The “Elvis” King Cake from Cochon Butcher. is filled with peanut butter and banana and topped with house-cured bacon, marshmallow and Mardi Gras sprinkles.
As we do in my household every year at this time, we recently dismantled Christmas and New Year’s stowed them in the attic and hauled out Mardi Gras. This year we’ll make our home look like a purple, green and gold spaceship – only bigger, brighter and more obnoxious than usual. We will also add a theme, as opposed to just going with the usual over-the-top bright and shiny. Not sure what that theme will be just yet, as we’re in discussions with our neighbors and we plan to do this in unison – turning our entire block into something.
I urge you to consider doing the same in your neighborhood. Efforts like this have sprung up all over New Orleans as the collective realization has come that now, more than ever, we must do what we can to celebrate and preserve this thing for which we are known best (in a long list of things for which we are known). Otherwise, what will we do on the last Tuesday before Lent? Just go to work like everyone else in our troubled nation?
Not a crafty or decorative type, you say?
Just as soon as Mardi Gras 2021 was “cancelled” Devon DeWulf, founder of the Krewe of Red Beans, announced the formation of “Hire A Mardi Gras Artist,” an initiative to employ out of work artisans to decorate homes and businesses for Mardi Gras and spread the joy.
“Initially we thought $10,000 per project would cover the costs,” DeWulf said. “After completing the first house we realized it will cost more like $15,000 per project.”
As of mid-January, the efforts had raised $200,000, enough to fund 17 projects and jobs had been created for 30 to 35 Mardi Gras artists.
The goal behind of “Hire a Mardi Gras Artist,” a crowd-funding campaign, is to decorate 40 homes across the city with each installation creating an estimated eight jobs. Donations to the project, no matter the amount, will immediately enter the donor in a raffle to be chosen at random from among all donors wishing to have their homes or businesses decorated by professional artisans.
DeWulf said this egalitarian approach will serve to spread the decorated homes and businesses around the city instead of seeing them concentrated in a few wealthy neighborhoods. Companies and homeowners can commission the decorating of a house outright by donating $15,000 online at HireAMardiGrasArtist.com.
Of course, Carnival isn’t only about the floats – it’s also about the King Cakes, which are artistic creations in their own right! Executive Pastry Chef Maggie Scales of the Link Restaurant Group is offering several flavors and sizes of King Cakes. Find both traditional King Cake and French Galette des Rois, (two rounds of puff pastry filled with almond cream, topped with a small porcelain feve) at La Boulangerie. Find the traditional King Cake and the famous “Elvis,” filled with peanut butter, banana and topped with house-cured bacon, marshmallow and traditional Mardi Gras sprinkles at Cochon Butcher. In place of the traditional small plastic “baby,” the traditional King Cake and the Elvis contain a petite pink pig as the Link Group’s signature token. The cakes will be available through Fat Tuesday (February 16), which is the day before the beginning of Lent.
Through Mardi Gras Bywater Bakery is offering a stellar selection of both sweet and savory King Cakes. This
year’s flavors: Sweet – Traditional, Chantilly, Cajun Bouille, Cheesecake, Azul Dulce Blueberry, Praline, Apple and Lemon Cream; Savory – Crawfish, Boudin and Spinach Artichoke. Some flavors are available for shipping. Opened in 2017 by Chef Chaya Conrad, beyond the obvious, the vibrant Bywater Bakery also serves as an art gallery, informal community center and live music venue. “We support all of the things we love,” Conrad says. “Bywater Bakery has become what we dreamed it would be.” The bakery has partnered with the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, Music Cares, Howling Wolf and the New Orleans Food Bank, and will donate hundreds of loaves of bread to these organizations each week.