New Orleans Chef Carl Schaubhut honors his Italian heritage with an altar and feast at Cafe Adelaide in the Loews Hotel.
On March 19, communities throughout New Orleans will construct altars decorated with candles, flowers and food to commemorate the Feast of St. Joseph. In Catholic tradition, the feast always falls during Lent, which dictates the meatless components of the beloved altar and meal to follow.
Growing up in a Sicilian and Italian family in New Orleans, Chef Carl Schaubhut remembers family and friends gathering to honor their patron saint with the food-focused display, children taking place in a neighborhood pageant and then everyone sitting down to share a meal. “St. Joseph’s Day was a really collaborative experience of women and the neighborhood coming together to formulate these huge elaborate feasts of altars,” he recalls. “It was a true community effort to take care of different parts of the altar, from pasta, pastries and family heirlooms, a free-for-all celebration of Italian culture.”
At the center of Schaubhut’s family celebration was a variety of Sicilian pastas cooked by his grandmother, fig cookies, Sicilian bread, cannoli and Fava beans, thought to be a sign of good luck and abundance. After not celebrating the tradition for 20 years, he decided to rediscover the holiday through his new post at Cafe Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar in the Loews Hotel.
Schaubhut went through his grandmother’s old cookbooks and talked to family members in order to recreate the experience at the hotel last year. He plans to continue the tradition next week by decorating a three-tier alter in the lobby and serving a special weeklong tasting menu inspired by those Sicilian feasts of his childhood.
“I’m playing off the dishes I remember eating, but with a fine dining scale,” he says. His four-course menu will begin with Antipasto in the form of Fennel Crusted Yellowfin Tuna, followed by Louisiana Crawfish Milanese, Blue Crab Stuffed Flounder (with a Fava bean puree for luck) and a sweet ending of Lemon and Fig Zeppoli, a sort of Italian beignet (pictured).
Get the recipe for Lemon and Fig Zeppoli here.
He plans to decorate his altar with Louisiana strawberries, artichokes, asparagus, fresh pasta, flowers and palm leaves, almonds, lemons and pictures of his grandmother. Local Mardi Gras Indians (coming down from Super Sunday the day before) and Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond will be on hand to bless the altar and further the community celebration.
Schaubhut describes the day as “a time to give thanks and give back to our roots and our history.” But patrons of the hotel, restaurant and local Catholics can expect a feast.
St. Joseph’s Day activities at Cafe Adelaide start March 14, and the altar will be on display through March 21. The St. Joseph’s Day Tasting Menu is available starting March 17 through March 21 and is $50 a person. See the full menu here.
Photos courtesy of Cafe Adelaide.