Mardi Gras is more than colored beads and a crazy parade in New Orleans.
It’s Fat Tuesday, kickoff to Lent, when all the soon-to-be-forbidden goodies are banished from the kitchen and used up in a frenzy of butter, sugar and eggs.
Thus, we have King Cake, the delicious concoction with all of the above plus a plastic baby hidden inside (that’s how you decide who buys next year’s cake), icing sprinkled with colored sugar (gold for power, purple for justice and green for faith), and occasionally a tasty filling like cream cheese or praline.
But woman does not live by King Cake alone! That’s why there’s Paczki, a rich, filled Polish donut that appears but once a year: Mardi Gras.
So in honor of Fat Tuesday, live large. Drink a Hurricane, eat red beans and rice and gumbo, and listen to Zydeco music. And we know just where to go to get you what you need!
King Cakes, Paczki and More
Bennison’s Bakery (Evanston)
King Cake, complete with baby and festive Mardi Gras beads, plain, praline, raspberry, apple or cream cheese, $10.98; Paczki, $1.28 each
Deerfield’s Bakery (Buffalo Grove, Deerfield and Schaumburg)
King Cake, $9.49; Mardi Gras deco cookies, crown, mask or t-shirt with beads, $2.49-3.69
Fresh Market (Wilmette, Lake Forest)
King Cake, includes beads and baby, cinnamon or cream cheese; $7.99
Sunset Foods (Highland Park, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Long Grove, Northbrook)
King Cakes will be available; no details or prices available at press time.
Three Tarts Bakery and Café (Northfield)
King Cake with almond filling and baby, $9.95; Mardi Gras Mask cake, 6” yellow cake and praline filling decorated for Carnival, $18.95; MG Mask Cookies, $2.95 each; Louisiana Gumbo, $3.75 for 6 oz. and $8.95 per qt.
NOLA on the North Shore – Where to Eat
Big Jones (Chicago)
What a way to go! Order Shrimp and Oyster Gumbo, Crawfish Etoufee and Peacemakers (Fried Oysters on a French loaf with Remoulade Slaw); top it off with a White Sazerac for a dose of real New Orleans.
Bluegrass (Highland Park)
The classic Hurricane is the drink of choice. You can use it to wash down the Jambalaya, Fried Alligator, Nawlins’ Sweet and Spicy Shrimp and Po’Boys.
Davis St. Fishmarket (Evanston)
Fat Tuesday is big here, with fresh-shucked oysters, Po’Boys, Maquechoux, Red Beans & Rice and other N’awlins favorites.
Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop (Evanston)
Their Johnnycakes, Shrimp Creole, Hoppin’ John, and chicken, shrimp and andouille-laden Gumbo are delish. Grab an Abita Microbrew or a Cajun Martini and set a spell.
The Muffaletta sandwich, available only at lunch and at the to-go counter, is reason enough to visit.
Mardi Gras Family Entertainment
Kiddie Gras, a family Mardi Gras event, will feature live music from Cajun band The Midway Ramblers, along with themed games and an optional NOLA-style dinner. Glenview Event Center, 2400 Chestnut Avenue, Glenview, 847-724-5670. $6 residents, $7.50 non-residents.