Crawfish, etouffee, gumbo and, of course, beignets.
It’s Mardi Gras season and, lucky us, Fat Tuesday comes a little later this year — March 5.
That means we’ve got more time to load up on the good stuff. You’ve got more than 10 days to fill up on bayou specialties at a few restaurants.
One Tacoma restaurant busts out a Louisiana-themed menu only once a year — and the recipes come from the regionally famous From The Bayou, which closed in 2007. Another restaurant in Puyallup throws a Mardi Gras party like no other in the area.
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While locally baked King Cakes are nearly impossible to find outside a few chain grocery stores, I did find one Tacoma bakery that will whip up a King Cake and other carnival-themed desserts.
Here’s where to get your Mardi Gras on through early March.
BOURBON STREET CREOLE KITCHEN & BAR
Where: 401 S. Meridian, Puyallup
Details: The area’s only year-round Louisiana-themed restaurant is gearing up for an epic Mardi Gras celebration March 1-2 and on Fat Tuesday (March 5).
Background: Bourbon Street Creole Kitchen & Bar owner Mike de Alwis always throws an elaborate party with a tent, live music and bayou specials the weekend before Fat Tuesday (March 5). It is the only Louisiana-themed restaurant operating in the area. It’s in downtown Puyallup.
“I just got back from New Orleans with the Mardi Gras decorations and beads. While there, I also made some good connections to get some fresh seafood, including Louisiana red fish, which is the best for blackening. Another interesting item I found was crab claws, which is a very popular appetizer in New Orleans,” said de Alwis last week about those specials that he and the restaurant’s chef — his son, Jehan de Alwis — plan to rotate onto the menu.
At next week’s celebrations, de Alwis plans to serve the restaurant’s favorite core menu items, such as its sausage-and-chicken gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, blackened catfish and the restaurant’s popular beignets.
“One of the popular dishes chef Jehan added to the menu is cochon de lait, slow-cooked pork shoulder over creamy grits,” he added.
Live music on March 1, 2 and 5 will be from Buck Shot Brass Band, a 10-piece New Orleans style band.
For cocktails, de Alwis’ other son, Mikey de Alwis, serves a menu of New Orleans themed drinks with high-end ingredients. Whether for Mardi Gras or any other occasion, a must try is his Sazerac, made with an absinthe rinse, burned sugar, lemon oil, bitters, rye and cognac ($10).
Critic’s picks: The shrimp and grits, which comes topped with a pool of spiced up butter, is my favorite in the area ($19.95). The restaurant’s oyster po’ boy sandwich, made with cornmeal-dusted and fried oysters, is a must order ($14.95). The chicken and sausage gumbo ($11.95) is another go-to. Save room for the beignets coated in the requisite powdered sugar ($5.95).
DOYLE’S PUBLIC HOUSE
Where: 208 St. Helens Ave. S., Tacoma
Info: 253-272-7468, doylespublichouse.com
Details: Louisiana eats on the menu through March 5.
Background: Wait, isn’t this a European pub? You bet it is, but there’s a Louisiana-born chef in the kitchen, so that means Mardi Gras is always celebrated at Doyle’s.
Chef Benjamin Marcus formerly worked at From The Bayou, the popular Louisiana-themed restaurant in Parkland that closed in 2007. His brother co-founded the restaurant. Every February, Marcus breaks out those old Bayou recipes that originated from Opelousas in St. Landry Parish, where the Marcus family is from.
Crawfish etouffee has been on the menu since Feb. 1 and Marcus last week added a chicken-and-sausage gumbo ($12), a gooey crawfish dip with crostini ($14), boiled prawn po’ boy sandwich ($13.50) and red beans and rice ($14). Those specials will be on through March 5.
Critic’s picks: Don’t miss the crawfish etouffee, which Marcus describes as one of three that he makes.
“The one we are doing at Doyle’s is the classic recipe we used to do at From The Bayou. It’s an onion, pepper, mushroom cream-based red sauce kissed with Cajun spices that give it its distinctive flavor,” said Marcus. “Etouffee translated from French means smothered or suffocated. So an etouffee is a sauce that smothers the main ingredient. In this case, the jewel is crawfish. The slow cooking aspect is one of the reasons it is so good.”
Gumbo, thick with andouille sausage and chicken and healthy kick of spice, is served over a mound of white rice ($13.95) and the boiled shrimp po’ boy is a good sandwich turned excellent from the addition of pickled chow-chow, a piquant pepper relish. The sandwich is finished with a spicy remoulade on a French roll with lettuce and tomatoes. Red beans and rice also pack a wallop of heat and is made with a double punch of tasso ham and andouille ($14).
PASTELES FINOS DEL ANGEL
Where: 5102 S. Washington St., Tacoma
Info: 253-448-2649, facebook.com/pastelesfinosdelangel
Details: At this Mexican-European bakery in South Tacoma, Chef-owner Miguel Hernandez plans to make King Cakes through Fat Tuesday, available by special order. He will have some made up and ready for takeout but call ahead because those will be in short supply.
Background: King Cakes are a carnival tradition and easy to identify because they’re usually decorated in the traditional colors of Mardi Gras — purple, gold and green. Buried inside the cake is a little figurine. As tradition dictates, the person served the slice of cake with the figurine inside has to either make or bring a King Cake to the following year’s party or host the party the following year. At Pasteles Finos del Angel, Hernandez plans to sell the cakes for $35. The cake will serve 12.