Carnival season ends Tuesday with Mardi Gras, and for the past eight days, partygoers have taken over the French Quarter in New Orleans, reveling in beads, booze and well, that other five-letter b-word.
For those of us looking for a way to celebrate Fat Tuesday from the comfort of our homes or the lameness of our offices, have no fear. There is a cure to the “I’m-Not-in-New-Orleans” blues and it’s called the King Cake.
The popular pastry is rich to the taste buds but it’s also rich in history, explains Arthur Hardy, the self-proclaimed "World’s Foremost Authority on Mardi Gras."
Hardy says the exact history is not certain, but like many things in New Orleans, the King Cake is believed to have originated in France as part of the Feast of the Epiphany, a celebration for the three wise men who visited Christ twelve days after Christmas.
Laissez les bons temps rouler! It's Mardi Gras time in New Orleans, and to us that means an excuse to down as many muffulettas, oysters, bowls of etouffee and gumbo, and glasses of brandy milk punch as we can fit in our mouths.
It's also a time for New Orleans' residents (and many fans) to celebrate the resilient spirit of a city that refused to give up, despite a series of tragedies that threatened to destroy their way of life forever.
Fill up a Hurricane glass, grab a beignet and get a taste of life in America's most delicious city.
What NOT to Do During Mardi Gras - Lu Brow advises not to bargain for beads and shares the importance of a Popeye's run with strangers
Five Cocktails I Enjoy Creating and CONSUMING During Mardi Gras - but Lu certainly knows how to cut loose, too
What we ate in New Orleans - and you should, too.
iReport: The best bites in New Orleans - We asked, and you shared your must-try foods all over town.
The food that got them through - New Orleanians love to talk...and argue...and educate...and opine about food. It's who they are, and what has kept them going, even when their very way of life was in danger of being swept away forever.
Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.
If you fall somewhere in the middle - if you want to drink some Hurricanes or Abitas, and wear some beads but keep your shirt on - and can’t make it to New Orleans for the parades, here are a few places around the country that might almost make you feel that you’re there. And hopefully not worry about finding a clean bathroom.
Editor's note: CNN Travel will focus on facets of a different American city each month in their Destination USA series. Next month they're looking at Miami, Florida.
Fat Tuesday is rolling up fast, so we asked for your recommendations for New Orleans' very best dishes.
"Excess is the new moderation," one iReporter proclaimed. Debatable, but not a bad mantra for a trip to diner's paradise. If you're not hungry now, you will be.
Destination U.S.A.: New Orleans
iReport is taking a closer look at what the United States' most vibrant cities have to offer, and we need your help! Over the next year we'll put the spotlight on a different city each month, collecting your insider recommendations for the best those hot spots have to offer. We want to get the nitty gritty of what you like and why. We'll have a few assignments each month asking for something specific about the featured destination.
First stop: New Orleans, Louisiana
Drew Robinson is the pitmaster at Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q. He previously wrote about serving up gratitude in trouble times and why barbecue matters and the the sacred ritual of the tailgate. We ran this piece in 2012, but it seemed worth surfacing again for the game this weekend. A good rivalry never dies.
There are old traditions and then there are old football traditions. I had the fortune of witnessing one resurrected in my lifetime two years ago when Alabama played Texas in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship. But there are new traditions too.
Alabama vs LSU is not a historic rivalry, it is only really a new tradition because they both have become superpowers in the same division of the same conference. So much so that they have beaten away all of college football for a rematch in the BCS game.
How important is this game to each fan base? My grandfather was born and raised in New Orleans. He loved LSU. He loved Alabama too because that became his adopted home, but he never put the Crimson Tide above the Bengal Tigers.
Emeril Lagasse knows the way to a consumer's heart is through food. With over 2,000 television episodes, 16 cookbooks, and 12 restaurants to his credit, the 52-year-old chef and restaurateur turned his name and culinary prowess into a financial empire that employs 1,700 people.
Long before he became a household name, and his catchphrase "BAM!" became popular, Lagasse was a young chef who worked his way up to the position of general manager at the legendary Commander's Palace in New Orleans. In 1989, he opened his first restaurant, Emeril's, and four years later, inked a lucrative television contract with The Food Network, resulting in a 17-year run.
The smoky aroma of chicken and sausage gumbo fills the air inside Café Reconcile. A moist, tender pot roast emerges from the oven while the timid hands of novice knife holders chop onions and peppers.
It’s two hours before lunch time inside Café Reconcile and Chef Joe Smith sounds like an old-gospel preacher filled with the Holy Spirit teaching a small group of young men and women how to bring New Orleans-style food to life.
“It’s called soul food because there was no measuring, they just knew how they felt,” Chef Joe tells his captivated audience as they prepare the day’s lunch menu. “I feel it!”
But this isn’t your ordinary New Orleans kitchen. Chef Joe isn’t just teaching the mechanics of cooking. This is the kitchen of life.
To hear Lakesha Reed describe her cooking talents she's not classically trained as a chef, "I'm just grandma trained."
Reed, a New Orleans native, moved to Houston, Texas, in 2005 as one of the city’s thousands of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. We met her last month when CNN’s Defining America project hit the trail for Texas to find out how the Lone Star State has changed over the past decade.