Among the many things for which New Orleans is famous, there are several restaurants where breakfast is an art form. Breakfast at Brennan's is on top of the itinerary for most tourists. The wide selection of French and Creole breakfast items on the menu make it nearly impossible to choose. The jazz brunch at the Court of Two Sisters is another popular stop; you can indulge yourself in New Orleans specialties while enjoying the ebullient music of the city where many feel jazz was invented.
In both locales the settings are elegant and the atmosphere is a lot more formal than what you'll find on the famous, bawdy Bourbon Street.
For your Mardi Gras party this year, follow the example of these famous establishments and invite your guests to a Jazz Brunch. It's a great way to set a sophisticated tone while recreating the sensuous flavors of that deliciously decadent town.
Since the last day of Mardi Gras always falls on a Tuesday, you'll probably want to plan the brunch for one of the weekends leading up to it (unless your friends are all retired!). Create invitations using the Mardi Gras mask motif. Inform your guests that the brunch will be dressy casual attire.
Setting the Mood
- Set the table using elegant linens and your best china and crystal.
- Select and have ready at least 2 hours worth of New Orleans jazz music. Pete Fountain, with his clarinet, is one of the favorite local musicians.
- Greet your guests with Mardi Gras beads when they arrive.
- Sprinkle your table with doubloons like the ones that are tossed to the crowds from the parade floats in New Orleans.
- Create a centerpiece using camellias or azalea blooms, flowers that are typical of the New Orleans landscape.
- Send your guests home with a package of New Orleans pralines wrapped in gold foil paper tied with a purple ribbon.
Creating the Menu
When deciding upon your menu for this party, there are several things you'll want to consider. First, with the abundance of seafood in New Orleans, you'll want to include a seafood dish on your menu. Shrimp etouffee is one of the classic regional dishes. Since it's brunch, your guests will probably expect an egg dish, but I don't mean scrambled or fried eggs. You'll want to select a rich, creamy egg recipe such as the Eggs Sardou in the menu below that shows off the French influence on the local cuisine.
A common ritual for visitors to the city is partaking of Cafe Au Lait and Beignets at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter. For that reason, I recommend including them on this menu. You can either make them from scratch yourself or purchase a mix for these tempting doughnuts. I recommend adding Bananas Foster to the menu since it's one of the dishes that has made Brennan's famous. Finally, King Cake is the quintessential Mardi Gras treat. Don't forget to include a plastic baby under the frosting, and tell the person who finds it that next year's party is his treat!
A Mardi Gras Jazz Brunch Menu
Ramos Gin Fizz Cocktails - Cocktails Guide Colleen Graham tells how to whip up this drink equated to "drinking a flower".
Beignets - Beware! These can become addictive.
Eggs Sardou - Rich, creamy and so New Orleans.
Shrimp Etouffee - Celebrating the mix of Creole and French cooking.
Bananas Foster - You could choose between this and the King Cake to lighten the menu, but why?
King Cake - The ubiquitous, sticky treat of Mardi Gras.
Cafe Au Lait - You'll need to get a chicory blend coffee to make the New Orleans version of this drink.