By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL – Slidell’s historic beginnings will be the focus of the first annual “Taste of Olde Towne” five-day event that debuts next Wednesday, Oct. 25 and continues through Sunday, Oct. 29.
And organizers behind the event are hoping it adds to the momentum beginning to show itself in Olde Towne now that more new businesses are opening there.
“A Taste of Olde Towne” is patterned after “A Taste of Covington” that began six years ago on the western side of the parish and has grown every year, now bringing thousands to that city each year in the spring when the event is held.
Slidell joins the party with its own “Taste of Olde Towne” that begins on Wednesday with a “Farm to Table” wine dinner right in the 2200 block of Carey Street, offering a five-star dinner prepared by five local chefs.
Thursday is a four-course meal with wine pairings at four local restaurants; the Grand Tasting wine get-together will be held on Friday at the East St. Tammany Chamber office; Saturday features a premium wine tasting at the Wine Garden in Olde Towne; and Sunday concludes the event with a Champagne Jazz Brunch at Chateau Bleu.
Tickets for all the events have been selling steadily and organizers suggested not waiting until the last minute to purchase them since there are limits on all events. Tickets for all of the dinners and wine tastings are available online at atasteofoldetowne.com.
The event is sponsored by the Olde Towne Slidell Main Street group, headed by Sharon DeLong, and has a two-fold purpose: to raise awareness and feature businesses in Olde Towne, and raise money for over 60 historic street signs to begin a new re-branding of the Slidell historic center.
Restaurant Cote owner and head chef Jeremy Reilly, who recently celebrated four years on Carey Street, said he truly sees a revitalization in Olde Towne that is being sparked by new, young business people opening up.
“That’s really what I’m seeing—new business people, a lot of them young, who have committed to Olde Towne,” he said. “I’m excited about what is finally happening in Olde Towne and am super optimistic about this area of Slidell really growing to something special.”
DeLong, director of Slidell Main Street, said “A Taste of Covington” director Cliff Bergeron came to the Chamber three years ago with the idea of “A Taste of Olde Towne.” But with so many events already on their schedule it was suggested Main Street might use it as a fundraiser.
“It took three years but we are ready to go with our first one,” DeLong said. “We saw it as a great event from the beginning, however, something this big takes some time to put together. But since we started going out and promoting it we have had a great response and a lot of excitement about it. I know I’m excited to see how this helps build our new brand.”
Speaking of branding Olde Towne, DeLong did not shy aware from acknowledging the struggles the area has had in becoming something as special as other neighboring historic districts. But she agreed with Reilly that she sees something new brewing with the younger business owners.
“I see Olde Towne livening up and I think it’s from a lot of new, younger business owners coming in,” she said. “They have fresh ideas and new perspectives.”
Business owners in Olde Towne began something called the Carey Street Crawl that is held the first Friday of January through April, then September through December. Reilly was one of the organizers and said they have had great crowds every time they hold the event that features a live band on the street, plus over 30 vendors.
As for new ideas, business owners and DeLong met and came up with the plan to add the special historic street signs.
“It gives us a new image and will better identify the area,” DeLong said.
The areas to get the new signs will be Robert Street to Maine Street, and Front Street to Third Street.
Bergeron believes “A Taste of Olde Towne” can be one of the building blocks for Slidell to bring new attention to their historic district, just as it did for Covington.
“This event has become such a big hit in Covington and is wonderful exposure for the restaurants and local shops from all the people who come to town,” Bergeron said. “It’s an economic development boost for the city and we are happy that we now have it coming to Slidell.”
Slidell will debut a first-ever specialty outing with A Taste of Olde Towne when they begin the five days with a Wednesday night “farm to table” wine dinner scheduled for the 2200 block of Carey Street.
Limited to 100 seats, five of the best local chefs will prepare a five-course dinner of local, farm fresh ingredients offered while diners sip on specially selected wines and beers. Cost is $100 for an all-inclusive evening that begins at 6 p.m with live music will be provided by the Adam Brock Trio with the menu released six weeks before the dinner.
On Thursday, four specially prepared Vintner Dinners—offering specially selected wines for each course—will be offered at Chateau Bleu, Michael’s Restaurant, Restaurant Cote and Southern Char Steakhouse. Cost is $80 per person for the all-inclusive meals. Cost is $80 per person with the menus available in the coming weeks.
On Friday at 7 p.m., the Grand Tasting with live music will be held at the East St. Tammany Chamber building and parking lot located at 1808 Front Street. One of the most popular events in Covington that has drawn nearly 400 people a year, Slidell mayoral candidate Bruce Clement is the sponsor for the Slidell inaugural event that will feature 40 wines, live music, light bites and a signature wine glass under the big tent at the Chamber offices. Cost is $40 per person and tickets are expected to go quickly.
A premium wine tasting will be held on Saturday from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Wine Garden, located at 300 Robert Street, where fine wines will be offered with hors d’oeuvres, along with live music. A signature wine glass goes to those in attendance, with a maximum of 100 tickets sold for $50 per person.
On Sunday, A Taste of Olde Towne wraps up with the Champagne Jazz Brunch at Chateau Bleu on West Hall Avenue. Cost is $40 per person for a buffet style brunch, champagne, mimosas and music by Steppin’ Up. Seating begins at 10:30 a.m
To purchase tickets for any of the events, go online to atasteofoldetowne.com.