SOMERVILLE, NJ - A silent auction of Mardi Gras masks created by students and residents at the Matheny School is just part of the fun at Verve Restaurant in the days leading up to Fat Tuesday.

Owner Rick St. Pierre is busy creating a little bit of the culinary decadence and gaudy indulgence that defines the New Orleans Mardi Gras spectacle on Bourbon Street and in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

The five-day celebration of Mardi Gras in Somerville begins Thursday, Feb. 4 with special menu selections, a Gumbo Cook Off, prizes, plastic trinkets, beads and libation and concludes on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 9.

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Verve will donate money rasied from the auction of masks and the Gumbo Cook Off to the Matheny Medical and Educational Center in Peapack, a residential and out-patient facility for adults and children with developmental disabilities. Art therapy instructors work with the residents to create the masks that will be sold to the highest bidders.

The specialty menu includes dishes like Feijoada Receita, a Brazilian black bean stew with pork; Cajun catfish, Crawfish stuffed with crabmeat, Gumbo stew and bourbon glazed pork chops.

Bartenders will be busy mixing and serving Sazerac, a New Orleans-inspired cocktail with either cognac or whiskey mixed with bitters and sugar.

The Gumbo Cook Off is featured on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7, from 1-5 p.m. In previous years, St. Pierre has had five or six entrants bring in their Cajun-style or Creole-style home cooked gumbo for the contest. 

Those interested in entering the contest must bring two gallons of gumbo to the restaurant no later 1 p.m. that day. Diners can partake of the different gumbos by paying $10 to eat from the Gumbo Buffet and still get home in time to watch the 50th Anniversary Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.

The Mardi Gras celebration culminates with Fat Tuesday on Feb. 9, the final day to submit a bid for any of the masks. Winners and their highest bid will be revealed that night.

A video filmed last year showing the masks being created at Matheny, as well as preparations for the Verve Mardi Gras celebration can be seen at www.facebook.com/vervestyle/posts.

Fat Tuesday occurs on the day before Ash Wednesday and is translated from the French term. Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday."  Traditionally, Fat Tuesday is the last night for eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season which begins Ash Wednesday.

Reservations are requested during Verve’s celebration of the Mardi Gras season. Call 908-707-8655 or go online at www.vervestyle.com. Verve is located at 18 E. Main St., Somerville.