Celebrating Mardi Gras

EARLIER THIS WINTER, WE VISITED NOLA for a vacation. We enjoyed the sight-seeing and authentic Cajun cuisine. We ate a famous muffuletta sandwich at Central Grocery & Deli in the French Quarter (a 10”-round Sicilian sesame loaf stuffed with ham, salami, provolone and a signature briny marinated olive salad filled with kalamata and green olives and other veggies).

We enjoyed the Creole seafood gumbo at Galatoire’s (packed with crab, shrimp, onion, celery, tomatoes and okra). And we tasted the jambalaya at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen (onion, bell peppers, celery, tasso, sausage, tomatoes, jalapenos and garlic—all in a rich stock and simmered for hours with rice and sauce piquant). For entertainment, we visited Preservation Hall to hear local jazz.

The foothills are 2,300 miles from New Orleans, but we’ve found some local places that offer authentic Cajun dishes. Visitors and locals can enjoy the foothills version of Mardi Gras in Nevada City on February 18.

For a wide range of authentic Cajun dishes, Ike’s Quarter Cafe in Nevada City tops the list. Two things set the café apart: the New Orleans style of cooking and a focus on fresh, local organic food. Even when things aren’t in season, they stockpile fresh goods to last through the winter months. Chef Ike Frazee attended the acclaimed California Culinary Academy. He worked at the famed Tassajara Bakery in San Francisco, and he helped Peter Selaya and Buzz Crouch with New Moon Café, a fine dining restaurant across the street.

In 2001, Ike and his wife Adrienne opened Ike’s Quarter Café. As Ike tells it: “The inspiration for our cuisine was sparked on our honeymoon in New Orleans. Eating those rich comforting dishes of the south, prepared with love and care, forever changed my feelings toward food.”

The menu includes authentic New Orleans dishes including a Monte Cristo sandwich, eggs Sardou, shrimp and grits, a muffuletta sandwich, po’ boy sandwiches, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and shrimp étouffée.

Imaginative Cajon dishes at other local restaurants include:
■ Jambalaya at Matteo’s Public in Nevada City (penne pasta with An- douille sausage, shrimp and blackened organic chicken, black beans, tomato and green onion in a spicy creole sauce. Served with garlic bread. MatteosPublic.com

■ Shrimp po’ boy at Matteo’s (beer battered shrimp, served on a sweet roll with shredded cabbage and spicy aioli).

■ Muffuletta from Summer Thymes Bakery & Deli in Grass Valley (roasted veggies, olives, artichoke hearts and provolone on focaccia bread. Served with kettle chips or salad). SummerThymes.com

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