Christopher Milligan, right, and Craig Howard of the Great Lost Bear restaurant in Portland stand ready to serve up tastes of their all-local seafood gumbo while a thematic Mardi Gras-style mask guards their beads in the foreground on Feb. 12, 2013. The Great Lost Bear was one of several eateries participating in the Cajun Cooking Challenge at the University of Southern Maine in recognition of Fat Tuesday. Buy Photo
Chef Brian Kowtko of Portland's Congress Bar & Grill, left, and sous chef Greg Arnold dish up some Maine shrimp Etouffee Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, at a Mardi Gras Cajun Cooking Challenge hosted by the University of Southern Maine and nonprofit community radio station WMPG. Buy Photo
Chef Nicole Steinmark of Bintliff's American Cafe in Portland shares a laugh with an attendee of the Cajun Cooking Challenge at USM's Portland campus Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, in recognition of Mardi Gras. Bintliff's was serving shrimp and andouille sausage jambalaya for the contest. Buy Photo
A big sign hung by nonprofit Portland community radio station WMPG trumpets the Mardi Gras holiday while members of the Cajun Aces play live music below in USM's Woodbury Campus Center Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. Buy Photo
Robert Sylvain and Haakon Kallweit of the Cajun Aces perform live music Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, during the 18th annual Fat Tuesday Cajun Cooking Challenge hosted by WMPG radio and the University of Southern Maine Buy Photo
Greg Arnold, sous chef at Portland's Congress Bar & Grill, dishes up some Maine shrimp Etouffee Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, during WMPG's Cajun Cooking Challenge at the University of Southern Maine's Portland campus. Buy Photo
PORTLAND, Maine — The Great Lost Bear’s all-local seafood gumbo, Congress Bar & Grill’s Maine shrimp etouffee and Bintliff’s American Cafe’s shrimp and andouille sausage jambalaya were among the local takes on Cajun cuisine dished up for Mardi Gras at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.
Mardi Gras, celebrated perhaps most flamboyantly in New Orleans, had its corner in Maine’s largest city Tuesday as the university and nonprofit community radio station WMPG held their 18th annual Cajun Cooking Challenge. Colorful masks and beads decorated attendees and tables at the contest, where eateries in Portland’s popular foodie scene set up stands and passed out samples of their bayou best.
Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the day before the start of the ritual fasting of Lenten season. Celebrants of the holiday traditionally eat up — among other forms of jubilation — before settling in on their restricted diet and best behavior for the six weeks or so before Easter.
Performing live music at the USM event Tuesday was the band Sylvain’s Acadian Aces.
Among other restaurants signed up to take part were Gritty McDuff’s, Po’ Boys & Pickles, and Local Sprouts.