CINCINNATI -- Laissez-les bons temps rouler! Whether you observe Lent or not, the period leading up to it -- often called Mardi Gras (though that only refers to Fat Tuesday) -- is a fun time to eat, drink and be merry.
New Orleans, home of the world's largest Mardi Gras celebration, is awash in king cakes and Cajun and Creole food. If you can't get to New Orleans this year, here are some Greater Cincinnati places to enjoy a taste of Mardi Gras.
Cozy's Cafe: For me, making the trek north to Cozy Cafe, helmed by chef Dana Adkins, is worth every mile. This isn't "good food for the suburbs" -- this is food I'd be happy to eat anywhere. I'm very excited about Cozy Cafe’s Mardi Gras: Adkins will serve king cake and Hurricanes. For more information, see the event’s Facebook page. 6440 Cincinnati Dayton Road, Liberty Township. cozyscafeandpub.com
Mardi Gras on Madison: Mardi Gras on Madison will have a Mardi Gras party 6:30-9 p.m. Feb. 13, featuring a crawfish and shrimp boil, Cajun corn, Hurricanes, beer and wine. Tickets are $65; order them by emailing email@example.com. 1524 Madison Road, Walnut Hills.
Washington Platform: Washington Platform always has a flavor of New Orleans. Though there is no special Mardi Gras menu, you can get Creole and Cajun dishes, like Jampastalaya, a combination of jambalaya and a Cajun pasta, with blackened chicken and andouille sausage; Cajun-grilled snapper, Southern-fried oysters, oyster shooters and a variety of po' boys. 1000 Elm St., Downtown. washingtonplatform.com
Knotty Pine on the Bayou: One of the most notable restaurants in Northern Kentucky is Knotty Pine, which features Cajun and Creole cuisine every day. However, on Mardi Gras, be sure to get a reservation. Try oysters Bienville (a classic New Orleans-style dish), baked in the half-shell with Parmesan, or order favorites like red beans and rice, frog legs, fried alligator or fried oysters. 6302 Licking Pike, Cold Spring, Kentucky. theknottypineonthebayou.com
Allyn's: Allyn's, decorated in purple and green, is another place to get your Cajun fix anytime. Known for blackening just about anything (including gator), you also can get a solid gumbo, etouffee and Mardi Gras pasta, or just go for a Mardi dog: a hot dog covered in red beans and jambalaya. On Fat Tuesday, Allyn's will host a crawfish boil and Abita Brewing tap takeover. 3538 Columbia Parkway, Columbia Tusculum. allynscafe.com
BrewRiver GastroPub: BrewRiver will fly in live crawfish from New Orleans for a crawfish boil. The restaurant also will offer live boogie woogie jazz with the Ben Levin Duo, Sazeracs, Hurricanes, King Cake Beer from Brink Brewing and several rare beers from Abita Brewing. For more information, visit the Facebook event page. 2062 Riverside Drive, East End. brewrivergastropub.com
Taste of Belgium (multiple locations): For a Belgian twist on the French-Cajun celebration, all Taste of Belgium locations (The Banks, Over-the-Rhine, Clifton and Rookwood) feature shrimp and grits waffles. The waffles, made with grits, are topped with sauteed shrimp. King cakes also will be available at the Findlay Market location; call 513-381-3280 to reserve yours. authenticwaffle.com
Where else can you get a king cake?
Get a king cake for your Mardi Gras party at either of these locations. And remember: Whoever gets the baby buys next year's cake!
Servatii's (multiple locations): With king cakes available in three sizes, Servatii's can fulfill your Mardi Gras party needs, including beads and the tiny baby. servatii.com
Busken Bakery (multiple locations): Busken's king cake comes in four flavors (cinnamon, cream cheese, very berry and strawberry and cream cheese) and two sizes (quarter and half sheet, which you don't necessarily have to share). busken.com
Contact your favorite location of either of these two bakeries for availability and pricing.
Where do you get your Cajun fix? When was the last time you got the baby in a king cake? Tweet Julie at @winemedineme.