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A Place To Call Its Own

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Last September, the Inn at Hunt Phelan hosted a fund-raising dinner for the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB). While the museum, which was established in New Orleans in 2004, had a website and traveling exhibits, it never had a permanent site.

On June 5th, SoFAB will hold a grand gala celebrating the opening of its space in New Orleans' Riverwalk Marketplace.

"I had been involved with several museum openings in New Orleans and always felt that there was a need for a food and beverage museum in New Orleans," says SoFAB president Liz Williams. "Of course, there are museums across the country that focus on a specific food item, such as mustard or chocolate, but there is nothing like SoFAB — a museum that looks at foods we love and eat in a cultural context."

All the museum needed to make it "real" was an exhibition.

"For our first exhibition, 'Toast of New Orleans,' we borrowed space in a mall. We felt that it was important to show our presence through exhibitions, and that's how we have been operating for the past four years."

"Toast of New Orleans," which explored the signature beverages of the Crescent City — from chicory-spiked coffee and Luzianne iced tea to Barq's Root Beer, Sazeracs, and Hurricanes — was followed by "Tout de Sweet," an exhibition that focused on the story and history of sugar. More recently, the museum put on "Restaurant Restorative," a traveling exhibition that spotlighted the rebuilding efforts of New Orleans restaurants after Hurricane Katrina.

"Although we are the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, we still have a very broad appeal," Williams says. "We aren't a museum where you will see replicas of food items on display. We are here to explore the impact of food on our culture, which leads to many, many great exhibition subjects. We could look at agriculture and the foodways, the history of fishing and hunting, the tradition of church and funeral dinners. The list is endless and exciting."

The museum's debut exhibitions at its new home include "Louisiana Eats: Laissez Faire-Savoir Fare," "Eating in the White House — America's Food," and "Wish You Were Here — Postcards from the South."

"We are really excited to have a permanent exhibit space and a place to begin our formal programming, like lectures, tastings, book signings, and demonstrations," Williams says. "We want to grow our library and archive, and we are now in the right place to do that."

The museum's opening events include the grand gala on June 5th, the ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 7th, and the "Art of Taste" dinner with Jacques Puisais, the founder of the Institut du Goût in Paris, at the Mélange Restaurant in the New Orleans Ritz-Carlton on June 19th.

The museum is also offering discounted memberships until the opening in June. For more information, visit southernfood.org.

The Corkscrew, the downtown wine and liquor store, has reopened under new ownership. Hank and Barbara Cowles, who own the property at 511 S. Front (the same building that houses the newly opened Blue Monkey), felt that downtown needed a liquor store and took it upon themselves to provide their neighborhood with one.

"There was definitely a void when the Corkscrew closed," Hank Cowles says. "We have been living downtown for a long time and felt that this area needs a liquor store."

The Corkscrew carries about 600 wines and 500 spirits and is managed by Scott Vincent, also a downtown resident.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The Corkscrew, 511 S. Front (523-9389)

The Grove Grill will host a five-course bourbon dinner on Wednesday, June 4th, at 6:30 p.m. The dinner will start with prosciutto-wrapped figs and a taste of Sazerac Rye Whiskey, followed by cedar-planked salmon paired with Eagle Rare Single Barrel, a Texas Kobe beef slider paired with Buffalo Trace, medallions of venison au poivre paired with Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve, and whiskey-sour ice-box pie paired with Blanton's Single Barrel. Cost for the dinner is $55 plus tax and gratuity.

The Grove Grill, 4550 Poplar (818-9951)

Local chefs Stephen Hassinger (Inn at Hunt Phelan), Ken Lumpkin (Umai), and Ben Smith (Tsunami) will join culinary forces on June 23rd to raise money for Evergreen Montessori School. The three-course meal at the Inn at Hunt Phelan starts with champagne and hors d'oeuvres at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Price for the dinner is $55 without wine and $70 with wine pairing. Tax and gratuity are included.

The Inn at Hunt Phelan, 533 Beale (525-8225)

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