Here at CL, we're having sweet King Cake dreams and spicy gumbo cravings. CL Photo Editor Amy Delaune Diaz was born and raised in Louisiana, and as the expert on all things Mardi Gras in this office, she's excited to share the vibrant and delicious celebration with all of us.
As a kid, the holiday meant days off school to eat King Cake and attend as many parades as possible. "Even now, our weekends are full of going to parades and spending time with family and friends. It's basically a huge block party," she says. "During the down time between parades, we eat, drink, dance, etc. Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez translates to Let the Good Times Roll, and that is the mantra that we live by down there."
Carnival season begins on January 6 (King’s Day) and runs through Mardi Gras Day or Fat Tuesday. The celebration goes right up to Ash Wednesday, so the day is full of rich foods served before the ritual fasting of Lent (hence the Fat of Fat Tuesday).
The King Cake is a symbol of this. Oval shaped and a distant cousin to the dear coffee cake, the New Orleans tradition hails from France and wears a draping of icing or sugar in three colors—purple for Justice, green for Faith and gold for Power. The colors represent the three Wise Men who searched for baby Jesus (and thus, the plastic baby inside the cake).
“Nothing is off-limits during Mardi Gras!” Delaune notes. “Of course people will have King Cake, but you can expect to find chargrilled oysters, blackened or fried alligator, crawfish pie, gumbo, jambalaya, fried chicken, sauce piquante, muffulattas, etc.”
But what should you drink?
A beer that is drinkable. Not too heavy but still boasting plenty of flavor.
“A giant block party means that you will probably be out on the route all day, so I want a good beer but not one that is going to be too filling. Since I am also a Louisiana girl, I tend to stock up on Louisiana craft beers,” she says.
Not a fan of beer? A Bloody Mary is a great way to kick off parades. To channel the city of New Orleans, a Sazerac, Hurricane, or Ramos Gin Fizz is highly recommended.
Our top Louisiana brew picks:
Muses from NOLA Brewing: Newly released this year, the Belgian-style single ale starts with a citrusy crispness and finishes dry. It's delicate while retaining just the right amount of bitterness and hops. We imagine this bright brew alongside a plate of red beans and rice.
Courir de Mardi Gras from Bayou Teche: The word that comes to mind: drinkable. Delaune calls this a “route-friendly” beer, meaning it will have broad appeal to your friends and family while being easy to throw back. The French farmhouse brew reminds us of a light hefeweizen and would be next to a bowl of hearty gumbo or jambalaya.
Parade Ground Coffee Porter from Tin Roof: We like to think of this as a perfect dessert beer to enjoy when winding down from parade festivities or even a delicious breakfast brew (hey it says coffee, right?). With a strong espresso scent, the porter is creamy and not bitter at all. Did someone say something about beignets?