Mardi Gras is a wonderful time to get inspired and sample some decadent foods that we don’t often see in the Pacific Northwest.
French for “Fat Tuesday,” the carnival culminates on Feb. 25 this year, the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of the fasting season of Lent. Parades and parties (and food!) take center stage until lent, which ends April 11. These traditions are observed by many religions. New Orleans, with its strong Catholic roots, amazing music and food, is the de facto epicenter of Mardi Gras.
We’re Baking King Cakes for Mardi Gras
But back to the food. The illustrious, colorful King Cake is one of New Orleans’ most signature Mardi Gras foods and has a tradition that goes back nearly a millennium to at least the early 1700s.
A king cake is a sweet, cinnamony cake with a European tradition dating back to the 12th century that celebrates the three wise men in the 12 days after Christmas in what’s called the “Feast of the Epiphany,” or King’s Day. A bean, pea, or coin was hidden inside the cake in the early days. The person who got the piece with the hidden trinket was declared king for the day or was said to have good luck for the coming year. Nowadays, Mardi Gras enthusiasts bake a tiny plastic “baby Jesus” doll inside (we’ve left the baby on the outside ‘cause we don’t want anybody choking).
Our Bakery in Central Market Poulsbo began crafting this old-school, Danish-dough dessert about three years ago, and we’ve had lots of great feedback from Southern transplants who say it’s pretty close to what they had back home. We love taking part in this good luck tradition, but these delicious, hand-made cakes (thank you, Holly!) will only be available until Feb. 25. Get a taste of Mardi Gras tradition while you can.
Cajun-Style Menu Crafted for our Delis
Our Cajun Cuisine Menu is rolling out and it’s a great opportunity to explore the Spanish- and French-inspired flavors of New Orleans in the quick and easy buffet style of our Deli. Gumbo on the go? No problem.
For the last few years, our Culinary team has been refining and tinkering with this menu to create real Southern-style flavors and authentic recipes, including shrimp jambalaya, red beans and rice, chicken gumbo, fried catfish and muffuletta sandwiches — a 1906, New Orleans original! Plus, we’ll have a few veggie-friendly dishes and so much more.
“We asked ourselves, ‘What does it mean to be authentic?’” says Kurt Strep, our Kitchen Specialist. “’How should we cook the shrimp in our jambalaya? What’s the exact right rice to use in our dirty rice recipe?’ Questions like that. I think we did it right.”
Obviously, he’s a big fan of everything on the menu — he helped create it. But he believes, with all the smoked sausage and savory, tender rice and veggies, the jambalaya is the “rock star” of the menu, and uniquely Cajun. “With those flavors and all the shrimp and ham, it’s really the heart of the menu. Of course, the catfish po’ boys are really fantastic, too. It’s so hard to choose.”
The menu is so overflowing with food that some of our markets can’t carry it all! So be sure to check in to your local Town & Country or Central Market Deli and explore their unique lineup. Experience some Cajun flavor on the go!
DIY Mardi Gras? We’ve Got Recipes for That
If you’re looking to cook your own Cajun-style foods, check out some of our recipes, too.
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
Ferndale Farmstead Smoked Provolone: This smoked provolone is true farm-to-table cheese. Ferndale Farmstead likes to say “seed to cheese” because they grow the crops that feed the cows that make the milk that is the base for this truly hand-crafted Italian style cheese (whew)!
Family-owned right here in the Pacific Northwest, this mild, naturally smoked provolone is ideal for sandwich making, cubing for pasta salads or melting into casseroles. You can’t get more local, more authentic provolone and the natural smoke is a bonus for those smoky cheese lovers out there.
Chris Allen is a copywriter and assistant marketer with Town & Country Markets. He’s a former contributing editor, radio anchor and producer, and an Air Force veteran. He’s also mastered the art of chopping red onions with one hand while sipping a dry Tempranillo in the other.