Justin Devillier was a star in NoLa's culinary scene well before he became a chef-testant on Top Chef: New Orleans—he was nominated for a James Beard award in both 2012 and 2013. At La Petite Grocery, he shows off his flair for simple, French-Southern cooking, whipping up dishes such as shellfish stew with collard greens.
The Cove’s taste-bud-boggling array of single malts ensnares both walk-in connoisseurs and private-tasting aesthetes with its caramel-brown mouth velvet. Tasting attendees, in intimate groups no larger than 10, test-drive scotch from each of Scotland’s six producing regions in order to appreciate the peatiness of Islay’s elixir, the deep smokiness of Highlands’ quaffables, and the hair-turn handling of Speyside’s concoctions. Each tasting features a different set of six, plus one bonus scotch, drawn from The Cove’s laundry-list menu. While scotch enthusiasts savor their samples, a staff expert narrates the magical beverage’s rich history, explaining reasons for geographical differences and demonstrating the adhesiveness of the tape from which the drink takes its name. Tastings may be scheduled Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays starting at 7 p.m., and last an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the engagement of guests.
Sicily natives and Chianti restaurateurs Enrico and Nino Giacalone serve rustic, taste-bud-wooing regional and Northern Italian fare in a romantic atmosphere. Settle in with a glass of Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc ($6.00) or Columbia Crest Two Vines shiraz ($8.25), and stoop to conquer appetizers such as the funghi in padella con granchio, jumbo lump crabmeat and mushroom caps boldly bathed with white wine, parsley, and lemon-butter sauce ($9.50). Entree eaters may become beguiled by oceanic fruits including the Pagello "Albert,” a sautéed snapper as fresh as a mint-scented wink from a stranger ($19.75). Conduct a forked foray into the house signature dish, scaloppini alle noci e more, a flavorful juggling act of veal scaloppini bursting with blackberries and shrimp; sautéed with mushrooms, shallots, and roasted almonds; and flamed with blackberry brandy in a rich cream sauce ($25.95). Hearty portions may sway even selfish sweet teeth to share succulent slivers of the mocha-almond butter cream cake ($4.95).
When faced with time off after graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University, Maggie DiMaggio took to baking cake after cake in her own kitchen. Seeing the potential in her baked treats, she soon began taking weekly pilgrimages to the Mandeville farmers' market to sell her cupcakes and fine breads. As the popularity of her creations grew, the special orders began pouring in?so many, in fact, that she had to open a storefront just to manage the demand.
That storefront soon evolved from its humble beginnings into The Chocolate Vine, a European-style bakery that also houses an intimate caf?. To foster a cozy, inviting atmosphere, Maggie furnishes the small eatery with tables and chairs from local antique stores and regularly applies a fresh coat of buttercream icing to the walls. When not crafting almond-, strawberry-, and chocolate-infused cakes , she cooks light lunches with fruits and vegetables from a local produce stand. Maggie also graciously opens up her wine cellar for regular tastings, during which guests sip on eight glasses of her finest reserves.
In West Monroe's countryside, 20 acres of grapevines sway among gently rolling hills and tall, old trees. This is Landry Vineyards, tended by Jeff and Libby Landry and their four sons. They began growing hybrid blanc du bois grapes?specially bred to withstand the South's climate?at their first vineyard in Folsom back in 1999. However, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina leveled their crops, inspiring them to move to higher ground.
Today, the Landrys ferment a full roster of wines from blanc du bois and other hardy Southern grapes. The crisp fruit flavors of semisweet blanc du bois white pair well with spicy Cajun and French-inspired fare, whereas the Envie Rouge?made with red Cynthiana-Norton and black spanish grapes?acquires its spice from oak-barrel aging. The Landrys also import and ferment many grapes that they can't grow, including hand-picked bunches of cabernet from Washington state and California. Though locals have been enjoying the fruits of the Landry family's labors for several years, the vineyard's appearance in a 2012 episode of Duck Dynasty introduced the Louisiana-made wines to a national audience, drawing in droves of customers from all over the country.
Besides sipping wines, customers can visit the picturesque vineyard for tastings and cellar and winery tours. And during regular concerts, they can sip wine among the sounds of blues, jazz, and grapes quietly gossiping about which grape pickers have the softest hands.
Even a crackdown from local authorities couldn’t move Bacchanal totally indoors. Though local guidelines mandated they tweak their operation a bit—meaning moving the kitchen and dining room inside—Bacchanal still serves glasses of earthy, Old-World wines in a fresh-air courtyard amid nightly live music.