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Spice up your midwinter at Mardi Gras

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This space is typically designated to neighbourhood restaurants, but when an opportunity came along recently to preview Winnipeg’s annual Mardi Gras event at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, I jumped at the chance.  

I have been to the party in previous years and I have also travelled to New Orleans, so I can attest to the authenticity of the special Mardi Gras menu.

At the preview, my first taste was of a fried oyster and Provolone Po’ Boy sandwich.  These are served on every corner in the French Quarter and are the equivalency of a sub. Authentic Po’ Boys start with a classic French baguette sliced open and smeared with a spicy mayonnaise. If you decide to order yours "dressed", then it will be adorned with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.  A huge fried oyster in a crunchy batter is then wedged inside before the baguette is closed.  If you are not inclined to oysters, not to worry, as the result is a very mild flavour  — or you can choose beef or pulled pork.

I next visited the pasta station for a treat I remembered not from New Orleans but my previous visit to the Convention Centre’s Mardi Gras — a Cajun carbonara. Smoky bacon is first sautéed with mushrooms, onions and crushed red pepper and then tossed with a parmesan cream sauce, Cajun chicken, spicy sausage and penne pasta.  The result is appropriately spicy and satisfyingly hearty.

I was also pleased to sample the Louisiana crab cakes and crawfish etoufée but my favourite of the evening was yet to come.  The shrimp Creole didn’t contain the baby gulf shrimp that I recalled from Bourbon Street but rather featured enormous prawns with their tails intact.  
They were expertly prepared before my eyes and pulled off the heat just as they changed texture, ensuring a firm , crunchy and savoury treat.

Tickets for Mardi Gras 2013 (February 15 and 16) are available at Ticketmaster.ca or by calling 1 855 985 5000.  This will be your opportunity to enjoy an evening in New Orleans without needing your passport. Besides the Louisiana tastes, entertainment is provided all night long by authentic zydeco and rhythm  ’n’ blues musicians.

Kathryne Grisim’s foodmusings.ca blog was named best local blog in Uptown Magazine’s Best of Winnipeg readers’ poll. 

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