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National Restaurant Association - On Mardi Gras, be a New Orleanian, where ever you are

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On Mardi Gras, be a New Orleanian, where ever you are

From King Cakes to beignets to red beans and rice, restaurants throughout the country are serving up a taste of New Orleans.

New Orleans has become the city most associated with Mardi Gras in the United States, although Mobile, Ala., where krewes toss branded Moon Pies from floats, boasts the country’s first American Carnival celebration.

Traditionally, Mardi Gras was family-oriented, with most food made at home. People go from party to party, especially along parade routes, so Mardi Gras foods were things you can serve to a crowd: jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice. That goes for other Southern fare, such as fried chicken and potato salad, says Liz Williams, director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans.

“These are the things we have all the time, but Mardi Gras emphasizes the idea of sharing,” she says.

Today, Mardi Gras has become a dine out occasion, Williams says. In New Orleans, caterers and restaurants offer Mardi Gras packages for those who don’t have time to do all that cooking, especially four or five nights in a row.

Outside of New Orleans, the city's expats come together through crawfish boils, alumni association gatherings and in restaurants. “They understand what New Orleans means at this time of year, and they bring in other people who get indoctrinated. It’s always a good time.”

In the Nation’s Capital, Chef David Guas offers Louisiana fare year-round at Bayou Bakery Coffee Shop & Eatery. “The further you get from New Orleans on Mardi Gras, the more it’s on people’s radar. They think of beignets, pralines, King Cake and non-sweet items.”  

For Guas, the muffuletta is the perfect parade sandwich: stable lunch meat with olive paste that can pre-bought or pre-made. Another party favorite is Peppaweenies, hot dogs boiled in water with a few drops of liquid crab boil flavoring and served with creole mustard. You’ll find the sandwiches on the New Orleans native's Mardi Gras catering menu, but not the hot dogs.

He encourages non-New Orleanians to get in the Mardi Gras spirit by trying a Louisiana restaurant or cookbook.

“Find a place that does quality, Louisiana fare, and get in the spirt by supporting them Friday all the way through Tuesday,” Guas says. “Get festive, put a purple shirt on. Download a recipe and try to make something at home. Then come to the restaurant after you burn your roux.”

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