That’s it, just HAPPY MARDI GRAS TO THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!
2010 was among the most unique Mardi Gras on record. As Twelfth Night passed, the 2010 Carnival Season began and the Saints wound their way through the NFL playoffs. It became a real possibility that our local pro football team might end up in the Big Game. As it happened, the Saints WON Super Bowl XLIV 30-17, during Carnival 2010, handily beating the favored Indianapolis Colts, led by favorite athletic son Peyton Manning.
Meanwhile, a very important Mayor’s election occurred the day before the Super Bowl, and favorite son Mitch Landrieu received 67% of the vote, and avoided the usual runoff when all the candidates get below 50%. 67% is huge win by any stretch of the imagination. So the Super Bowl win occurred during Carnival, and the new Mayor was voted in a landslide, which rarely occurs in the fractured politics of New Orleans. Landrieu is the first white Mayor of New Orleans since his father in the 1970s.
The crowd on St. Charles for Bacchus and several other parades now rivals the Fat Tuesday crowd. Okeanos, Mid-City and Thoth all roll around late morning-early afternoon. Bacchus rolls at 5:15, and easily takes three hours to pass, ending around 8:30 pm. Minimal time on St. Charles, assuming all parades are attended, is 9 hours. Mardi Gras Day on St. Charles ends after the trucks pass, around 3 pm. Rex passes around 11 am. Total time parading on St. Charles above Jackson is 4-5 hours. Below Jackson add Zulu to the total hours, now 6.5 hours. Fat Tuesday, the culmination of the Carnival Season, always has been the big day for parades. Now, Bacchus Sunday is far longer. The consolidation of neighborhood parade routes plus the desire of Krewes to roll on the weekend has caused this.
2010 saw inclement weather shift the parade schedule. Chaos cancelled, Babylon became a day parade, and Muses followed three other parades. Rescheduling means most of a parade’s bands can’t make it. Other parades changed days, changed starting times, and one canceled because of the Super Bowl.
Another less positive parade trend came to the fore during Carnival 2010- parades passing in under 2 hours! One major parade will all its units passed in under one hour! Up to last year, parades almost always took a leisurely three hours on average. What’s the rush? If a parade has rescheduled, up to half the parade’s units may be lost, shortening a parade accordingly.
Many float riders don’t keep their masks on. This trend has been creeping into Mardi Gras for several years. Of course the ‘rules’ say masking is mandatory but who enforces that kind for rule in the make believe Carnival world?
There was a nationally televised Super Bowl Victory Parade for the Saints, carried live on CNN, ESPN, and all local network affiliates, also occurring during Carnival. Good Morning America shot from New Orleans before the Super Bowl. The French Quarter erupted into a Mardi Gras Day sized party, this time a Black & Gold party, immediately after the Super Bowl victory. The Saints Players interacted with the crowd to a much larger extent than in Mardi Gras parades. Many folks who attended the Saints Super Bowl Parade say it was the greatest parade experience of their lives. It created a giant traffic jam as tens of thousands of the Who Dat Nation from all over the region clogged the ferries & highways, attempting to reach the parade. Many in the traffic jam never made it, turning around after sitting in traffic for a couple of hours.
All throughout the Mardi Gras Season, including Fat Tuesday, Black & Gold Saints Gear & Costumes were worn to an incredible extent. People who never costume wore extensive Saints Gear & Black/Gold Costumes. Tons of black & gold fleur de lis beads, black & gold footballs & beads, I Believe hand towels, etc. were tossed off the floats. By the time the Saints made it to the Super Bowl, all the Mardi Gras stores were long out of Saints stuff.
Another Saints related parade took place during Carnival 2010-A large number of men paraded in dresses to honor the late Buddy Diliberto’s pledge to wear one if the New Orleans Saints made it to the Super Bowl.
No review of Carnival 2010 would be complete without a salute to the Who Dat Nation! Who is the Who Dat Nation? Any enthusiastic Saints fan. Who Dat has been the rallying cry of the Saints for years. Taken from a line in a popular local Saints tune, Who Dat Say Gonna Beat Dem Saints? Who Dat? Who Dat? The national media picked up the over the top frenzy that Saints fans feel about their now winning team. During Good Morning America’s coverage of the Super Bowl, they did a split screen with a group of fans in each team’s city. The contrast between the wild, black & gold Who Dat Nation fans from New Orleans, jumping in the air and dancing with Kermit Ruffins playing in the forefront, next to the staid, laid back Indianapolis fans, was startling. Super Bowl XLIV was the highest rated TV program ever. Why was this game so popular? The obvious reason is the Who Dat Nation grew beyond the Superdome, beyond the New Orleans region into a national/international Football phenomena the scale of which only became apparent when the TV ratings for the Super Bowl came in. The top rated TV program ever means the Who Dat Nation may be the biggest NFL fan club ever!
More important than the top TV show ever is the unseen and unexpected effect the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, Who Dat Nation, and the New Orleans election had on the national and international persona of New Orleans. 4 1/2 years post Katrina, the Crescent City was seen as a dangerous, needy, unique American City, and many visitors stayed away. The triple whammies of 9/11, Katrina/Rita, plus the recession had forced the tourist business on life support.
The positive PR from the incredible media coverage changed the image of New Orleans from Katrina ‘losers’ with our hands perpetually out, to magnanimous, safe, fun loving winners! The Who Dat Nation had corrected the Katrina Curse and righted NOLA’s reputation. This is a complex equation involving American Public Opinion, no easy thing to influence. The fact is, no one predicted this opinion shift, it couldn’t be forecast, all the right factors came together unexpectedly. God Bless America!
REX– The throw world is very competitive. Krewes strive to come up a novel throw each year. Rex is not immune to these pressures, as they have expanded their throws considerably in quality and quantity over the last few years. They threw two sizes of three colors of Rex Lieutenant Plush- purple, green & gold dolls- all high quality, like all their plush. They threw two sizes of plush white boeuf gras, a giant plush crown, and a nice purple, green & gold REX kerchief.
Rex is a Super Krewe that runs on cotton wagon chassis with wooden wheels from the 19th century.
Rex also threw a heavy gold replica of their original doubloon, to celebrate their role in bringing the doubloon to Mardi Gras. 50 years ago, Alvin Sharpe approached the Rex Captain and showed him the first prototype for a mass produced doubloon. The Captain was concerned about the risk to parade attendees when showered with doubloons. Sharpe took a handful of prototypes and threw at the Rex Captain. He was of course unhurt and that closed the deal for Mr. Alvin Sharpe.
Rex also played the green card. Each Rex cup has the recycling symbol, plus reuse, recycle, degradable and giacona.com. According to giacona.com, the degradable cups have plastic resin additive allows microbes to ingest and break down in landfill. Made in USA – lower carbon footprint than imported products. Made of FDA Approved material. In the opinion of this blog, this is a serious step up for Rex and the green movement within the Carnival World. Rex had another green claim, this one not nearly as serious a green step. The Rex beads’ strings are degradable also. When Rex beads get stuck in a tree, now the sunlight will degrade the string, and all the beads will fall to the street. Where are degradable beads?
Zulu– Zulu ran on time for the first time in memory, and moved so briskly down Jackson Avenue it was amazing. Zulu is a one of kind parade with great bands like the U.S. Marine Marching Band & St. Augustine Marching 100, plus great groups like the Budweiser Clydesdale Horses. They have the original handmade throw, the famed Zulu Coconut.
Proteus– Proteus entered the modern age of throws with its first Light Up Bead, a jelly like seahorse containing three red LED lights. The floats were build on cotton wagon wooden chassis with wooden wheels, very similar to the chassis REX rolls on. Royal Artists builds Proteus in the old fashioned way, giving them a look of Carnival long ago. The flambeaux are the original model, also from the 19th Century. Proteus had some of the finest looking floats of the season.
Orpheus- Orpheus had its leader, Harry Connick, Jr. on his float this year, since the Saints won the Super Bowl he’s been in New Orleans. Super Bowl Champ Saints Head Coach, Sean Payton had his own float in Orpheus. We caught a 2.5 inch 2010 Snooks Eaglin Doubloon from a Orpheus Officer. Orpheus floats are brashy, very large, with a number of annual super floats- three part Leviathan Dragon, Trojan Horse, six part Smokey Mary Train and more. Orpheus doesn’t lack for music, as the krewe was co-founded by NOLA born Harry Connick, Jr.
Bacchus– Bacchus is the original Super Krewe, the first to feature major Celebrity Kings, the first with multi-unit floats, etc. Their annual Super floats- Kong Series, Bacchusauras, & Baccawoppa, etc. are icon Super Floats and the model for Super Floats all over Carnival parades.
Thoth– Thoth used the same green cup base as Rex with their own design and get the same credit for going green with a throw that’s abundant. From the unfinished Thoth web site: because it designs its parade route to pass in front of 14 institutions that care for persons with disabilities and illnesses, the men of Thoth have become known as the “Krewe of the Shut Ins”. Thoth spends their money on throws, as they go past all those institutions before turning on St. Charles and joining the traditional route. This is Thoth’s 63 Anniversary and one of the larger krewes with over 1,200 members.
Mid-City- Known for the brightly colored aluminum foil Mid-City uses to cover its floats, Mid-City was formed in 1933 and is the fifth oldest continuously parading krewe. 2010 was sunny, so the foil floats were shown to their best effect. Mid-City holds a band contest among bands that parade with them. For 2010, we counted six Memphis, Tennessee High School Marching Bands in Mid-City, which we found very interesting. All those buses, accommodations, and feeding necessary for that many teenagers is quite a logistics job, aside from running a major Mardi Gras parade and ball. My Mardi Gras hat is tipped to the Krewe of Mid-City for getting all those Memphis kids down here and back.
Okeanos– Okeanos had a very big crowd this year, as part of the huge Bacchus Sunday on St. Charles Avenue. They usually start off Sunday, but were preceded this year by the Knights of Babylon, who moved to Sunday after inclement weather moved them from their original date of Thursday, February 11. Okeanos is another old krewe, this is their 60th year of parading.
Babylon- Babylon is designed by the fabulous Henri Schindler, who preserves the old paper mache float building techniques from long ago. Babylon was founded in 1939 and has expanded its throw repertoire substantially- they threw Babylon backpacks, jester heads & hats, and a Light Up bead as well. This krewe lost a good number of bands because of scheduling problems due to their original date rain out. Babylon is a night parade lighted by flambeaux that ran in bright sunshine, obviously without their flambeaux.
Endymion- Endymion is the biggest of all Mardi Gras Krewes with over 2,400 members. Endymion does it just a little bit better than everyone else. Endymion didn’t have the Saints Quarterback or Coach, but the Saints Owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle as Grand Marshalls. Endymion is the only parade that rolls through Mid City and down Canal Street. The crowds for Endymion are positively huge. Endymion has some annual special Super Floats, such as Captain Eddie’s SS Endymion Steamboat. The Budweiser Clydesdale Horses and The St. Augustine Purple Knights were featured in the parade, along with more than two dozen other Marching Bands.
Tucks– Tucks was formed by a few college students a few decades ago, and they have never lost their sophomoric potty humor- their King sits atop a giant toilet! One of their most popular throws each year is a small toilet that squirts water. Tucks is the only krewe to throw toilet paper with their logo on each sheet. Their Friar Tuck stuffed dolls (as opposed to ‘plush’ dolls) remain an icon Tucks throw and they always throw wooden nickels. Tucks is a satirical krewe that loves to tell City Government that they really could do a better job.
Iris- Iris is the oldest all female krewe in New Orleans, as they formed in 1917, but didn’t parade until 1959. It’s a fairly large krewe, with around 800+ riders. Iris allows some men to ride on their floats, which is OK with me! Iris is a generous krewe who puts some money into their costumes. There used to be Venus, another Orleans parading women’s krewe, and there used to be Shangri-La, another large female from St. Bernard Parish that ended up on St. Charles Avenue before ending their big parade, and morphing into a French Quarter Buggy parade. That leaves Iris and Muses as the only female krewes still parading down St. Charles.
Muses- Muses didn’t disappoint in 2010, their 10th anniversary, tossing their usual unbelievable assortment of throws with their logo on them. Here’s very close to a complete list of Krewe 2010 throws: Shoe Bracelet, Muses Ivy Bead, Seed Glass Beads, Shoe Bead, Strobe Theme Bead, Shoe Necklace, Disco Ball Necklace, Flashlight Bottle Opener, Historic Shoe Bead, Acrylic Light Up Shoe Necklace, Diamond Ring, Puffy Key Ring, Muses 10 Ball, Sleep Mask, Glitter Frisbee, Can Koozie, Glitter Heart Tattoo, Leather Rhinestone Bracelet, Re-Usable Tote Bag, Plush Cupid Arrow, Muses Plush Assortment, Cloisonne Doubloon, Patterned Bead Bag, Mini Patterned Bead Bag.
Name another krewe that throws half that much stuff with their logo on it. Muses sells nothing to their membership without their ‘M’ on it. Muses has several signature floats, including The Shoe, The Sirens, and The Bathtub. The only all female nighttime parading organization, their feminine influence is obvious throughout the parade. Since Muses had to reschedule due to bad weather, some of their many bands couldn’t accompany them. Muses is one of the largest krewes to parade down St. Charles Avenue, with more than 1,000 members.
Muses sets the standard with wacko marching groups (except for KdV) with such groups as The Pussy Footers, Muff-a-Lottas, 610 Stompers, and Camel Toe Lady Steppers.
Morpheus– Morpheus is a krewe on the move. Over the last few years, Morpheus has grown from a small krewe to a mid-sized krewe, and in this economy post Katrina that is not an easy thing to do. Krewe dissolution and parade cancellation seems to occur more often.
D’Etat– D’tat has been around 15 years, and in that time they have carved themselves a niche in storied Mardi Gras Krewe History. They won Throw of the Year Honors from us last year for their functional Super Throw, the large, full color lenticular cup. They are as secretive as the older Krewes. Their ‘King’ is called ‘Dictator’ and that’s one identity they never reveal.
D’Etat was also one of the very first krewes to toss a D’Etat Light Up Bead from their floats. Now those Beads are positively the hottest type of bead on the market. Even the old line Krewe Proteus threw a Light Up Bead in 2010. The Budweiser Clydesdale Horses paraded with D’Etat this year. They also host very good NOLA area High School Marching Bands, including St. Augustine and Brother Martin.
D’Etat also skewered the crap out of outgoing Mayor, soon to be garbageman Ray Nagin, an admitted very easy target. Virtually all the satirical krewes had to lob some major shots at such a broad target as the goodby-in-under- 70 days Nagin.
Hermes- I have always like Hermes, they are an old line krewe which began parading in 1937. Hermes now is the oldest continuously parading nighttime parade. They have modern throws, such as Light Up Beads and Plush. Hermes owns some very nice floats. A mid sized krewe with over 600 members, Hermes really surprised with the best looking floats I’ve seen from Hermes in many a year.
Druids- The Ancient Druids started parading in 1998. There was an earlier Druids Krewe, that parading after REX from 1922-1935. They are a very secretive organization who calls their King Archdruid. You have to be a member of another Carnival organization if you want to join Druids. They don’t have a ball, only their parade. There’s no other royalty chosen, the Archdruid is it. Druids is the only krewe to parade alone during the week. They are not interested in growing their membership; it’s limited to 200, which isn’t big in the world of Carnival krewes.
King Arthur– Their King and Queen are King Arthur and Queen Guenevere. They started out as a West Bank parade, before moving to the traditional St. Charles route. King Arthur threw black & gold Super Bowl doubloons, though I didn’t see any while watching this parade. They had some very good bands, including St. Augustine Marching Knights and Warren Easton High School.
Carrollton- One of the oldest parading krewes, organization began in 1924. They had some problems right before WWII and stopped parading until 1947, when they resumed. Carrollton used to parade in the Carrollton neighborhood, changed to a downtown route before ending up on St. Charles Avenue, using the traditional route. Historically, they were the first krewe to use tractors to pull the floats instead of mules. Carrollton helped the first Metairie parade, Krewe of Zeus, to organize. This year Carrollton had some of the best weather of the entire Carnival season. They had several notable bands, including Jesuit & Brother Martin High School.
Pygmalion- Pygmalion moved from Friday night to Saturday morning. The St. Augustine Marching Knights led off this krewe in style this year and the Warren Easton High School Band was very good also. Pygmalion began in 2000, and is a coed krewe. Arnie Fielkow, just elected New Orleans Councilman at Large in the first primary, was also General Manager of the New Orleans Saints. He’s a better Councilman by far than he was General Manager of the Saints. It wasn’t until he moved over the the Council and Mickey Loomis took for a few years that the Saints won the Lombardi Trophy by winning the Super Bowl.
Sparta- The Knights of Sparta made certain changes to their parade that surprised me. No flambeaux, when they have always used flambeaux for their night parades. The King’s Float is mule drawn, but the mule had trouble keeping up with incredible pace of the floats. The bands had to practically run to keep up. We saw the entire parade, soup to nuts, in way under 1 hour, easily a world’s record in the fastest Mardi Gras parade. Sparta began as a Ball only krewe in 1951 and began parading in Orleans Parish in 1981. On the positive side, Sparta had more than double the number of bands this year than last year, which is very encouraging.
Ponchartrain- Now in its 35th year, Pontchartrain began parading near Lake Ponchartrain before moving uptown in 1991. This year the parade featured the cream of all local girl marching bands, Xavier Prep and St. Mary’s Academy. The krewe features both men and women. I remember when the krewe used to march in the lake front area, they had a giant paper mache Crawfish float that was named Mr. Mudbug, as I recall.
Oshun- Oshun was founded in 1997. The year after Hurricane Katrina, Oshun didn’t parade. The wonderful singer Charmaine Neville was the Oshun Celebrity Grand Marshal for 2010. This krewe honors Oshun, a goddess of a religion practiced by descendants of West African Yoruba slaves in Brazil, Haiti and Cuba.
The night might have been cold, but the crowd gathered for KdV was anything but. It was an overflowing, warm crowd welcoming in the 2010 parade season. KdV didn’t disappoint , with their well made, home made floats, skewering Mayor Nagin, Bill Jefferson, etc; their 17 brass bands & 18 mules; plus their wildly original throws, including golden dreidels, devil match books, Mardi Gras colored, handmade bead encrusted match boxes, and much more. We caught an illegal Saints bath towel- black with a gold Fleur de Lis.
I’m in KdV, and it’s an indescribable experience, rolling down the historic streets of the Marigny and French Quarter, meeting and greeting thousands of Mardi Gras and Saints revelers. Yes, it was absolutely freezing last night with a howling wind, but the city and the crowd embraced our parade as they always do and will, and it’s among the greatest feelings in the world. Running into old friends, making new ones, there’s many layers to the fun of Carnival. You could tell the crowd was having a ball as much as the krewe members.
Once the parade assembles and starts rolling, it’s 2.5 hours of screaming “Happy Mardi Gras! & “Who Dat!” & “Go Saints!” over and over, and high fiving thousands and thousands of folks lining the parade route. As a Guardian for the Krewe of Underwear, I stood next to my float, guarding it from overzealous fans, constantly checking behind me to make sure the krewe members were keeping behind the float but in front of the marching band.
A complete parade unit- band, marching krewe members and donkey pulled float tends to undergo a Slinky-type maneuver as the parade progresses. The 3 discrete units get too close together, then too far apart, imitating a Slinky’s motion. This occurs when krewe members get occupied and slow down to a crawl. The band closes in from behind, and the float moves ahead.
The Krewe of underwear’s band last night was Egg Yolk Jubilee. They were terrific, playing a wide variety of marching music.
When you high five someone, your eyes meet, and you form an instantaneous Mardi Gras and/or Saints connection that lasts a microsecond, before the next high five begins. It’s a bit of a power grab by the krewe member that only lasts for a moment, since the parade goers want a throw, and only the krewe members have those throws. These moments aggregate over the 150 minutes the parade is on the street and impart a good feeling that lasts a few days.
That feeling dissipates slowly over the next couple of days, but each time you remember the experience, that great feeling returns for an instant- you are happy!
One notable aspect of the KdV floats that has become much more obvious to the krewe members is how professional the floats construction has become. The sub krewe members decide themselves what their float theme is, what materials to use in construction, and and built it themselves. Over the decades, these amateur float builders have learned carpentry, paper mache sculptures making , building & maintaining float carriages, lighting, and any other skilled crafts necessary for their float’s execution. I was positively amazed at how professional in all aspects the finished Underwear float was.
January 18, 2010, 12:54PM
Mardi Gras king cakes are big business. Read about all the varieties in this article originally published by The Times-Picayune on Thursday, January 24, 2008.
It is the earliest Mardi Gras since 1983, and the earliest it will be again until the second half of the century. But ready or not, this year’s Carnival is packed full of sweet new things to eat, strong beer and silly new twists on the usual digestible traditions.
The iconic king cake always is subject to experimentation, but this year’s variation takes the, uh, cake: an amazing crab- and crawfish-shaped king cake at Hi-Do Bakery in Gretna. “Originally, we were making the regular style,” said Kim Do, daughter of owners Ha and Huyen Do. “My dad said everyone here loves the seafood. We ourselves eat that all the time. He said, ‘I bet everyone here would love to have the shape.'”
Ha’s shaped cakes are big, about 22 inches long for the crawfish, priced at $21.99 plain and $25.99 filled. Usually, the bakery can fill orders within a few hours, Kim Do said. Norma’s Sweets Bakery, a four-year-old Hispanic bakery in Kenner, is now baking king cakes with guava, guava and cream cheese or pineapple filling. “Spanish people eat a lot of pineapple and guava,” said owner Norma Castillo, who is originally from Honduras. “And Caribbean people like the guava.”
Steve Himelfarb has an unusual new filling at New Orleans Cake Cafe & Bakery on Chartres Street. Long known as “The Cake Man” for the cakes he delivered, including a king cake stuffed with raspberry filling, Himelfarb wanted something different for the new bakery.
He and chef/partner Allison Gorlin were having “fun with goat cheese,” he said, and they hit upon the idea of pairing fresh green apples with goat cheese.
Voila! The chevre king cake was born.
“It worked immediately,” Himelfarb said. “My thought was maybe we’ll sell a couple and it’ll be fun. People are calling us now and asking for it. It’s been by far our best-selling king cake, even this early on.”
The not-too-sweet cake coils upon itself and is decorated with Jackson Pollock-like stripes of purple-green-and-gold glaze. It’s $25 and is designed to feed 15, “except that people are taking much bigger slices,” Himelfarb said.
This is the first year for king cakes at Sucre, too, the Magazine Street dessert boutique. Co-owner and pastry chef Tariq Hanna said, “Since I’m ‘not from here’ I had to do some research.”
Sucre offers a shimmery finish
The resulting “king of cakes” look like 8-inch ($12) and 10-inch ($16) doughnuts covered in a purple-green-and-gold iridescent luster, and Hanna warns that there is a “baby on board.” He also says the cake should be heated before serving
Gerard Marchal at Croissant d’Or Patisserie on Ursulines Avenue is one of the French bakers who makes the alternative king cake, the traditional French puff pastry with frangipani inside. This year, for Mardi Gras, he is adding something different to the menu.
“I’m making some beignets just for Mardi Gras because they are traditional in France, filled with Bavarian cream,” Marchal said. “I was in France some months ago, and a friend said he used to do that, and I said, ‘Ooop! Let me do that, too!’ ”
Bavarian cream is new on the north shore, too. For the first time at Marguerite’s Cakes in Slidell, king cakes are filled with it, giving the cake the taste of a cream doughnut.
And at Angelo’s Bakery on West Metairie, an old favorite is newly drizzled atop the praline- and strawberry-filled king cakes.
“Everybody around here eats the king cake. Praline is always a favorite, and everybody likes chocolate, so we just combined it,” owner Lisa Seaward said. “It’s going over pretty well.”
Another chocolate-topped king cake, the Zulu king cake with a coconut filling and coconut topping on the chocolate, seems to be in shorter supply this season (although a bakery in Beaumont, Texas, is selling them on the Internet). But the four locations of Coffee & (in Kenner, Gretna, Harvey and Marrero) will make them if you order 24 hours ahead.
Like the Zulu king cake, the concept of ice cream king cakes has spread around. Creole Creamery on Prytania Street has made them the past few Carnivals, and Baskin-Robbins stores in the New Orleans area sell them, too.
David Bergeron of Creole Creamery makes his with seven scoops of cinnamon-and-cream cheese flavored ice cream as the circular base. Then he dyes regular vanilla ice cream in Carnival colors, melts it and pours it on top, and decorates it with sprinkles and cherries. It costs $20 and contains about 10 scoops of ice cream.
“And of course there’s a baby in it,” Bergeron said.
The Baskin-Robbins versions have ovals of vanilla or chocolate cake as the base, with ice cream frozen on top of that. Those who order ahead can specify any flavor ice cream, but the ones in the freezer cases are usually the most popular flavors (vanilla, pralines and cream, or Creole cream cheese), said Carrollton Avenue franchisee Kim Guardiola.
“We’ve been doing the king cakes for about 20 years,” Guardiola said. “There’s no local advertising. It’s new to a lot of people; they still don’t know we do them.”
Although Baskin-Robbins is a global chain, only franchises in the New Orleans area make ice cream king cakes. According to their Web site, Baskin-Robbins has 13 locations in the area (including Mandeville and LaPlace). Ice cream king cakes come in three sizes for around $9, $16 and $20.
That’s not all the ice cream news. King cakes could potentially be topped with Blue Bell’s King Cake ice cream, which is cinnamon flavor with pastry pieces, Carnival-color candy sprinkles and vanilla icing swirls.
One under-reported Carnival treat is the truffle or other sweet goodie in a pretty little box, given to guests as ball favors and party favors at private events.
Hundreds of favors are sold every year at Blue Frog Chocolates on Magazine Street. New this year in favor boxes are almonds covered in semisweet chocolate in jeweled metallic colors, $14 a pound. And kids can lick Blue Frog’s new purple-green-and-gold whirlie and swirlie lollipops while waiting for parades
Of course, beer is more common on parade routes than lollipops. The newest Abita brews, Mardi Gras Bock and Jockamo IPA, are 6.5 percent alcohol, compared to about 4.5 percent for their amber beer.
Abita has made a winter bock beer for a while, but a couple of years ago everybody on the street was calling it Mardi Gras Bock, so they started putting that on the label, Abita Beer president David Blossman said.
Introduced in mid-November, the company’s new Indian Pale Ale-style brew pays tribute to Mardi Gras Indians.
“A long time ago we made a Jockamo stout that was a specialty beer,” Blossman said. “We love the Mardi Gras Indian culture, and we’re trying to do our part to raise awareness for it.”
Support of a different type is being provided to some of the patrons of the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans, which has had, in the recent past, an oyster butler, a crawfish concierge and a snowball sommelier.
This Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras, patrons staying on the club level can use the services of a “Recovery Concierge,” also known as a hangover helper.
At the recovery station, Russell Sutherland will offer “Cure royale” (instead of Kir royale), mimosas and Bite the Hair of the Dog Bloody Marys, as well as sparkling waters, Alka Seltzer and other pain relievers.
Food editor Judy Walker can be reached at email@example.com or (504) 826-3485.
BATON ROUGE, La. — The day starts about 7 a.m. and innocently enough: just one little beer.
It’s February and a little chilly — not too chilly for an Abita seasonal Mardi Gras Bock beer — and the streets have been closed to traffic. Locals are emerging from their homes, usually in the day’s signature pink, to wander, drink, smile, laugh and travel between early-morning parties. The visitors will be here soon. Many are already tailgating in nearby parking lots.
Gumbo and jambalaya won’t be ready for hours. Right now, it’s bloody marys, Cajun-spiced eggs and king cake, that deliciously gooey circular pastry in which a small baby figurine has been baked. Beads have yet to fly, but they will. It is the Saturday before Fat Tuesday, and 80 miles north of New Orleans, the best parade in the state is about to happen.
The Spanish Town Mardi Gras Parade is named for the neighborhood where it starts: Spanish Town, a patch of narrow tree-shaded streets and the traditional home of artists, boozers, cross-dressers and any free spirit in this conservative town. It is the city’s oldest and most eclectic neighborhood, appropriately listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The parade begins on its main artery, Spanish Town Road, before heading into Baton Rouge’s downtown of midrise office buildings.
I’ve seen New Orleans parades, small-town parades and rural horseback parades, and Spanish Town’s is the perfect amalgamation: rocking like New Orleans, intimate like a small town, with a dash of the country’s carefree calamity. Remember your birthday as a kid? The glory? The excitement? The knowledge that for one itty-bitty day, no one was more special than you? That’s what the Spanish Town parade feels like. Except that on Saturday, it’s everyone’s birthday. No, it’s not New Orleans, but that’s part of the raunchy, beer-soaked fun. Spanish Town Mardi Gras is tightly packed and joyfully unhinged without the expectation of being New Orleans.
By 10:30 a.m. breakfast is finished and houses start opening their doors, releasing the smell of gumbo. More R-rated costumes arrive, more beers are opened, and a 300-pound man dressed as the Octomom exchanges warm greetings with a uniformed cop. Turns out that 300-pound man was once a higher up in the governor’s office. In the costumes, the floats, even the theme of the parade, you learn that nothing is sacred, particularly power and politics. Months after Hurricane Katrina devastated Louisiana, the 2006 theme was “FEMAture Evacuation.”
The Spanish Town parade starts rolling at noon sharp, led by the grand marshal and, in recent years, the motorcycle-riding Baton Rouge police chief, who gladly poses for photos with drunken revelers.
The floats start inching by, and hands fly into the air. In pursuit of beads, women shake what God gave them. So do men. The roar is steady, cacophonous and endless. People load themselves with beads, load their neighbors, load their friends. Despite beer and homemade drinks aplenty, things don’t get out of hand. Everyone is a friend here.
Time stands so still that it’s hard to say how long the parade lasts. Maybe 90 minutes. Like most, it ends with an inglorious thud, street sweepers trailing the last float but doing little good against the quilt of beads. Beads are everywhere. In bushes, in trees, on power lines, and kids invariably try to shake them loose while adults wobble around them.
Then the house parties start again. Bands play in front yards and backyards. Gumbo and jambalaya steam in cast iron pots, and beer is everywhere. The partying goes on like this until about 5 p.m., when everyone starts hitting the wall. At 6 p.m. you’re done. The wobbliest are still trying to find which house they left their coat under, and everyone else goes home.
For the first time since being a kid, going to sleep at 7 p.m. doesn’t seem so bad. Make that for the first time since the last Spanish Town Mardi Gras. And, Lord willing, it will happen next year too.