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A world away from the Big Easy, and you still can celebrate Carnival

PRETEND you're in the Big Easy and it's Carnival. Just samba down to Malone's, either spot, and sample Cajun and Creole cooking, mint juleps and other joys, writes Aubrey Buckingham

Despite the global recession, cities around the world celebrated Mardi Gras in full force four days ago, and local American cafe chain Malone's gave residents a taste of the insanely popular festival with a Cajun food promotion and themed cocktails.

The event, French for "Fat Tuesday," marked the end of the Carnival period before Lent. Other cities, such as Mobile, Alabama, in the United States, hold their parades over different days, while Sydney takes a totally different interpretation of the event.

It is, however, the American city of New Orleans, Louisiana, that is synonymous with the colorful and exuberant party, and this year's extravaganza with its pagan pageantry was no different. Here, the event had previously stood defiant even in the face of catastrophic floods, so the credit crunch was never likely to make a dent.

While Shanghai may be half the world away from the Big Easy, there's no reason not to get in the swing of things, and Malone's is offering a special menu with Cajun and Creole dishes till March 20.

For those who can't tell their jambalaya from their gumbo, the two cooking styles are similar in ingredients but different in technique - Cajun fare involves a rustic, provincial French approach to Louisianan ingredients while Creole cuisine is more refined and was developed from classical European cooking by the well-to-do.

The Malone's menu, available in both their Tongren Road and Thumb Plaza outlets, features ubiquitous favorites from both schools of cooking.

Punters can tuck into a piping-hot bowl of spicy gumbo (35 yuan/US$5) or a mound of juicy jambalaya (75 yuan) cooked with prawn, chicken and andouille sausage in Cajun seasoning. The blackened fish (grilled sea bass fillet coated in blackened seasoning/100 yuan) is also heartily recommended, as well as the New Orleans crab cake (70 yuan).

Also part of the promotion are special commemorative cocktails that capture the essence of the legendary city in a glass. The bourbon slush (bourbon whisky, black tea, orange juice, pineapple juice, sour mix, sprite on top/ 45 yuan) is a remarkably refreshing beverage that packs a kick while quenching your thirst. Malone's mint julep (45 yuan) puts a twist on tradition by opting for Jack Daniels whisky rather than bourbon.

Guests at last Sunday's monthly brunch at Thumb Plaza were treated to some of the Mardi Gras offerings as a lead- up to the promotion.

The dishes above were part of the sumptuous buffet spread, which also stocked a salad bar, cold cuts, Asian favorites, an egg station, a pancake corner, a selection of pasta and heartier Western mains, a ham and pork loin carving station, and a Texas BBQ chicken carvery.

The buffet also has a kids' corner for the little tykes to pig out on hotdogs, cheesy penne, French fries and a DIY soft-serve ice cream corner complete with raisins, chocolate rice, Fruit Loops and gummy candy, among others.

Next month's buffet is on March 29, and the theme will be Soul Food, in line with the "Soul-ed Out" party on March 21. The buffet runs from 11am to 3pm, and costs 200 yuan for adults and 50 yuan for children under 12.


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