All hail Rex, or Bacchus, or whatever scheduling entity has placed Mardi Gras as late as March 5 this year, just when we are starting to recover from the holidays and come out of our winter hibernation. Spring just around the corner? Time for a party. And what better way to celebrate the annual return of the earth’s fertility, or whatever, just 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 in honor of the first time parts of your skin will see the sun in 2019, we offer a guide on how to assemble the goods for a Bacchanalian (but classy) affair to remember that is sure to set the tone for the kind of spring and summer you intend to have this year. I repeat: Bacchanalian, but classy.
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.
Delineate different party zones with these French Quarter street signs. Only you will know why one room or another got designated as Bourbon Street…See It
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.See It
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.See It
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.See It
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,” (I mean, have you seen her shimmy?) so you know it’s bound to be a good time. Get the Mardi Gras playlist.
Step 2: Feed the Crowd
Let’s be honest, in the tradition of the most ostentatious party hosts, you’re mostly in this to show off your culinary skills. New Orleans culture is abundant with Southern, Creole, and Cajun dishes that showcase your absolute prowess but are also 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 Hurricane Punch recipe.
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 Mini Muffaletta Bites recipe.
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 showy 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 Po’ Boy Sliders recipe.
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 Jambalaya Stuffed Mushrooms recipe.
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 Creole Deviled Eggs 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 Easy Mini King Cakes 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 establish that you are the rightful Rex of Mardi Gras 2019.
Related Video: Get the Party Started with These Mardi Gras Cocktails
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Header image courtesy of I'm Not the Nanny.