Wine and cheese are a favorite combination around the world. In any major city, people enjoy sitting down with a glass of wine (red has always been my preference!) and a selection of cheeses and warm breads. I recently visited a wine shop cleverly christened Swirl for a casual meeting to discuss casual topics such as future life/career plans. Located in Mid City off of Esplanade Avenue, it is a short walk from my home. Swirl offers a selection of delicious wines and cheeses. The smell of freshly baked bread is enough to lure you in. They also have free wine tastings on Friday evenings! My first visit to Swirl brought back immediate nostalgia for the many evenings and hours spent at another New Orleans favorite, Bacchanal.
At the edge of the city in the Bywater, the drive to Bacchanal may be…well, sketchy, but once you’re there, it is as if you’ve stepped out of the real world and into a magical haze. The sounds of clinking glasses, humming conversations, light laughter, and slinky jazz greet you as walk to the front of the shop. The small wine store is housed in a 200-year-old building and contains innumerable bottles of reds, whites, and roses. You can choose a few cheeses which the staff will prepare for you with bread and olives. As amazing as this already may sound, once you step out into the spacious courtyard of the store, the real fun begins. There are mismatched tables and chairs, a makeshift stage for live performers who play soothing music that pairs perfectly with the feeling that several glasses of wine give you, and strings of lights creating both a romantic and friendly atmosphere. There’s a featured chef each week who cooks up some of the most amazing, gourmet style meals that are served up on paper plates (although now I think they have moved “up” to real dinnerware). Before the music license fiasco, the meals were grilled outside; afterwards, a new kitchen was opened to keep the exquisite food flowing. Memories from many evenings here will long stay with me and all who frequent this gem.