Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, is considered by many as a day to indulge. From the devout to those who've never set foot in a church, the day has come to represent a time to eat their favorite dishes or drinks before the Lenten season, which begins Ash Wednesday.
As luck has it, this Fat Tuesday falls on another unofficial, albeit smaller holiday of the Lamb Fries Feast at Chalet Basque. The Oak Street restaurant honors the tradition started by original owners JB and Marie Curutchague and continued by current proprietor Lisa Lui, who took over in 2002.
The feast is held the first Tuesday in March, safely spaced away from St. Patrick's Day, also a big draw for Chalet Basque when it goes off-brand for the day serving up corned beef and cabbage.
From 11 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, the restaurant will serve up its seasonal feast starring the namesake dish, which may be more familiar to diners by the name Rocky Mountain oysters (aka lamb testicles).
The star of the table is sauteed and seasoned but there is no coating, so newbies can steel themselves with house wine at the table, which is included in the $22.95 feast. The meal also includes the traditional Basque set-up (beans, bread, soup, salsa, vegetables, blue cheese and fries) and additional heartier fare such as beef stew, shrimp salad and barbecue tri-tip. Flan is served for dessert.
Along with the food, part of the draw is the regulars who turn out each year, starting the day as early as 9:45 a.m. in the bar. (Staff comes in even earlier, many starting the day around 5 a.m. to prepare the 100-plus pounds of meat ordered for the day.)
"They'll have their Picon punches and hang out," said manager George Romero. "Then they go in the back and have lunch. When they finish the flan, they sing in Basque."
Romero said they expect up to 120 people coming out just for the feast. But take heart if you can't make it out on Tuesday: The restaurant sets aside some of the lamb to offer a feast for those who have to come in later in the week.
Chalet Basque is at 200 Oak St.
Other ways to celebrate Fat Tuesday
Fat Tuesday Party: Ubiquitous local party band Mento Buru returns to "laissez les bon temps rouler" for the party at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace (2800 Buck Owens Blvd.). The Latin reggae ska band will be joined by the Ridgeview High Wolf Pack Mardi Gras Ensemble, which will open the show under the direction of Rob Martens. The all-ages show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. with face-painting by Nallely and the concert menu available for dinner. Indulge in some "Cryin' Time" onion rings, Oklahoma chili fries or the Palace mud pie, Buck's favorite combining coffee and pecan praline ice creams, hot fudge sauce and thinly sliced almonds in an Oreo crust, topped with whipped cream and toasted almonds. The show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. and seating is first come, first served so reservations are recommended. Call 328-7560 or visit buckowens.com to reserve a table.
Tiki-Ko (1919 K St.): Set aside the rum-based tiki drinks for some New Orleans cocktails like hurricanes, Pimm’s cups and Sazeracs. Guests may snag a slice of king cake and groove to some old-school Crescent City jams.
Steak & Grape (4420 Coffee Road): The fine-dining establishment is already celebrating, serving Cajun jambalaya, a seafood boil and drink specials, including a Bacardi hurricane for $5. The specials will continue through the week.
Fat Tuesday Dinner: Emmanuel Lutheran Church (1900 Baker St.) is serving up breakfast for dinner with pancakes, sausage, bacon, country potatoes, brownies and ice cream. The fun starts at 6 p.m. Cost is $5, $10 for a family. For more information, call 323-3355 or visit emmanuelbakersfield.org.
Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper: Pancakes are also on the menu at St. Paul's Episcopal Church (2216 17th St.), which will also conduct pancakes races as part of the merriment. At the end of the night, they will bury an alleluia, which is a ritual to represent the omission of the expression of praise during the season of Lent. Cost for the meal is $6. Find out more by calling 869-1630 or visit stpaulsepiscopalbakersfield.org.