Just the name Mardi Gras conjures up images of drunken, bead-wearing revelers dancing through the streets of New Orleans, but that’s not all this mid-winter party is about. It’s also about the FOOD, baby!
First, a little history. Mardi Gras, the annual fun-filled celebration of New Orleans fame, commemorates the final days before Lent. The term Mardi Gras literally translates from French to “Fat Tuesday,” and is the day before Ash Wednesday. This long-standing European tradition (also known as “Carnival”) was brought to Louisiana by the French in the late 1600s and is celebrated in locations all over the world. The word Carnival comes from the Latin words “carne vale,” meaning “farewell to the flesh,” which makes me wonder if that’s why certain ladies are so prone to showing more flashes of flesh in exchange for beads during this time. Hmmm? Moving on . . .
Since New Orleans is famous for Cajun and Creole foods, it is the go-to for Mardi Gras celebrations. These rich foods give a whole new meaning to “Fat” Tuesday.
Here’s a guide to some popular Mardi Gras foods:
Crawfish: A staple of Louisiana cooking. When done as a “crawfish boil” these little guys are boiled in a large pot with heavy seasonings and potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic, mushrooms and sausage.
Jambalaya: A dish created from a rich stock of vegetables, meat, and seafood. Raw rice is then added to the broth and the flavor is absorbed by the grains as the rice cooks.
Gumbo: Consists primarily of a strong stock, meat and/or shellfish, a thickener, and the “holy trinity” (celery, bell peppers and onions). The key ingredient is okra (the dish takes its name from the African name for okra) and it is served OVER the rice.
Etouffee: Very similar to a gumbo but commonly made of seafood (usually just one type at a time like crawfish, whereas gumbos contain various meats). Also served OVER rice.
Dirty rice: White rice cooked with small pieces of chicken livers or giblets which give it a dark (“dirty”) color and a mild but distinctive flavor.
Red Beans and Rice: A dish that was traditionally made on Mondays with red beans, the “holy trinity”, spices and pork bones left from Sunday night dinner, cooked slowly and served over rice. Other meats like ham or sausage are often added as well.
Shrimp Creole: Consists of cooked shrimp in a mixture of whole or diced tomatoes, the “holy trinity” spiced with a hot pepper sauce, and served over rice.
Po’ boy: A submarine sandwich consisting of meat or seafood (usually fried) and served on a baguette-style bread.
Beignets: A French word for fried dough sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar – basically a doughnut. Savory versions of beignets are also popular and are filled with crawfish or shrimp.
Bananas Foster: One of my favorite desserts, made of bananas cooked in a sauce made from butter, brown sugar and alcohol. If you’re in a fancy place you may get a tableside flambe of this dessert before it’s served over ice cream. Yum!
King Cake: A ring of twisted bread similar to brioche, topped with icing or sugar which is usually colored purple, green, and gold (the traditional Mardi Gras colors).
Chester County is home to lots of places where you can try all of these foods and so many more.
So go on and, as they say in New Orleans, “Laissez le bon temps rouler”… Let the good times roll!
Daddy Mims’ Creole BYOBwww.daddymims.com
They are hosting their Annual Mardi Gras Party on Tues, February 16th with a belly-busting assortment of traditional treats.
A Cocktail Hour from 6 – 8 PM
Includes complimentary Hurricanes, beer, beads, and favors. Hors D’Oeuvres Menu includes Oyster Po-Boys, Boiled Spicy Shrimp, BBQ Ribs, and Crispy Artichoke Bouillettes
Family Style Dinner at 8 PM
Menu: Seafood Gumbo, Mardi Gras Salad, Cochon de Lait (Cajun Roasted Pig), Shrimp Crawfish Etouffee, Roasted Vegetable Jambalaya, Creole Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Dessert: Beignets and Cafe Au Lait
$75.00 per person – Tax and Gratuity Included
The High Street Caffe322 S. High Street West Chester (610) 696-7435 www.highstreetcaffe.com
Get your grub on with high-end Cajun, Creole and exotic cuisine. Indulge in great seafood and pasta selections. Celebrations on Fat Tuesday include $5.00 Hurricanes and $3 Louisiana beers, drink specials and beads!
Crawdaddy’s Bayou Bar and Grill1215 West Chester Pike West Chester (610) 918-9525 www.crawdaddysbarandgrill.com
Join the party on Fat Tuesday with great drink and food specials including a live Crawfish Boil, half price Crawfish Bisque, all-you-can-eat Jambalaya, $5 Hurricanes, $2.50 Abita beers and lots of giveaways. Reservations recommended!
The Big Easy SaloonNew Orleans Style Restaurant and Bar 128 Paoli Pike 610-296-9166
Celebrate with $5.00 Hurricanes, $4 SoCo and limes, $3.00 New Orleans beer and $5 SoCo Hurricanes. Festivities include food specials and “the biggest beads in Chester County!” Come see for yourself. Happy Hour ALL DAY.
Magnolia Grill(Inside the Chester County Book and Music Co.) 975 Paoli Pike West Goshen Center West Chester 610-696-1661 www.ccbmc.com/magnolia.asp
This cozy gem is a perfect spot to get your Cajun fix for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Lots of delicious home-made food specials available on Fat Tuesday. Pick up a Cajun cookbook in the bookstore while you’re there to keep the celebrations going at home.