All hail Rex, or Bacchus, or whatever scheduling entity has thrown single people the ultimate bone this year by situating That-Saint-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s Day squarely mid-week, and just ahead of it, a festival for the relationship-challenged among us, Mardi Gras.
Even if you are amorously paired, what sounds more fun anyway—choking down your significant other’s once-yearly attempt at surf and turf in the dim candlelight of your studio apartment kitchen, or celebrating your love for humankind in a broader sense by letting the good times roll with a Cajun-inspired feast? Bead throwing? Optional. Hurricane drinking? Mandatory.
So you know what you have to do. Inoculate yourself against excessive displays of romance and assemble the goods for a Bacchanalian (but classy) affair to remember that will have even your most infatuated friends lacking in V-day energy for anything more than Netflix and chill.
Step 1: Set the Scene
I don’t recommend staging a full-out parade in your living room, but if it evolves or devolves into that naturally (see Hurricane Punch, below,) that’s your business. A few colorful and clever flourishes are all it takes to establish a festive, irreverent atmosphere evocative of the Big Easy.
French Quarter Street Signs
Delineate different party zones with these French Quarter street signs. Only you will know why one room or another got designated as Bourbon Street…
I mean, you gotta have them. It’s Mardi Gras. But you can flip the script on predictable party antics by encouraging their distribution as rewards for exceptional behavior such as attention to costume detail, service to the host, acts of chivalry, or impeccable storytelling. Or you can just scatter them around the place and whatever happens, happens.
In the pre-electricity era of Mardi Gras, flambeaux (i.e. torches) were carried alongside the parades so that revelers could see the spectacle. Over time, they became part of the spectacle, as torch-carriers eventually turned a matter of practicality into a matter of performance. These tabletop torch candles add an element of nostalgia to the atmosphere with less threat of setting off your smoke alarm. Or if you really don’t trust your friends, try these adorable battery-powered torches.
Along with your party invite, send a link to these elegant (read: sexy) lace masks to let your invitees know you are not kidding around thematically.
Half the tunes have “blues” in their title, but the vibe from this collection of vibrant, brass-driven jazz bands is anything but. Plus the other half of the songs have cheekier titles like “Climax Rag,” “Snag It,” and “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate,” so you know it’s bound to be a good time. Get the playlist here.
Step 2: Feed the Crowd
Let’s be honest, you’re mostly in this to show off your culinary skills, and even if you would never admit it out loud, you secretly hope it might score you a valentine for next year. But you never heard that from me. (What do you mean it’s in writing?) Anyway, New Orleans is abundant with Southern, Creole, and Cajun dishes that are easily adaptable for a cocktail party.
Let’s begin, as all memorable festivities do, with a libation to get those good times rolling as quickly as humanly possible. As un-fussy as cocktails get, basically a vehicle for rum and fruit juice, (not this year, scurvy!) the Hurricane begs to be served in punch form. Keep it authentic with the appropriate elongated tulip-shaped glassware. Get the recipe.
Mini Muffaletta Bites
Not to be overshadowed by the French Creole population, the Italian immigrant community in New Orleans mightily staked its culinary claim by putting forth the biggest, baddest sandwich: the muffaletta. Stacked with charcuterie, provolone, and a spicy olive salad, this miniature version does the original from Central Grocery credit. Get the recipe.
A fried pork and rice ball with Cajun attitude. Now that’s a spicy meatball that will have your guests returning to the punch bowl for reprieve. Get our Boudin Balls recipe.
Po’ Boy Sliders
You can fry the shrimp earlier in the day and warm them up just ahead of assembly for easy party time management. In contrast to the ostentatious muffaletta, the magic of the po’ boy is in its fresh simplicity. Have a bottle of traditional Louisiana hot sauce nearby for maximum authenticity. Get the recipe.
Jambalaya Stuffed Mushrooms
Here’s an ingenious way to serve one of New Orleans most ubiquitous dishes by giving it an edible bowl, without any need for forks, to keep everyone hands-free and parade-ready. Get the recipe.
Creole Deviled Eggs
There’s an old Creole saying: Anything worth making is worth making into a deviled egg. Okay, that’s not a real thing, but so long as they already have “devil” in their name, might as well get hella spicy. Get the recipe.
Traditionally, a King Cake is served whole, and the lucky recipient of the one plastic baby tucked inside becomes obligated to the host. Try this clever cheater recipe for individual cakes, and go ahead and tuck them babies into each one and see what you can make your friends do. Get the recipe.
Step 3: Commemorate
All you need is a corner, some colorful fringe, a handful of props, and a spare phone or tablet with remote control or selfie stick and you have a makeshift photo booth. The ultimate host or hostess, you’ll have excellent souvenirs for your guests, as well as top-notch social media fodder to ward off even a hint of self-pity during Single Awareness Day.
Header image courtesy of I'm Not the Nanny.