Extremism in defense of tastiness is no vice.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Leave it to politically minded Madison to focus more on the next leader of the free world than a holiday centered on eating, drinking, and decadence. Until one of the candidates voices his support for a 28th "Protect the Foie Gras" amendment, I'll be devoting my attention to king cake and beads.

So what's a celebrant to do? She could have gone to Crescent City Grill if it still existed. The solid creole restaurant that used to be underneath Luther's Blues? You know, Luther's? The place that's now a dance club? That would have been another good Mardi Gras spot. If it still existed.

Granted, Madison does has a few cajun and creole joints that miraculously remain extant, but you can probably do better at home. Remember that guy who wore a lot of white and liked to yell while cooking? His étouffée recipe is so good it will almost convince you he was a professional New Orleans chef before landing his TV gig.

If your kitchen comes equipped with a Frialator--or if you have far more patience in your sandwich prep than I do--there's that Louisiana favorite, the po' boy. If, on the other hand, you'd prefer to make a sandwich without the requisite drum of peanut oil (or view cooking oysters as the nefarious crime that it is), you can turn to that Central Grocery darling, the muffuletta.

In addition to the muffuletta round (or a round of Italian on which you've sprinkled sesame seeds), you'll need a quarter pound each of mortadella, ham, Genoa salami, Mozzarella, and Provolone, and a cup of that most elusive of muffuletta toppings, the olive salad. The subject of perennial mystery, the olive salad is the literal and metaphorical glue that holds this grande dame of Louisiana sandwiches together. But fear not. The Gumbo Pages claims to have the original, courtesy of New Orleans cook Chiqui Collier. (Be warned to bring extra revelers. Their recipe makes a stupid amount of the stuff.)

Of course, you're not compelled to cook at home. You can always try to woo passersby into exchanging gumbo for beads. Or you could head to Louisianne's, Etc. in Middleton, which is probably the second best bet for a more authentic night of pre-Lenten debauchery. They'll have costumes, solid French creole cuisine, and pianist John Chimes playing alongside the Natch'l Blues Band.

Downtown, offerings are slimmer, but the Great Dane is offering an all you can eat crawfish boil for $30. Doesn't sound terribly compelling? Lest your ancestors fear too much Gallic influence, they'll also be celebrating a beer fest at 8pm featuring the release of four seasonal Bocks.

We're still in Wisconsin, after all.

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