Portland restaurants dish up Cajun spices for Mardi Gras cooking contest, celebration

Posted Feb. 12, 2013, at 5:58 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 12, 2013, at 6:41 p.m.

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.