Letting the good times roll

PAST WINNER: Lina Lam was a winner in the 2012 Cajun Cook-off with her shrimp and crawfish bisque. Photo by David Carpenter

Shake off that winter chill, folks: It’s Mardi Gras season, and Asheville Mardi Gras is here to warm things up with some bayou flavor. The all-volunteer group’s sixth annual Cajun Cook-off will be held Sunday, Feb. 9, at The Millroom and all are welcome to attend. The family-friendly event moves this year from its former home at Tressa’s to the new, larger venue due to its growing popularity.

But what is it that brings such passion for this taste of Louisiana soul to our Western North Carolina mountain town?

“We have so many expatriates from Louisiana and such a fun spirit here,” says organizer Sarah Yerkey. “We do several events, including a cook-off, parade and ball.”

“This year should be the best yet,” she says. “We have delicious dishes being entered from renowned chefs from all over WNC … [including] OysterHouse Brewing Co. and King James Public House.” The contest isn’t just for professionals, however: Anyone is welcome to enter. “It makes it fun,” says Yerkey. “Chefs sometimes think they have it going on because they’re in the restaurant business, but the crowd picks the winner, and sometimes it’s an amateur.”

Registration for the cook-off is open until the day of the event, though organizers ask people to preregister if possible.

Local comedian Augusta Wind will be on the mic emceeing the cook-off and announcing the winners. What kinds of dishes might we expect to see this year? Past entries, Yerkey says, have included everything from alligator étouffée to crawfish cheesecake. Foodies, this is one event you won’t want to miss.

The cook-off is paired with the Art and Oddities Silent Auction, in which bidders will have the chance to “find and bid on spectacular, bizarre, collectible and crafty items created by local legends and folk artists,” the Asheville Mardi Gras “krewe” reports. The whole event, including cook-off and auction, will run 3-7 p.m., and costumes are encouraged.

Admission is $10 for nonmembers, free for AMG members. Everyone is encouraged to bring a canned-food donation. Proceeds will support MANNA FoodBank and this year’s Asheville Mardi Gras Parade and Ball on Sunday, March 2.

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

The Cajun Cook-off will be held 3-7 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Mill Room, 66 Asheland Ave. For details, visit ashevillemardigras.org. To donate an item to the silent auction, bring it to the Costume Shoppe at 32 N. Lexington Ave.

— Freelance writer Haley Steinhardt has called Asheville home since 2003. When she’s not writing, she runs Blue Mountain Reiki and spends time with her family.

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