ladies, LGTBQ…but know your neighborhood divides:

Uptown is where the local families celebrate and they don't appreciate a load of obscenity and nakedness around their children. Be good to them and they will be good to you. It's easy to shake an invitation to a pot of red beans or a clean bathroom by being respectful and helping their kids catch beads. It's also easy to be the subject of some very angry neighborhood dads if you spill beer on Grandma and intercept little Joey's foam football.

The Bywater & Marigny: Mardi Gras Day is the day for the LGTBQ community. If you are any of those letters get to sleep early on Monday and be prepared to put your most fabulous foot forward on Tuesday morning at about 8am in the Bywater. Head to Mimi's and wait for the party to find you. You'll know it when you see it.

Frenchman Street: This is where to find music, restaurants and a lot of people. No parades but there is enough to keep you occupied. No kids here. 21+ only.

The French Quarter can be a super fun place to hang out if you are under 30. Plan to spend a lot of money on drinks stay on the main drag. Don’t forget that point about not upsetting the police. If you happen to still be lucid and in the French Quarter super late on Mardi Gras Day try to get up onto a balcony at 11:45pm. At midnight a thick line of police on horseback, followed by police on foot, followed by cars, followed by a clean-up crew make a sweep down Bourbon Street and make Mardi Gras vanish without a trace. It’s pretty cool to see.

4. Dress Code

If you are going to costume, which you TOTALLY should, make sure you mask has a hole to drink through. Also make sure you can easily use the bathroom in your costume. You need to commit to your fabulous alter ego -- no removing of wigs, even if they itch. No washing off of face paint until you are tucked in at home. Check the weather, dress appropriately and layer. Absolutely no purses.

5. Transport

Plan to walk everywhere and wear super comfortable shoes that you don't mind ruining. There is a lot of weird blurg on the ground and you are certain to step in it. If you think you are parked illegally, plan to be towed. The city has a huge collection of tow trucks and drivers who love this time of year.

6. All the small things

Tune your radio to WWOZ 90.7. Carry cash. Not too much. Leave your nice jewelry at home. Travel in packs. Don't be obnoxious. Keep Advil on hand. Drink lots of water. Carry a small pack of anti bacterial wipes. Never pass up a clean bathroom.

7. NOW….the good stuff

The parades! There is actually a guide to every official parade, its route and a little story about it. You can find that here. Now, install the WDSU parade tracker app on your phone so you know where to be and when. This will also help you know exactly how long you have to go find a bathroom before the parades start. You can’t make it to all 60 parades that roll through the Greater New Orleans area so pick a few and make them happen.

Try this out for a starter list:

NYX (pronounced Nicks). This is the newest all-female Mardi Gras Krewe founded in 2012 after soooooo many women wanted to join the highly revered Muses that they had to close their wait list. Nyx is applauded for diversity (as long as you are female) and their signature throw is a purse. There are 1200+ of these women and a lot of strong marching bands. They roll Wednesday evening (Feb. 11th) at 7pm following the Krewe of Druids. Krewe d'etat is a smaller parade with only 21 floats but it's satirical theme means it is often a favorite of critics. The captain and officers ride on horseback throughout the parade and The Dictator remains a secret until the day they parade. Members of the krewe dressed as walking skeletons hand out the papers and wooden doubloons at the parades. This one's funny and will definitely give you an education about what is frustrating locals at the moment. (6:30pm Friday, February 13th)

MUSES, Don't let the boys tell you the girls can't play!   Muses rolled into town in 2000  and made the boys want to pack up their balls and go home. They continue as a Super Krewe in high demand with outstanding throws (one of the top catches at Mardi Gras is a Muses Shoe) and sarcastic themes and float titles.  Plus, if you weren't sure, check this out:  In 2013, the Honorary Muse was Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to attend an all white elementary school in the south.  Bam.  (Thursday, February 12th, 6:30pm)

ENDYMION This is one of the three Super Krewes so called because of their huge krewes, large floats, increasing use of technology for lights and music and celebrity Grand Marshals Endymion bosts the world’s largest Mardi Gras float at 330 feet long, holing 230 riders and cost $1.2 million to build. This parade goes through Mid City and is a huge, huge locals and family parade. Line up early for this one. It rolls at 4:15 but generally goes well into the night. (Saturday, February 14th.)

THOTH This is a huge day-parade that has been rolling for 67 years. It rolls on Sunday at noon and is a big hit with kids. There are 40 floats and the riders are boisterous neighborhood dwellers. (Sunday, February 15th)

KREWE OF TUCKS is a basically a rolling fratnerity house. Expect lots of potty humor. The kids love it! (Noon, Saturday, February 14th)

KREWE OF ORPHEUS is the most musical of the parades having been founded by Harry Connick Junior and being named after the musically-inclined son of Zeus and Calliope. This was also the first Super Krewe to allow both male and female riders and locals LOVE this parade. It is the last thing you do before you go to sleep the night before Mardi Gras Day. (6pm Monday, February 16th)

ZULU Probably the parade with the richest history, Zulu is known primarily as an African American Krewe although they have a diverse ridership of ethnicities and gender. They have 50 floats, 20+ bands and famously begin lining up on Mardi Gras day at 4am. FOUR A.M.! The catch of all catches at Mardi Gras is a Zulu Coconut. They hand it out, they aren’t allowed to thow it anymore. Shame. (Tuesday, February 17th, 8am)

REX, the King of Mardi Gras, has been parading longer than any other organization and the king of Rex is considered King of Carnival. Each year it is an older man who is prominent in the community (usually for social, business and philanthropic endeavors)and a lovely younger woman who is the daughter of a prominent family. This parade is a "Must See" but keep in mind the element of observation. The floats contain maskers in original costumes and elaborately decorated and hand-painted floats but they are notoriously stingy with throws. Appreciate it if you catch something. (Tuesday, February 17th 10am)

And that’s about it. Pace yourself, wear a costume, don’t pee in public. You’re golden! See you on The Route. And until you get here, turn this on and turn it up!


For more from Jessica Bride, visit www.belleannee.comPhotos by Gabrielle Geiselman //


Looking for some recipe inspiration for the upcoming holidays? Look no further! Whether you’re looking for more traditional items or want to try a new tradition for the holidays, this is the perfect place to start. As featured on Food and Wine, here are some of John’s favorite holiday recipes. Try his Horseradish and Herb Crusted Beef Rib Roast, and for a savory dessert that everyone will enjoy, try his Poached Pear and Brown Butter Tart. Or for those of you looking for a more southern or New Orleans flare, try his Oyster Dressing “Grand-Mere.” This perfectly represents New Orleans flavor, and is one of Chef’s favorite dishes to make for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Belle Année on Assembling a Cheeseboard

Once a month, the Chef John Besh blog will feature a guest blog post from one of Chef Besh’s closest friends, Jessica Bride. This New Orleans native is an amazing wife, mother of three, avid traveler, soon-to-be cookbook author, and she co-founded the John Besh & Bride Mayor Chefs Move! Scholarship

There were two unmistakable signs in my life that I had reached adulthood.  The first was that I started keeping scissors in my kitchen accepting that, for the rest of my life, I would need to be able to cut open bags of frozen peas and the plastic bag inside of cereal boxes and that there was a better method than using my teeth.

The second was when I learned how to assemble a cheeseboard.  I was 25 and living on my own in NYC.  It was empowering to know that for a small amount of money and a little bit of effort I could invite people over for a wine and cheese gathering.  Pretentious too.  Empowering and Pretentious. Jackpot.

The problem with cheese, like Google, is that the more you learn the more you realize there is to know.  Before you know it you too are sending pictures of cats singing Christmas carols.  At some point you have to just declare, “Enough!”  There is a middle ground between tossing Nacho Cheese Flavored Doritos into a basket and being shunned from dinner parties for accurately pronouncing the Sternschnuppe that you had a friendly German goat herder you befriended on SnapChat mail to you.

Once you recognize this middle-ground it only makes sense to be able to put it together to create a winning cheeseboard.   And this, along with scissors, propels you into bona fide adulthood.  At any age.

The secret to a winning cheeseboard is finding cheeses and accompaniments that go well together and that appeal to your guests.  Once you invite someone over, this is no longer about you.   You want to create something that is enticing and gorgeous…and that says, “I did this for you!”

Logically, the first thing you need is a tray or plate to serve the cheese on.   You want this to be flat, large and rustic.  It looks way better to serve cheese on something that may have been collected from a building site than on your grandmother’s best china.  One of my secrets is, actually, using building materials.  You can pick up 18-inch-square paving slates or marble tile samples for $5- $10 from Home Depot or a tile showroom.   Alternatively use your darkest wood cutting board.  Remember to consider the size – you want your platter to look full but not crowded.

The next thing you need is a different knife for each cheese and a small spoon for any gooey cheeses.

After that you need a baguette and plain water crackers.  For a baguette you are looking for something long and thin that you can slice into pieces just thinner than your pinky finger.  For crackers your best bet is your favorite variety of Carr’s Water Biscuits.

Now, you have your serving platter, your knives and your bread.  Let’s add the cheese!


For the beginner:

It is important to remember your audience.   If your guest of honor is Aunt Myrtle and she thinks the McRib is exotic, don’t  make her uncomfortable with a  bunch of retched dairy products.  You can show off your expertise by making your cheeseboard simple and beautiful…and perfectly pitched.

For the beginner cheese board, select one cheese in each of these three categories:


One year aged Manchego.  (Spain)
Midnight Moon (Holland)
One year aged Gouda (Holland)
Cabot Creamery Clothbound Cheddar (USA)
Cave Aged Gruyere (Switzerland)


Saint Andre (France)
Vermont Creamery Cremont (USA)


Gorganzola Mountain (Italy)
Epoisses (France)
Cambozola (Germany)

And add a few extras:

1 bunch of sweet red grapes, washed, dried and portioned into small bunches of 5-10 grapes each.



Here you are putting together a cheeseboard for a group of friends or coworkers with generous dining-out allowances from their work, spouses or trust funds.  These are people who you know love wine and cheese and who will appreciate the extra effort you make.  These are cheeses that are a little more intense in flavor and might need to be located at a store with a specialty cheese section. 

Pick one cheese in each of these four categories: 


Aged Manchego (Spain)
Aged Gouda (Dutch)
Cabot Creamery Clothbound Cheddar (USA)
Comte (France)
Roth Kase Roth Granqueso (USA)


Saint Andre  (French)
Vermont Creamery Cremont (USA)
La Tur (French)
Explorateur (French)


Epoisses (French)
Morbier (French)
Stinking Bishop (England)


Gorganzola Mountain (Italy)
Stilton (England)
Bay Blue, Point Reyes (USA)
Roaring Forties (Australia)

And add a few extras:

1 bunch of sweet red grapes, washed and portioned into small bits
A piece of spicy dried salami, partially sliced (leaving some for your guests to slice)
Quince paste or fig jam



Now, you are ready to show off.  Trainspotters only on this one.  These cheeses are mostly the same as intermediate but you are going to add a cheese category and let your cheeses tell a story.  Select all cheeses typical for their country of origin for instance or all cheeses from one country and get people to guess the country.  Also consider serving a sweet wine – such as a vintage port no younger than 25 years old or a Sauternes, a sweet white wine from France.  Also you are going to up your game on the accompaniments including paring special oatcakes with blue cheese instead of just crackers.  This one is going to cost a little more money and will be a centerpiece for a cocktail evening or a very special dessert for a large dinner party.


Aged Manchego (Spain)
Aged Gouda (Holland)
Parmesean (Italy) served with a Parmesean knife
Pecorino Romano (Italy)


Brie de Meaux (France)
La Tur (French)
Delice de Bourgogne (France)
Brillat-Savarin (France)
Explorateur (France)
Robiola Piemonte (Italy)


Epoisses (France)
Morbier (France)
Vacherin Mont D’Or (Switzerland)
Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere (USA)
Fontina d'Aosta (Italy)


Gorganzola Mountain (Italy)
Stilton (England)
Roaring Forties (Australia)
Dolcelatte (Italy)
Bay Blue, Point Reyes (USA)


Humbolt Fog (USA)
Valencay (France)
Vermont Creamery Coupole (USA)

And add a few extras:

1 bunch of sweet red grapes, washed and portioned into small bits
A piece of spicy dried salami, partially sliced (leaving some for your guests to slice)
Quince paste or fig jam
1 box of oatcake crackers to pair with the blue cheese in addition to the other crackers and baguette
6oz thinly sliced Brasaola (air dried beef)
A handful of pickled vegetables
A handful of olives with seeds

(Nothing says sophistication like serving olives with pits and watching your guests hold intelligent conversation while trying to suavely discard an olive pit from their mouths.   Don’t forget the little cup to catch all the disgustingly chewed up remains set near, but not on, the cheeseboard)

Final notes:

Plan on 3-5 oz of cheese per person depending on whether it is a dessert course (less needed) or a stand alone party tray (more needed)

Make an effort to remember the names of the cheeses and their countries of origin.  If you have a terrible memory then just write them down as you unwrap and discard the labels.   If all goes well you will, most certainly, be asked to write them down for an adoring fan.

And very lastly, cheese is about a million times better if it is served at room temperature – especially really ooey gooey stinky cheeses.  Take them out several hours in advance and let them come to room temperature.  For ooey gooey cheeses (like Epoisses) put them in a warm spot for a few hours.  Maybe  a location that catches the sun for an hour, or on the counter near you oven.

And that’s it!  Piece of cake.  Cheesecake of course.

For more from Jessica Bride, visit