Louisiana celebrates its fantastic food with festivals year-round, but Carnival season is the sweetest, as we celebrate Fat Tuesday with king cakes (check out our round-up of where to find them), and unique takes on the cinnamon-y dessert. On The Northshore, local bakeries and restaurants take things one step further, stepping outside the realm of the sugar-topped breads into cheesecakes, creamy shakes, frothy cocktails and more. Ready to indulge your Carnival cravings?
We Leave the Knife in the Box
First, there are your traditional cinnamon-y cakes, frosted and sprinkled with purple, gold and green-colored sugar. Then there are classic cakes injected with jams, Bavarian cream, cream cheese and fruits, which you'll find by the dozen at your favorite local grocer, like Rouse's and Winn-Dixie. This year, Acquistapace's Covington Supermarket goes all-out with their king cake selection, boasting a huge assortment of cakes from local bakers like Haydel's, Caluda's, Nonna Randazzo's, Sugar Love, Brennan's, Saluto's, Joe's Café, Marguerite's and more, not to mention their own store brand.
Most know that any respectable party during Carnival season is incomplete without a cinnamon-y traditional king cake (or two, or three). Abita Brewing Company knows, beer lovers eagerly anticipate the return of their seasonal Mardi Gras Bock, hitting the shelves each January so you can bring a sixer to the party, too.
Naturally, area bakeries have their own specialties, like Zoey's Bakery in Covington, who offers traditional cinnamon and cream cheese, as well as gluten free Bundt king cake and almond croissant king cake.
Sugar Love Bakery in Slidell offers cakes that have garnered lots of local buzz, especially for the ingenious portable version of their dessert, King Cake on a Stick. Order them by the dozen, or find them on the parade route--they load up carts and sell them along parade routes in Slidell, Mandeville, Pearl River and Chalmette.
You'll find over 50 flavors at Marguerite's Cakes in Slidell, including nine kinds filled with cream cheese and berries or citrus fruits, and signature flavors like Margueritaville, Boston Cream, Cajun Praline, Brownie Delight and Peanut Butter Supreme.
And, some restaurants partner with area bakeries to carry their cakes, like Mandeville Seafood Market & Eatery, who has cakes by Nonna Randazzo's King Cakes (locations in Covington and Mandeville) and Another Beautiful Day Natural Foods in Mandeville, who offers Aiavolasiti's Bakery cakes.
Savory and Sweet for your Night Out
Local restaurants love to add special items to their menus during Carnival season to satisfy diners with both sweet and savory selections.
At Bosco's Italian Café, you'll want to call ahead to claim one of their Savory Crawfish King Cakes, as they sell out quickly each day during the season. It looks like a dessert, but the puff pastry has a creamy crawfish filling, and what looks like icing is really sour cream. And that colorful dusting on top? It's not sugar, but rich Romano cheese.
Also a caterer, Bosco's offers party trays, including their hand-sized mini-muffalettas, a perfectly-portable and hearty snack on the parade route.
Dine in at Copeland's of New Orleans (Covington and Slidell), starting with a King Caketini and finishing with a Mardi Gras Rum Cream Bread Pudding or Mardi Gras King Cake Cheesecake.
Plan ahead to order bevy of mini Ooey Gooey Bourbon King Cakes--while they last--from Lola Restaurant.
February birthday babies might want to dig in to the Mardi Gras Cheesecake at Coffee Rani Covington or Coffee Rani Mandeville. The Covington location also carries Sourdough Brioche King Cakes cakes by St. Bruno Bread Company, and has a gluten-free cake, while the Mandeville location has a decadent doberge and a dense, creamy cheesecake.
Carnival Cocktails & King Cake You Can Drink
Had your fill of pastry and want to try something new? How about a libation?
Chafunkta Brewing Company in Mandeville has its Foolish Flambeaux and Mardi Gras inspired Red Ale for the season.
Tchefuncte's in Madisonville has a special drink menu for the season with its Carnival Cocktails, featuring fun names like Throws Colada, Muses Fizz, Bacchus Cup, Epiphany Cobbler, Second Line and more, which you can sample at their Bubbles & Beads Brunch.
In addition to their popular Mardi Gras Bock, Abita Brewing Company also offers a treat for the kiddos and teetotalers with their King Cake Soda.
For a decadent drink with dinner, order a King Cake Cocktail at Reginelli's Pizzeria in Mandeville, which pairs nicely with their Cajun Crawfish Pizza or Bayou Eggplant starter. Top it off with a pan of piping hot King Cake Bread Pudding.
The more adventurous will want to visit Epic Creamery in Covington for one of their eye-popping Mardi Gras Mambo Shakes. Epic also carries king cakes by Heavenly Sips Cafe in Loranger.
When in Slidell, make a stop at Old Town Slidell Soda Shop, who not only carries Sugar Love cakes and cakes on a stick, but their own king cake-topped shake, flavored ice cream, macarons, crack candy, snowballs and syrups.
And, while southeast Louisiana doesn't typically dip into freezing temperatures for more than a week or so in winter, it can be too chilly for a frosty treat. Relax by a warm fire with a mug of sprinkles-topped café au lait at Abita Roasting Company in Madisonville.
The coffee roaster also offers a King Cake Blend--whole bean or ground--made with cinnamon and vanilla. Abita Roasting in Covington really gets into the Mardi Gras spirit by sponsoring a float in the Krewe of Bogue Falaya parade on Mardi Gras Day. Look for their float and you might catch some cool throws--they'll be throwing thousands of bags of coffee, koozies, T-shirts, and tokens for free lattes, snoballs and Red Beans & Rice.
Do You Know What it Means to Miss... King Cake?
Got friends and family who can't be here to enjoy our Mardi Gras festivities? Send them a king cake! Randazzo's Camellia City Bakery in Slidell ships their cakes around the world, boxed with beads and other goodies (get the scoop about the bakery in their interview with Poppy Tooker in the Louisiana Eats! podcast, here).
Also shipping anywhere in the U.S. from Covington are Nonna Randazzo Bakery, open 7 days a week through Lundi Gras for shipping via FedEx and Nonnaskingcakes.com, and Butter Krisp Diner via Kingkakeking.com. Includes beads, doubloon, cup, baby and a decorative box in each package.
Sugar Love also ships their cakes across the nation, fresh baked from their oven to your door via FedEx.
Bon Appétit and Happy Mardi Gras!