Wining and dining at Rouge et Blanc

by Elizabeth Rose

Louisiana's second largest food and wine festival descended on downtown Lake Charles this weekend to benefit the McNeese State University Banners Series. Thirty-three restaurants and 26 wine distributors with wines from almost 110 different wineries served 1,000 imbibers Saturday at the annual Rouge et Blanc - the second largest food and wine festival in the state. There was more food and wine than any one person could imagine consuming in a day, but many tried.

The lambchop lollipops at Ember Grille & Wine Bar at L'Auberge Lake Charles are a Rouge et Blanc staple. The cooks were sweating profusely in front of the enormous grill, flipping the lambchops on the grill and slapping them onto plates with a yogurt sauce. The rub on the lamb had a hint of chili, which paired beautifully with Concannon Vineyards' Conservacy Crimson & Clover, a very smooth and slightly sweet red blend. L'Auberge's other restaurant in attendance, Desserts, served up a apple cider donut with caramel sauce that is as rich as it sounds. The donut, coated in coarse sugar, was dense and the thick caramel sauce was thick and contributed a salt taste that cut the sweetness. With that, the Tattinger Brut La Francaise was a lovely complement.

The hype around a dish can be judged by the length of the line in front of a tent, and no line exceeded that of the Isle of Capri Casino's Otis & Henry's fried green tomatoes with seafood au gratin. The tomatoes were perfect - mild in flavor and the breading was not overpowering. To make it through the day, it's best to leave half of each dish uneaten, but it was practically impossible to avoid temptation with the tomatoes. The best chardonnay at the event, in my humble opinion, was the Merryvale Starmount, which basically defined a buttery chardonnay. Another standout from Merryvale was the Signature cabernet sauvignon - it was worth having two glasses of this and skipping out on another red.

There were some seafood standouts, as well, including Gray Plantation's cucumber with shrimp and dill salad, Coushatta Casino Resort's lobster BLT and Luna Bar & Grill's grilled yellowfin tuna with dragon sauce. All were complemented well by sauvignon blancs, like that from Clifford Bay Wines - a steal for $9.59 a bottle - or Massimo Prestige Vineyards.

Other notable dishes came from Jackson Deli, a small café tucked into a Shell gas station on Legion Street, and the baked brie with mango chutney from Hokus Pokus Artisan Foods. For fans of port, Fonseca never disappoints, and the 10-year Tawny Porto was a perfect way to end the day... or to end your first round before starting on the next.