Fattening Tuesday


By Wendy Lemlin / Photos By Brevin Blach

It’s time to buy beads in bulk. February 12 is Mardi Gras, and you can get your New Orleans fix here in San Diego by savoring Louisiana cuisine, imbibing Big Easy-inspired beverages and partying in the streets of the Gaslamp in the largest Mardi Gras celebration on the West Coast.

This year’s Gaslamp Mardi Gras is headed in a more entertainment-oriented direction, says Gaslamp Quarter Association executive director Jimmy Parker.

“It’s not just about booze, boobs and beads,” he says, smiling, “but also celebrating a sense of community, with four diverse music stages and an eclectic variety of walk- around artists and musicians.”

At the Gator By the Bay stage, bands playing Louisiana zydeco, blues, Dixieland and swing will add authentic joie de vivre. In true New Orleans fashion, Euphoria Brass Band will lead a traditional Second Line Parade down Fifth Avenue.

Yes, beads will be thrown. No, you don’t have to flash anyone to get them. But we all know who gets tossed the biggest beads.

Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday,” referring to the custom of eating rich, fatty foods and making merry on the last day before Lent. So, fill ‘er up and laissez les bons temps rouler (“let the good times roll,” en Francais) at these Louisiana faves.

Bud’s Louisiana Café

in Kearny Mesa, New orleans native Bud Deslatte serves traditional Louisiana Creole fare. His Seafood Gumbo is the real deal, with a slow cooked dark roux and generous pieces of shrimp, crabmeat, crawfish, andouille sausage and okra swimming in the thick broth. The rich taste with a slightly spicy bite coordinates nicely with a chunk of zesty jalapen?o cornbread. Wash it all down with a glass of Abita or another Louisiana beer.
Bud’s Louisiana Café
4320 Viewridge Ave., Ste. A, Kearny Mesa

Saltbox at Palomar Hotel

Chef Simon Dolinky is throwing an inaugural Crawfish Boil at SummerSalt, Palomar Hotel’s rooftop lounge and pool deck. The February 10 all-you-can-eat affair will cost $20 and features a live brass band and Abita beer kegs.
1047 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest

Local Habit
Louisiana native chef Nick Brune crafts Cali-Creole cuisine at this Hillcrest eatery, fusing local ingredients and bayou inspiration. On February 9 and 10, Local Habit will be serving 500 pounds of crawfish in a flavorful, authentic boil. on-tap all weekend will be a special session IPA called “Sweet Tea,” created by Monkey Paw Brewery in East Village. On Fat Tuesday, the restaurant collaborates with Monkey Paw for a six-course Brewmaster’s dinner, pairing such delicacies as alligator meatballs and venison roast with unique brews.
Local Habit
3827 Fifth Ave., Hillcrest

New Orleans Creole Cafe
On the grounds of the Whaley House in Old Town sit two historic cabins that house the intimate café owned by New Orleans transplant Mark Bihm and partner Humberto Villegas. The menu features recipes handed down through seven generations of Bihm’s Louisiana family. The specialty of the house is the Crawfish etouffee, a labor-intensive, slow-cooked stew served over rice. The dish is rich with nuances of the savory “trinity” (green pepper, onion and celery), a traditional light roux, succulent crawfish meat and seasonings.
New Orleans Creole Cafe
2476 San Diego Ave., Ste. A, Old Town

The Original Sand Crab Tavern
The French Quarter is alive in Escondido, particularly in the taste of Sand Crab Tavern owner Rick Covert’s voodoo shrimp, a recipe he adapted from a New Orleans favorite. These heads-on, peel-and-eat jumbo Gulf shrimp are saute?ed and then broiled in a garlicky, herb- and-spice-laden butter sauce and served with French bread to soak up all the goodness. On Mardi Gras, customers can gorge amid a lively musical backdrop of live New Orleans blues.
The Original Sand Crab Tavern
2229 Micro Pl., Escondido

Other Mardi Gras menu selections

C Level Lounge chef Deborah Scott’s crispy shrimp po’boy conjures up the bayou with four huge battered shrimp topped with a tangy cabbage chow (pickled in malt vinegar) and stuffed in a toasted French bun.

Gaslamp newcomer The Commons will present a Boeuf Gras mac ‘n’ cheese with smoked Gouda and andouille sausage.

In La Jolla, Beaumont’s Eatery offers a take on the classic Shrimp ‘n’ Grits, starring prawns and locally milled grits with shredded kale.

C Level
880 Harbor Island Dr., Harbor Island

The Commons Bar
901 Fourth Ave, Gaslamp

Beaumont’s Eatery

5662 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla

Altar Your Mind

For more fun than you ever imagined you could have in church, start off Mardi Gras evening at the Zydeco Mass at st. Paul’s episcopal Cathedral in Hillcrest. The 5:30 p.m. service features dancing in the aisles to a live band, and even the priests are festooned with Mardi Gras beads. if you want to stay for the Cajun dinner afterwards, make reservations in advance.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral
2728 Sixth Ave., Hillcrest

Mardi Gras Trivia

-- Mardi Gras season officially begins on Epiphany (Three Kings Day), January 6.

-- The first Mardi Gras celebration in America was held in Mobile, Alabama, in 1703.

-- The first official Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans in 1856.