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French Quarter Wine Festival chef tells all

Chef Michael Ferrell: A glass half full kind of guy

Today, NolaVie gets up close and personal with Le Meritage Chef Michael Ferrell, who kicks off the sixth annual French Quarter Wine Festival with a grand opening reception at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Maison Dupuy Hotel. The event runs for nine bubbly weeks, and details follow the Quickie Q&A below.

The quickie bio: Ferrell was born in Virginia, began cooking at age 15, and has served as executive chef in restaurants from Nantucket to Beaver Creek to Las Vegas. He arrived in New Orleans in 2009, opening Le Meritage (four beans from The Times-Picayune), in the Maison DuPuy. He opened a second restaurant, Bistreaux, in the same hotel a year later.

Ferrell calls his cooking "Southern coastal," and he has a knack with the comfort foods of the deep South. He also has a thing for wine, choosing labels for his menu that are "diverse, fun and well thought-out," offering them in 3- and 6-ounce sizes so you can taste more or fewer, and creating dishes around them.

He has embraced his adopted city with as much élan as his cuisine. And, as you'll see below, Chef Ferrell has a well-seasoned sense of humor.

The quickie interview: 

Q. Colorado has its Rocky Mountain Oysters. What does Louisiana have?

A. That’s easy, Louisiana has the best oysters, period. Not to mention all the other great seafood. And all right in our backyard.

Q. Boxers or briefs?

A. Boxers; too hot for briefs.

Q. What did you do in Las Vegas that stayed in Las Vegas?

A. Plenty … but most notable would have to be my first wife!

Q. You choose foods to match your wines. Does anything go with retsina?

A. That’s a tricky wine. I'd have to say hummus and olives -- while reading Homer!

Q. Glass half empty or glass half full?

A. Always half full; it’s a must to have a good attitude toward life.

Q. What’s the best pick-up line you’ve ever heard over a glass of wine?

A. Can we put this juice in a Go Cup?

Q. Are you Gordon Ramsey, Jacques Pepin or Julia Child?

A. All great chefs study Jacques and Julia’s classic French technique. But I like Ramsey’s more contemporary approach to food. It's much more my style, and I like his attitude in the kitchen; he doesn’t put up with less than the best.

Q. White chocolate bread pudding or bananas Foster?

A. That’s easy: white chocolate bread pudding with bananas Foster on top; a la mode, of course!

Q. Best hangover cure?

A. Drink a lot of water before bed, wake up and down water with emergence C. If you don’t have to work, wake up and have a Bloody Mary ...

Q. Desert island. No rescue in sight. One bottle of wine. Label?

A. I’m a port guy, so Ferreira 20-year Tawny Port.

Here's the scoop on the French Quarter Wine Festival.

Opening reception: Friday, March 2 , 7 p.m., with a block party on Burgundy Street and in the courtyard Maison Dupuy Hotel. Entertainment by Rebirth Brass Band and Los Po-Boy-Citos, a séance lounge with tarot card readers, selections from Chef Farrell’s kitchen and more than 80 wine labels from around the globe. Tickets are $75 (plus tax and gratuity) here.

This year’s French Quarter Wine Festival, modeled after the Boston Wine Festival, will include 16 four-course wine dinners:

•    March 6: Opus One Winery Reception and Dinner ($155)

•    March 7: Page Wine Cellars Reception and Dinner ($110)

•    March 13: Patz & Hall Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    March 14: Derioush Reception and Dinner ($135)

•    March 20: Flowers Vineyard & Winery Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    March 21: Pio Cesare Reception and Dinner ($105)

•    March 27: S.A. Prum Winery Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    March 28: Benziger Family Winery Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    April 3: Château Musar Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    April 4: St. Supery Vineyards and Winery Reception and Dinner ($105)

•    April 10: Chimney Rock Winery Reception and Dinner ($105)

•    April 11: Simi Winery Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    April 17: Saintsbury Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    April 18: Elk Cove Vineyards Reception and Dinner ($95)

•    April 24: Frog’s Leap Winery Reception and Dinner ($105)

•    April 25: Viader Reception and Dinner ($135)

The festival will close with another grand reception on April 27.

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]