The Queen City is hosting a plethora of Mardi Gras parties this coming week (you can read about some here), and our local bakeries and restaurants are dishing up some serious New Orleans flavor.
On Sunday, Findlay Market will have a Mardi Gras parade led by Lagniappe, plus live Cajun and Zydeco music all day. There will also be a traditional lowland seafood boil beginning at 12:30 p.m. And on Fat Tuesday (4 p.m. March 4), BrewRiver GastroPub is doing a Louisiana-style crawfish boil with a special Abita tapping (Abita is a New Orleans brewery).
But if you want to host your own party, you'll need some provisions. The centerpiece of any Mardi Gras party is, well, booze. Second would be beads, probably. But then after that, most certainly comes the King Cake.
A King Cake is a round cake, typically made with twisted strands of cinnamon-dough, and sprinkled with super gaudy purple, green and gold sugar. Sometimes there's white icing under the sugar coating, and sometimes people toss Mardi Gras beads on top of the cake for good measure. Generally, there's a little baby figurine hidden inside the cake and whoever finds it gets good luck (unless they choke on it...).
King Cakes are traditionally served during King Cake season, starting with the Epiphany (Jan. 6), which commemorates when the three kings/Magi came to visit baby Jesus, and ending on Fat Tuesday, the day before Lent — the six-week Christian practice of self-denial and repentance leading up to Easter. So King Cakes are named as such for baby Jesus, the King, and have a representation of him hidden inside.
Nowadays, if you're less religious, the cake is a colorful symbol of Mardi Gras and a necessary edible Mardi Gras decoration. And if you're looking to pick one up, these local bakeries have your back:
If you know of more bakeries, leave them in the comments!
And if you're feeling super Martha-Stewarty, here's a recipe to make your own.
Bistro Grace — Offers a three-course surf and turf dinner for $29.95. Includes hangar steak and scallops with brown butter hollandaise. 4034 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-9600, bistrograce.com.
The Blue Wisp Restaurant & Jazz Club — A Valentine’s dinner with music by Samantha Carlson. Entrées include prime rib, Cornish hen or salmon; dessert; and half-off bottles of wine. $99. 700 Race St., Downtown, 513-241-9477, thebluewisp.com.
Brown Dog Café — Offering a four-course dinner with appetizer, soup, salad and entrée for $56.95. If you’re seated by 5:30 p.m., it’s only $48.95. 5893 Pfieffer Road, Blue Ash, 513-794-1610, browndogcafe.com.
Buca di Beppo — A family feast for four, with salad, entrée, pasta and desert, for $59.80. Through Feb. 16. 2635 Edmondson Road, Rookwood Commons, 513-396-7673, bucadibeppo.com.
Cincinnati Dinner Train — Take a romantic four-course train ride while relaxing to the music of the 1940s. Every woman receives a commemorative rose.7 p.m. Feb. 14 and 6 p.m. Feb. 15. Tickets begin at $79.95 per person. Private car upgrades available. 11013 Kenwood Road, Madisonville, 513-791-7245, cincinnatidinnertrain.com.
CRAVE Restaurant — A special Valentine’s Day prix fixe four-course menu for two. 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday. $89 per couple. 175 Joe Nuxhall Way, The Banks, Downtown, 513-241-8600, cravcincinnati.com.
Grandview Tavern & Grille — A Valentine's Day menu with twin lobster tails, surf & turf, seabass and complimentary chocolate-dipped strawberries. Live music by Triage. 2220 Grandview Drive, Fort Mitchell, Ky., 859-341-8439, grandviewtaverngrille.com.
Mecklenburg Gardens — Valentine’s Day specials in the main dining room, including entrees choices between sword fish and surf and turf. Pig roast in the garden. 302 E. University Ave., Clifton, mecklenburgs.net.
Morton's The Steakhouse — “Dine your heart out” at Morton’s with steak and lobster tail for $55. Feb. 13-16. 441 Vine St., Carew Tower, Downtown, 513-621-3111, mortons.com/cincinnati.
Nectar — Offering a three-course dinner with wine and champagne. Reservations available between 5:30 and 10 p.m. $65 per person. 1000 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, dineatnectar.com.
Nicholson's Tavern & Pub — Regular menu available plus a prix fixe Valentine’s three-course meal for $24.95. Mike & Jeff playing in the bar, 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. 625 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-564-9111, nicholsonspub.com.
The Phoenix — “Eat, Drink and Be Mine.” Give Back Cincinnati hosts this Valentine’s Day event to benefit their cause. Guests will enjoy a glass of champagne, two additional drink tickets for the fully stocked bar, heavy hors d'oeuvres, sweet treats and a chance to win some great prizes. 6-10 p.m. $50 per couple. 812 Race St., Downtown, givebackcincinnati.org.
Rail House — Valentine’s Day four-course prix fixe dinner for two (fillets and lobster tails with two sides) for $79.95. 40 Village Square, Glendale, 513-772-3333, railhouse1854.com.
Red Roost Tavern — Three-course prix fixe V-Day dinner including grilled beef tenderloin, asparagus, lobster soup, decadent chocolate cake and more. $70 per person. 151 W. Fifth St., Hyatt Regency Hotel, Downtown, 513-579-1234, cincinnati.hyatt.com.
Relish Modern Tapas — A four-course dinner from chef Robert with optional wine pairing. $40 per person; $20 wine. Feb. 14-16. 5947 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, 513-204-6925, relishmoderntapas.com.
The Summit — Three-course menu with choices for each course, a full bar, wine pairings and an award-winning Manhattan. $45. 3520 Central Parkway, the Midwest Culinary Institute, Cincinnati State campus, Clifton, midwestculinary.com.
Washington Platform Saloon & Restaurant — One dozen fresh-shucked oysters, two entrée choiecs, soup or salad, chocolate-covered strawberries for dessert and a bottle of wine to share. Plus a half-hour carriage ride. Feb. 13-16. $115 per couple. 1000 Elm St., Downtown, 513-421-0110, washingtonplatform.com.