Mardi Gras translated to English means “Fat Tuesday”. Mardi Gras, an annual celebration, is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, a time of solemnity and penance for Catholics. Because many of the Acadians (Cajuns as they became known) who immigrated to South Louisiana in the late 1700’s were and still are Catholic, they celebrated, and continue to celebrate Mardi Gras as part of their culture. In addition to the well known New Orleans Mardi Gras celebration, many of the small towns and cities across South Louisiana celebrate Mardi Gras with a series of balls and parties several weeks prior to the actual Mardi Gras day. Many of these same small towns and cities have parades on Mardi Gras day with beautifully decorated floats, all well attended by children (schools are closed) and adults alike. The ubiquitous cry of “Throw me something, Mister” (Cajun French version “Tirer quelche chose a moi, Monsieur”) will fill the South Louisiana air on March 5th of this year as everyone gets in the act of trying to score the best trinkets thrown from the floats. It’s a raucous time in South Louisiana!
Cajuns are known for their joie de vivre (joy of living) and like to eat and drink anytime of the year! An abundance of Gulf of Mexico seafood and locally caught fish and crawfish, paired with locally grown and raised meats and vegetables provides the basis for wonderful Cajun dishes such as gumbos and soups, etouffees, jambalayas, and shrimp, crab, and crawfish boils. Cajuns have a long history or fermenting fruit wines, spirits and beer and imbibing in all of them regularly! Vitus vinifera grapes do not do well in the hot, humid, rainy weather of South Louisiana. This Cajun left Louisiana several years ago in pursuit of work and career and ended up starting Bookshelf Wines in California. I provide my friends and relatives with great California wines when I make my frequent visits to my extensive family and network of friends in the Lafayette area, the Heart of Cajun Country.
Let’s do some wine and Cajun Food pairings. Creamy etouffees, crab or shrimp bisque, crawfish or shrimp boils call for a Bookshelf Wines 2017 Dichotomy (white pinot noir). The crisp, fruity flavors bring out the best of a crawfish etouffee served over a bed of steamed rice, a bowl of creamy bisque, or a serving of hot freshly boiled crawfish or shrimp with all the fixings. If you prefer beer with your “boil” check out La 31 from Bayou Teche Brewery. Seafood gumbo would pair well with Dichotomy as well as would a fruity Chardonnay or Bookshelf Wines 2016 Viognier. Spicy jambalaya calls for Bookshelf Wines 2015 Zinfandel. This well rounded, fruit forward Zin will enhance the flavor of any jambalaya you like including ham or spicy sausage or a combination of both. Red beans and rice, a Cajun staple, pairs well with Bookshelf Wines 2017 Sierra Foothills Pinot Noir. You’ll have to wait until May when we bottle this treasure to purchase it on our website.
What about dessert? King Cake, of course. King Cake is a brioche style bread with colorful decorations including green, gold and purple. These colors are traditionally French royalty colors and used almost exclusively for Mardi Gras decorations. King Cakes appear at Louisiana bakeries between January 6th and Mardi Gras. King Cakes symbolize the 12th Night after Jesus’ birth when the Three Wise Men appeared bearing gifts for the newborn King. Today, a plastic baby Jesus is baked in the cakes. The person getting the slice with the effigy will have good luck for the remainder of the year. Pair King Cake with a slightly sweet sparkling wine to get the most flavor from the cake.
Now, I am hungry for some home cooked Cajun food. I think I have the ingredients for shrimp and corn bisque and plenty of Bookshelf Wines 2017 Dichotomy on hand for a delightful Cajun feast.