Celebrating Mardi Gras With Wine

Condensed version published in the South Shore Senior News, March 2019.

Back in 1993 at the age of 18, my family and I moved from Massachusetts to Louisiana. You can imagine the culture shock this Yankee was in for, having been born and raised in New England! I had never visited Louisiana or anywhere in the deep south, and truth be told, I didn’t know much about the culture. Being a foodie for all of my life, spending time in Louisiana was nothing short of one delicious adventure after another. I soon learned what the incredible appeal was about visiting cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge, between the culture, the history, the music, the wonderful people, and of course the food. Although New Orleans  is known more for its mixed drinks such as daiquiris, hurricanes, and even hand grenades,  I find wine to be the ultimate complement to the local cuisine.

All these years later, whenever I make a trip to Louisiana to visit my family, the very first thing on my list is stopping for a fried shrimp po’boy. Incidentally, my favorite po’ boy isn’t from a restaurant in New Orleans, but from a quaint little restaurant in my mom’s town of Gonzales, LA called Philay’s Catfish ‘n More. The shrimp are fried to juicy perfection and dressed with just the right amount of toppings. Whether fried fish, fried oysters, or fried shrimp po’boys, the meal simply isn’t complete without being paired with a dry, crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio/Gris, Grüner Veltliner, or perhaps a nice dry rosé.

Shrimp po’ boy from Philay’s Catfish n’ More

Another seafood favorite of mine is boiled crawfish. For years, I thought the term “crawfish boil” was actually “crawfish bowl”, clearly my inability to decipher the charming New Orleans accent. Once I attended my first official crawfish boil, it all made sense… a giant pot of seasoned crawfish, corn on the cob, and potatoes that once cooked was dumped on a giant table covered in brown paper. An experience everyone should enjoy at least once! A crawfish boil begs for several bottles of Chardonnay on the table, from unoaked versions to oaked versions. It is simply a pairing made in heaven.

Louisiana Backyard Crawfish Boil

No trip to Louisiana is complete without enjoying some authentic gumbo and homemade jambalaya. In my experience, I’ve found the little hole-in-the-wall food stands and take out restaurants have the best jambalaya and gumbo in the state, such as The Jambalaya Shoppe. Not only is an individual portion of jambalaya here enough to eat for about 3 days, but the giant seasoned chunks of chicken and sausage can’t be beat. I absolutely love pairing these spicier dishes with an off dry white, such as Vouvray or German Riesling, or even a light to medium bodied red with softer tannins, such as a Pinot Noir or Gamay.

We cannot forget about the endless amount of delicious desserts Louisiana offers. From the traditional Mardi Gras dessert King Cake, to creamy Louisiana pralines. But no trip to New Orleans is complete without visiting Café du Monde in the French Quarter to enjoy their famous beignets. The light, fluffy, French donuts are fried to perfection and smothered in powdered sugar. Any of these delectable, sweet desserts will pair perfectly with an off dry white, a semi sweet white, or even a sweet dessert or ice wine.

At one time I saved my Louisiana cuisine for when I would visit, but those days are long gone. Although I once again live in New England, I regularly cook Louisiana style cuisine so I can enjoy that unique taste of the deep south paired with the perfect wine in the comfort of my Massachusetts home.