While Mardi Gras is on our minds, we can't help but look ahead to one of the nation's most incredible culinary events. On March 18 through 22, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience is back and attracting thousands of gourmands, connoisseurs, artists, and music lovers. 

Hundreds of wineries and restaurants participate each year, and over 1,000 wines from around the world will be featured throughout the weekend. The event is celebrating 28 years and while it continues to grow, the intimate opportunities for mingling with the best in the business are still alive and well. 

With several events happening throughout the weekend, there are several ticket options to consider. The basic "Tasting Package" is $340, while the "Diamond VIP Package" is $2,700. Tickets to events like labs, wine dinners, and other events are available as one-offs. Some notable events include Triple T: Tacos, Tequila, and Tabasco featuring Chef Akhtar Nawab of Otra Vez and the French Quarter Cellar Strut, which is a lively tour around the quarter where guests will have an "unprecedented look" into some of New Orleans' most impressive cellars.

While the experience is still months away, the organization is kicking things off this January with the Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Award being presented to John Folse on January 29. The award recognizes one individual each year that has made "a lifetime commitment to the hospitality industry through extraordinary leadership, personal and professional accomplishments and philanthropic contributions to the community." The VIP reception will take place at the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. Tickets can be purchased here.