Hamilton, Ohio – Their email handles offer a clue.
She goes by Gumbo Girl; he answers to Jimbalaya.
Together they are among the foremost proponents of Gulf Coast culture in the area. Which is one of the reasons Laura and Jim Goodman – maybe best known as proprietors of Municipal Brew Works (20 High Street, Hamilton, Ohio 45011) – signed on to help sponsor Mardi Gras Night at the Fitton Center.
More than just sponsors, their personal collection of Mardi Gras décor will be on display in the Carruthers Signature Ballroom, setting the mood for the Feb. 18 event that features the music of The Hot Magnolias.
Laura studied marine biology in grad school at Southern Miss. A road trip to nearby New Orleans piqued her interest.
“We got exposed to the food, the culture, and tried to bring some of that back home with us,” Laura said. “It quickly filled our house.”
“For me it was an eye opener,” Jim said. “For a Midwestern meat-and-potatoes guy, it was kind of a culture shock. From the food to the music to the traditions. It’s just not something many people in this part of the country knew about.
“New Orleans is a deep and rich city. It was so fun to experience it person that we wanted to share a little bit of it with our family and friends. Everybody was doing New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day parties, but not Mardi Gras.”
That’s how the party started. What began as an intimate gathering blossomed over the years into three days of food-and-drink preparation for more than 120 guests coming to a Saturday-night blowout.
Some of their favorite Mardi Gras food – surprise – is gumbo and jambalaya. (“There’s a real art to making a good roux,” Laura said of the gumbo foundation.) But they also make a sweet version of voodoo chicken - normally a spicy dish – adapted from a recipe they reverse engineered from a now-defunct Dick Clark American Bandstand Restaurant, of all places.
Of course hurricanes were on the drink menu, but they also served a vodka-based version – as compared to its rum-based cousin – called a cyclone. Both are aptly named, known to wreak havoc on the ill prepared.
And don’t get them started on local versions of King Cake.
“Here’s it’s more like a coffee cake; just because it has purple, gold and green sugar on the icing…,” Laura said, her voice trailing off wistfully.
Many don’t realize Fat Tuesday is the culmination of a season that starts in early January with 12th Night, not the entirety of the celebration. And while New Orleans has the most famous Mardi Gras, the first was in Mobile, Alabama, in 1703, more than 70 years before the United States was an independent nation.
Beyond the food and drink, Mardi Gras krewes – or social groups – sponsor formal balls, parades, music and more during festival season.
While opening Municipal Brew Works in 2016 may have curtailed the Goodman’s big party, it didn’t change their love for Mardi Gras. Or for community.
“Having the brewery, we try to have that communal aspect year ‘round,” Jim said. “But here’s something that’s centered around culture and art, that’s not indigenous to us in the Midwest, that we love and that we can still be a part of helping people learn about and enjoy.”
The Goodmans co-sponsor Mardi Gras Night with Judy Mitchel. Tickets are $32 for Fitton Center members, $39 for non-members. Purchase online here or by phone at 513-863-8873, ext. 110.
The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
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