Reno Mardi Gras 2012

Mar 6th, 2012
By Clint Jolly

I had the pleasure of wine-ing and dining with Reno’s best at the Reno Rotary Club’s annual Mardi Gras event this year. Over the years I’ve been to many of these types of food and wine events, sometimes as an attendee, sometimes as a vendor and even a few times as a judge. This year I had the pleasure of attending just to write about it for all of you. Not a bad deal right?!?!

The Crowd

The Rotary always draws a great crowd of locals at their events so I knew before going in that the group would be an enjoyable one. A good mix of local business folks, politicians and media folks mixed into the crowd gives everyone the chance to say “Oh, there’s so and so”. The coolest part about this event is that they encourage folks to dress up in themed attire and they had a decent amount of folks all in with their garb.

Of course, I failed in that department and forgot about the costume until it was too late to put something together. Luckily, they told me that they are working on masks for the first group to arrive next year so more folks can take part in the theme.

The Wine

A good mix of wineries from around the world with a lean towards California bottles lined the Reno Ball Room. Debby from L’uva Bella Wine Gallery handled the organizing of the wines so you know that there was some expert thought put into the offerings. Most tables had at least a few choices and some as many as 8 or so varietals and/or labels. In total, close to 100 wines were available for tasting. It was almost too much to take in as I started out by sipping on every selection at the first table. I quickly realized that I couldn’t continue that way so tried to be a bit more selective from then out.

I enjoy tasting events like this for the fact that it makes it easy to try a good amount of wines in one night. The downside is that it can be hard to take your time with each one to really feel it out. My suggestion is to note down the bottles that you like best at first impression so you can revisit them again when time allows. As always I enjoyed the wines from Nevada City Winery, Hahn and Duckhorn. All of which are in the go to list for me when I need to make a quick selection. Some of the new discoveries for me were a tasty Prosecco from Rialto and Neyers Syrah.

Because of the number of folks needed to pour all of the wines, not every one knew the details about the wines they were serving. Luckily, a sales rep, broker and even a few winemakers were a few steps away to answer questions. As I said earlier though, it’s tough to spend much time on each wine as the crowd is always forming a line behind you to grab their taste. Luckily the room was setup well for the night and avoided too many bottlenecks.

The Food

I know, that’s why you’re reading……

There was a good handful of restaurants and caterers manning booths for the event. From casinos to independents there was good representation from around the area. That also meant that there was quite a variety of food to be had. Everything from a great roasted pork loin with cherry sauce from Chef Jeff Galick of Harrah’s Steakhouse to Middle Eastern fare from Chef Maurice at Naan and Kabab was served up in (usually) manageable bites.

Silver Peak, Cherry Bomb Catering and The Gas Lamp all came to the table with some themed offerings that stood out. Gumbo, beignets and blackened shrimp, respectively. All were tasty, fit the theme and were easy to eat with a wine glass and notebook in my hand.

The real stand out dish for me was the play on jumbalaya from Chef Shakka Moore with The Grove in Reno. He made a seafood mousse, stuffed it into a calamari tube and dressed it with an andouille infused sauce. Yummy, different and just the right size. As a chef I enjoy seeing someone take a bit of time to create something unique and memorable for these types of events. Personally, I hope that I see more of that at this event next year. Mardi Gras give us so many options to play with food wise!

Why Go?

The Rotary Club is planning on hosting this event again next year. I chatted with one of the young ladyies behind the planning and she was already excited about the new things in store for next year’s event. But, more importantly, the Rotary Club of Reno does a ton of good deeds for our local economy and students. It’s events like this that allow them to help us all out. Besides, who wouldn’t want to tip a glass with a great group of Renoites?




Chef Clint Jolly is a Reno native who has spent most his life in the search of great food. The owner of Great Thyme Catering is happy to see a food revolution taking place in Reno and northern Nevada. You can read more from Clint on his personal blog

  • Jacques

    Bravo Clint ! Excellent description, I felt as though I was there with all the crowd. This is the first time I miss this event because of surgery

    Kudos to my good friend Kirk for his usual unfailing brain waves !!

    Sincerely, Jacques.

  • Michelle Nichols

    Thanks for the thoughtful write up. You didn’t just say “it was good.” Rather, you evaluated each aspect of the event. I like how you lifted up the special dish by Chef Shakka Moore. I got a chance to chat with you and you were a delight in person too. I’m glad you took my advice and tried the cherry sauce over the port from Harrah’s. Yum! ‘Hope to see you next year!