Nell Nolan: The Great Outdoors

Alfresco fun beckoned social sets to a pair of parties, thanks to the Royal Street Stroll of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, which was presented by Rouses, and an Earth Day celebration. In both cases, “Rain Date” took a back seat to the fun and winning skies prevailed.

Strolling

Prior to the Royal Street trekking, the board of directors of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience invited choice chums to the Welcome Party in the Carousel Bar and Lounge of the Hotel Monteleone, the host hostelry of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience. Beverages were donated by the Bizou Distributing Company and Mountain Valley Spring Water.

Extending welcoming hands were NOWFE President Chris Ycaza, former prez Neil Buie, and board members Kim Priez, Sara Kavanaugh and Amy Reimer. Noted swapping vinous anecdotes were Kent Wasmuth, Eydie Barber, Tim Acosta, Mark Romig, Lauren Cason, Betsie Gambel, John Williams, Harsha Chacko, Tom Fitzmorris, Tim McNally, Brenda Maitland, Mary Sonnier, Michelle Minyard and dozens more.

Then they took to the street for the Royal romp.

Considered one of the globe’s great shopping streets, Royal Street, for eight blocks, became, according to NOWFE principals, “the world’s longest wine tasting area.” A keystone event of NOWFE since the festival’s inception more than two decades ago (and one of the many Experience offerings), the Stroll allowed ticket-purchase participants access to the wine and food along the way. The former was poured out in a slew of participating galleries, and the latter was purveyed from food tents set up in the street. Music of course — this is New Orleans! — was integral to the levity, starting with the stage set up in front of the Monteleone.

There, the Carousel Lounge’s Robin Barnes, the “songbird of New Orleans,” entertained the masses. At the outset, when asked what her favorite song of the evening would be, she smiled and said, “What a Wonderful World.” Louis Armstrong would be beaming.

On the street, the Rouses-presented Stroll first focused on the 200 block, where food and drink welcomed arriving crowds from the downtown area. The culmination was the Zonin Prosecco Park at the corner of Royal and St. Philip streets, the 900-1000 block, which served as an anchor for the second entrance. Basically located on the grounds of the KIPP McDonogh 15 School for the Creative Arts, the Zonin Prosecco Park saw the bubbly namesake wine served up in a European park-like setting with live music by the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble.

Among the countless partying pedestrians were Suzaune Yee McKamey (sporting a picture-book hat) and husband Don Rees, who nibbled fine fare from the Irish House at M.S Rau Antiques. “We always enjoy the Stroll,” they said, almost in unison.

In the street, stilt walkers, costumed throngs and fest “flaneurs” composed a kaleidoscopic panorama. And then along came the Krewe of Cork! A wine-industry phenomenon, its participants paraded down Royal Street wearing togas, vine leaves in their hair and other sartorial accessories related to good times with the grape. Noted at the helm were captain-of-years Bill Trufant and perennial king Patrick van Hoorebeek, who happened to be the birthday boy. A huge banner wishing him “Happy Birthday” hung on the façade of a building and the accompanying band played that tune, before launching into “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Not only does the NOWFE celebrate our town’s love of food and wine, but it also raises awareness and money for non-profit organizations, such as Café Reconcile, the restaurant “arm” of Reconcile New Orleans and the recipient this year of 40 percent of the event’s proceeds. (The remaining 60 percent will be shared by six other worthy organizations.)

Two additional outdoors activities included the recent “Behind the Walls of the Vieux Carre,” presented by the Friends of the Cabildo, which took place on a Sunday afternoon and featured two sites (among the tour’s nine homes and courtyards) on Royal Street. Noted at the Latrobe house on Royal Street was Tee Zimmerman, a Friends board member.

The second was the groundbreaking ceremony for the Greater New Orleans Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy, which took place on the terrace of the K&B Building on Lee Circle, just paces away from where the new GNOF building will be built. The six nonprofit partners for the event included the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, Liberty’s Kitchen, Café Hope, The John Besh & Bride Mayor Chefs Move! Scholarship, The Magnolia School and the above Café Reconcile.

Earth Day

“Life Is Good. Let’s Make Today Very Good” was scripted in white on teal-colored napkins at the party in the Audubon Golf Clubhouse given by Duane Page. It was billed as “Celebration of Earth Day” and a salute to spring.

Daisies were the primary floral focus inside the clubhouse, which had a cute decorative wink from the Octavia Street Christmas-lighted Snoopy. The lovable Peanuts character, and the mascot of Octavia Street, where Duane lived until very recently, sat on the bar with assorted flowers around and the message “Flower the Earth.”

Outside, the stupendous view was of the mint-green golf course and the majestic oaks draped in silver-colored moss. “The scene reminded me of a passage from the prologue to ‘Evangeline’ written by Longfellow,” said Duane, who continued with mention of the “garments green indistinct in the twilight.” Her party ran from 5-7 p.m.

Duane arrived at her party in a white “stretch” limousine, along with family members (daughter Caroline, granddaughter Lindsey, and daughter-in-law Kim), as well as Laura Bayon, Dorothy Clyne and DeAnne and Tim Hester. Duane’s son Marshall and his son Connor Page were absent, enjoying a father/son Spring Break trip to the Turks and Caicos. Adding yet another “look” for Duane (along with the limo) was a red fantasizer (a diminutive “hat”) that had belonged to the late Mickey Easterling and given to the hostess by Judy Conner Palmer, author of “Southern Fried Divorce,” who clipped it in Duane’s hair.

Among those spotted in the clubhouse and its immediate surroundings were Winx and Jim McCarthy, Eugenia and Tommy Lind, Airey Ellis and Jimmy Selman, Janie Bories, Lise Ann and Parham Werlein, Jane Hobson, and a Griffies threesome in Sophia (Duane’s niece), husband Scott and Scott’s mom, Jean.

They, and scores more, enjoyed the party’s music: soft oldies music and, according to Duane, “the birds’ earthy tunes coming from the trees in the park.” The food attractions were numerous and consisted of baby asparagus in phyllo, mini meat pies, crabcakes, fried catfish bites, and blackened chicken pasta. The main dessert said it all. At the very end of the gathering, a small Chantilly cake was produced with the message “Happy Birthday.” To hail her natal day, the above Hesters gave Duane 77 long-stemmed red roses, one for each birth year. It was “a huge bunch that I could hardly hold,” laughed Duane after the festive fact that became B’Earth Day!

Around and About

The Garden District was abuzz with three recent events. Carli Tessier, a recent president of The Sybarites, and husband Frank were hosts at a three-generational cocktail party celebrating the birth of their first grandchild, Joseph Paul Crescenzo IV, who was accompanied by the Tessiers’ Houston-based daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Joe Crescenzo. More proud parents (and grandparents) were Ann and David Williams, who opened their home for their nearest and dearest to welcome back to New Orleans their daughter and son-in-law, Eleanor and Lucas Hohnstein. Co-hosts were Norris and Bob Williams and Elizabeth (daughter of Ann and David) and David Grimes. The Grimeses’ toddler son, also David, was a cute party participant.

At the official residence of the consul general of France in New Orleans, Consul General Jean-Claude and Muriel Brunet were the hosts at a cocktail reception during which Consul General Brunet presented Thomas “Tom” Sancton the medal of Knight of the Order of Arts et Lettres. Among those applauding Sancton, a musician, writer, editor and former Time magazine foreign correspondent for 22 years in France, and author of “Song for my Fathers: A New Orleans Story in Black and White,” was his artist wife, Sylvaine.