[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/07/art.palin.0914.gi.jpg caption="Sarah Palin arrived in New Orleans on Thursday."]New Orleans (CNN) - Sarah Palin has kept a busy itinerary in recent weeks, but before delivering what many consider her most important speech of the year at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, she spared some time to savor the celebrated cuisine of the Big Easy.
The former Alaska governor arrived in New Orleans on Thursday evening and enjoyed a private dinner at Restaurant August, the flagship establishment of acclaimed New Orleans chef John Besh, according to an aide.
Besh, who has appeared on popular television series like Top Chef and Iron Chef America, welcomed the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee and a guest into a private dining room at his signature restaurant.
Palin shared a meal with Cathy Maples, a Huntsville, Alabama resident who bid $63,500 in an online auction last September to win a dinner with the governor. The proceeds of that auction went to Road2Recovery, a charity that assists wounded veterans. Besh donated the cost of the meal to the cause.
The chef, himself a former Marine, served several of the courses and shared stories of his service in the military, according to the aide. Palin and Besh also chatted about Hurricane Katrina's impact on the city - a topic that went unmentioned during the opening night of the SRLC on Thursday.
Palin is slated to address the nearly 4,000 GOP activists at the conference on Friday afternoon.