Annapolis Mardi Gras to offer tasty slice of Chesapeake life

February 18, 2000|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

So, there won't be thousands of revelers staggering down West Street or a parade of colorfully costumed characters strutting down Main Street, but there will food, fun and festivities.

This is Mardi Gras, Annapolis style.

Adding excitement and flavor to the gray season, the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau is planning its first 12-day Mardi Gras celebration, beginning Feb. 25. More than 15 local restaurants will be cooking up Cajun meals and New Orleans-style entertainment. For the competitive-minded, a gumbo cook-off, a Hurricane cocktail mix-off and two oyster shucking competitions will be held.

"The hospitality industry in Maryland, particularly in Anne Arundel County, is very strong and wants to do things fun and different," said Clare Vanderbeek, the bureau's director of marketing and organizer of the event, at a kick-off event yesterday.

Mayor Dean L. Johnson said although the celebration differs from the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, the local festivities feature what Annapolis is known for: seafood and fun.

"This really is a grand event," he told the crowd gathered at Carrol's Creek Restaurant in Eastport.

Twenty-four chefs from the Chesapeake Bay area will bring their signature gumbos to the Ram's Head Tavern from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 27 for a cook-off. Gumbo is typically a spicy soup with a variety of seafood and sausage. One participant, Charles McKnew, a chef at the Radisson, said he is confident of his gumbo. He plans to prepare his mixture of oysters, clams, shrimp, crawfish, chicken and sausage two days in advance to "let the flavors meld."

Two days after the gumbo cook-off, bartenders from 10 restaurants will compete in a Hurricane mix-off featuring the potent rum and fruit-juice drink from 5: 30 p.m. to 8: 30 p.m. at the Chart House. Then, a preliminary oyster-shucking competition will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 3 at Copeland's of New Orleans, followed by a final contest from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Phillips in Annapolis Harbor.

The winner of the oyster shucking competition wins a round trip for two to Jazz Fest in New Orleans.

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