Events — 19 February 2015
The Dawn of Mardi Gras on New York City

Blog: NYC Mardi Gras 2015

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New York City has practically everything- bars, clubs, the country’s best restaurants.  One thing that’s always been missing though is the tradition of celebrating Mardi Gras.  We’ve come a long way with the likes of St. Patrick’s Day, but our celebrations in the traditional fashion of New Orleans has always been lacking a bit.  It seemed fitting then that on Fat Tuesday a sample of Southern authenticity was hand delivered to Brooklyn for the first time, in grand fashion.

Hosted inside of Fort Greene’s Irondale Center, a spacious venue with the perfect vibe for the occasion, guests celebrated the first ever NYC Mardi Gras with delicious food, drinks, dancing, live music and all sorts of entertainment. Guests were encouraged to showcase inventive beads and masks and were also handed out to those arriving empty handed, to add to the festive atmosphere- as if the goings on inside needed any additional pomp and circumstance.

The evening’s host was Jimmy Carbone of proprietor of East Village haunt Jimmy’s No. 43 and the founder of CookOut NYC.  Said Carbone, “I wanted to bring more than just a food event for Mardi Gras, I also wanted the culture,” in between greeting the many arriving guests.  Fortunately, Carbone and his team were able to transport a small slice of Bourbon Street into the borough of Brooklyn- but also managed to spotlight the food in a fantastic way.

First off, conductor of The Takedowns Matt Timms was in the house as the official host of the evening’s “Gumbo Takedown,” a friendly and competitive cookoff between three different restaurants.  Union Market, the creamiest of the three entrants prepared a gumbo with freshly shucked oysters and shrimp, was the eventual winner though Jimmy’s No. 43 spicy gumbo with hearty sausage and J. Gumbo’s traditional variety were each noteworthy competitors.   Takedown aside, guests also feasted on the likes of tasty jambalaya, rich cornbread, and even muffalettas as well.  We even managed to sneak a peek into the Mardi Gras VIP section which included a raw bar from Blue Island Oysters, paired masterfully with tangy hot sauce.

Washing down such hearty fare, we grabbed pours from craft breweries like Abita, Lagunitas, Smuttynose, and Sixpoint which served to enhance the celebration even further with such a variety of refreshing options. Modern Distillery Age Magazine also provided a selection of spirits for tasting. While we tried our best to try all of them, we were drawn to J.R. Revelry Bourbon, based out of Nashville. Their table provided mixers, but the bourbon was smooth enough to sip neat. We also enjoyed Tito’s Handmade Vodka’s special Mardi Gras recipe, which included peppercorn infused vodka, aperol, and a mixture of lemon, pineapple and guava juices.

While the guests made their way around the different food and drink stations, the jubilant sounds of Mona’s Hot Four Ragtime Band engulfed the space. The music made us feel both festive and at ease.  As the night wore on, we gazed in awe at the talented girls from Astoria Tap Crew and afterwards, the risque burlesque dancers from Hot Box Girls mesmerized us with their dances and voices. While guests had been dancing and mingling throughout the night, a large crowd had formed around the stage at this point, with muffalettas and drinks in hand to watch the NSFW performance.

The location for this amazing event could not have been more appropriate. The Irondale Center is stationed in an old church auditorium. With its vast space, acoustic value, and classic feel, it provided the perfect atmosphere for New York’s first Mardi Gras celebration.  The fun and festive atmosphere proved to be an important step in the right direction to hopefully secure this tradition for many years to come.  It might not be ‘Nawlins, but it sure was damn close.

- Jackie Benavides

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