Catching up on Mardi Gras events and menus

For being so far away from New Orleans, Indianapolis sure does have some crazy Cajun representatives.

Start with, of course, Joe Vuskovich, the best-tasting transplant this side of the Bayou. OK, I didn’t taste him, but many have tasted his out-of-this-world etouffees, which will be served on the buffet for the Mardi Gras Celebration on Saturday. Yats is teaming up with the Jazz Kitchen for the event, where every permutation of jazz, funk and soul will play on three stages between the two venues.

Still, the star will no doubt be the food: chicken Creole, jambalaya, chili cheese etouffee, a shrimp and artichoke dish, red beans and rice. A pozole dish with turkey, instead of the traditional pork, promises to be particularly intriguing. The $15 ticket price buys you a night of culinary debauchery — and a hurricane from the Jazz Kitchen bar. It’s red, with rum. David Allee’s mixer is a proprietary secret … as is what he’ll be wearing the night of the event. Come in costume! Official start time is 9 p.m.

If you’re less into debauchery and more into delicacies, R Bistro’s Chef Regina Mehallick will prepare her menu with a New Orleans flair this week. Her ode to oysters en brochette seems a lighter take on this usually butter-fried gutbuster, once found on appetizer and lunch menus throughout the Crescent City. Mehallick’s is an oyster and bacon brochette (skewer) with a cornmeal and buttermilk breading, served over leaves tossed in sage vinaigrette. Banana beignets with butterscotch sauce comprise dessert.

And since we’re talking higher-end … give the Mardi Gras menu at New Orleans-born Ruth’s Chris Steak House a shot before you get to Fat Tuesday. The now-available menu runs through Feb. 11. Menu highlights include the French Quarter Catch, a blackened redfish on dirty rice, topped with crayfish etouffee; the Louisiana crayfish pie baked in a handmade piecrust; and the sweet potato pecan tart, a pecan pie on top of a sweet potato pie lining, floating in vanilla ice cream. And tell me how the Talbot Street turtle soup tastes.

Feb. 5 is the official Fat Tuesday, the time for everyone to eat, drink and be nasty before Lent comes to usher this all away. I recommend Plump’s Last Shot’s Mardi Gras celebration, if only for its catchy name: Plump Tuesday. They’ll have all the old standards on a special menu, including corn muffins, crawfish pie, Southern green beans, gumbo ... surprisingly, the drink special is Corona. “I don’t know if it’s a tropical thing,” says The Monkey’s Tale’s Lee Harder, who will use Plump’s kitchen to cater a special Mardi Gras buffet at The Monkey’s Tale from 6-10 p.m. for $13.95 per person. Their drink specials will be on Malibu hurricanes and Abita Beer, a New Orleans brew.

According to, the half-year-old Papa Roux Cajun Restaurant on East 10th Street is offering two-for-one deals on their smoked sausage and red bean po’boys. If you haven’t stopped into this place, Saturday (Feb. 2) is a good time to do it.

And last but not least, you can always depend on your favorite neighborhood grocer to make their own in-house sausage — if your neighborhood grocer is Goose the Market, that is. Owner Christopher Eley promises three or four Cajun or Creole-style sausages to kick off Mardi Gras, including Goose’s own smoked andouille and alligator sausages. They’ll also run specials on Turbodog and Purple Haze Abita beer, as well as an old standby turned hard-to-come-by after Katrina: Blackened Voodoo lager from Dixie Brewing Company, which Eley says is now up and running again.

There may be other Mardi Gras offerings around the city, but these are some sure bets. And if you really like spicy, know that most local etouffees, gumbos and jambalayas are tweaked to meet Hoosiers’ mid-line palate. So ask your waitress to tell the chef to turn up the heat if that’s what you want.

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