Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler is the battle cry of the revelers headed into the Lenten season, but while celebrating Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, many who are celebrating Mardi Gras, or visiting New Orleans, have food on the brain. Serious food. And there is no better place for a food celebration than New Orleans. If you are giving something delicious up for Lent, hopefully you got to indulge on Fat Tuesday.
One of the hallmarks of Mardi Gras is the classic king cake, which is the centerpiece of the holiday, according to WTOP. The colorful, sweet delicacy dates back to biblical times, and is now available at bakeries everywhere for the holiday. Originally, the cake was to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, when the three wise men visited Jesus on the 12th day after his birth (Twelfth Night). The cake is adorned in purple, green, and gold.
“Purple representing justice, green representing faith and the gold representing power,” explains David Guas, a New Orleans native and chef and owner of Bayou Bakery.
King Cake is the type of item you would bring to your office, or a friend’s house for a get together.
“Throughout that season, bakeries in New Orleans will make king cakes, and folks will buy them and bring them to the office or over to a friend’s house,” Guas says.
The Inquirer reports that another classic Mardi Gras food is red beans and rice and jambalaya, loaded with meat and seafood. Locals set up grills along the parade route with big pots of gumbo and other treats. Hearty hot and spicy food is the order of the day.
Last year’s James Beard Award winner for best chef in the south Alon Shaya is a Philadelphia transplant, now living and working in New Orleans said it took some time to learn the Mardi Gras traditions, as Mardi Gras meant working long hours to him.
“I popped out on Canal Street a few times and was just overwhelmed,” said the Harriton High grad. “A few years later, when I could take time off, I really fell in love with the traditions.”
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Now, Shaya and his wife Emily have traditions of their own for Mardi Gras, surrounding food of course.
“One of my favorite things about Mardi Gras is buying a hot sausage po’boy along the parade route around Basin Street in the Treme,” he said. “People are just grilling and selling sandwiches as you head to catch Zulu – that’s some of the best smoked meat you’re going to eat.”
A fan favorite is the traditional King Cake sprinkled with Mardi Gras colored sugar. pic.twitter.com/BZKMjoNV7z— The Ritz-Carlton (@RitzCarlton) February 1, 2016
The Brooklyn Paper says that Mardi Gras and New Orleans is known for “great eats and big beats.” The Mardi Gras party is not limited to the Big Easy, and cities like Brooklyn, another foodie haven, throw a serious celebration. Between a four day celebration at The Hall, followed by the “New Orleans Mardi Gras Crawfish Boil,” Mardi Gras has officially come to New York.
“With the food, music, and Mardi Gras decorations, it’s trying to bring some of that spirit to New York — nothing more, nothing less,” said Michael Psilakis, known for the modern Greek food served at his MP Taverna outposts.
Psilakis created a special menu inspired by traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras food.
“The goal is to create a platform for people to enjoy themselves and to reach a state of kefi — that’s a Greek word that means a state achieved in a somewhat utopian blend of music, friendship, alcohol, and food,” he said.
What is your favorite Mardi Gras treat?
[Photo by Cheryl Gerber/Getty Images]