Did Mardi Gras sneak up on anyone else this year???? I feel like it was Groundhog Day just yesterday and now Fat Tuesday is right around the corner! There are lots of places to celebrate this weekend with the stereotypical raucous parades and more family friendly activities. You can also host your own Mardi Gras party if you’d rather buy your own beads and stay in. What I love about Mardi Gras parties is that they’re so adaptable. You can have everyone dress up and turn it into a costume party or make it more come as you are and laid back.
For decorations, have some fun draping beads around, and have boas and masks available for anyone who wants to wear them. The Dollar Store has tons of cute decorations right now. For tableware, find plates and napkins that are purple, green, or gold, and you’ve got yourself a party. It’s fun and simple so you’ll get to have some fun along with your guests!
Now for the food, which we all know is the most important part. Although New Orleans doesn’t have the rights to Mardi Gras, most of us think of their infamous parties when we think of the holiday, so New Orleans themed food is a great bet, whether you’re cooking it yourself or ordering catering. Here are my picks for scrumptious snacks and perfect pairings:
- Grilled oysters on the half shell- Muscadet
- Gumbo- Proper gumbo takes a lot of prep work, especially if you make your own roux. However, if you’re not trying to win a gumbo making contest, you can always take a few shortcuts and still have an amazing dish. Either way, serve the gumbo with a semi-sweet or off-dry white if you make it a little on the spicy side or with a lighter bodied red if there’s not too much heat.
- Jambalaya- Who doesn’t like jambalaya? You can put basically any meat you want in there, and as long as there’s okra I’m a happy camper! Since it’s traditionally made spicy, I definitely recommend a high acid, off-dry wine like a Riesling to help cut threw some of the fat from the meat and take the heat off.
- Hush puppies- The biggest rude awakening I had when I moved to Indiana from Texas (aside from the whole needing an ice scraper thing) was when I mentioned hush puppies to someone and they looked at me like I was nuts. I thought everyone ate hush puppies! They’re really the perfect accompaniment to any dish, especially fried fish. Since they’re so simple, I usually base my wine pairing on the main course rather than the hush puppies, but you could always let them be the stars by pairing them with a full-bodied white or any kind of red.
- Po’boys- There was a restaurant in Pearland that just recently closed that we went to occasionally that had po’boys. They had coke bottles with candles melting down their sides and checkered tablecloths, and I used to get the Italian po’boy. I don’t remember specifically what was in it but I do remember feeling so happy when we were there. Even though I got an Italian po’boy, po’boys were actually born in New Orleans, possibly by the Martin brothers who created it to serve the unemployed workers during the streetcar strike in 1929. You can get a variety of fillings in a po’boy today and could easily do a make your own po’boy party. Depending on the fillings, you could easily serve any dry white or even a light bodied red.
- Beignets- Mmmmmm….beignets….Some might say these should be served for breakfast, others might say you shouldn’t have two desserts. I say if it’s good you need it on your plate! The deep-fried, pillowy nuggets of goodness are well worth the indulgence. Serve them with a semi-sweet or sweet white wine for true sugar overload.
- King cake- Obviously you have to serve king cake for dessert. Not only is it tradition, it’s delicious!!! They’re not terribly hard to make (check out my post from a few years ago when I made one) but also very readily available at this time of year. Make sure to insert a coin or plastic baby after you bake it- as the tradition goes, whoever gets the prize gets to host next year’s party! You can easily serve king cake with a semi-sweet or sweet wine, I love the idea of serving it with something sparkling. It’s the perfect way to cap off the evening!
And there it is: everything you need to throw a tantalizingly tasty Mardi Gras celebration!