How to Kick-off Carnival Like a King (or Queen)

Like most of my fellow New Orleanians, I love a good party. And for my fellow native New Orleanians, we can find just about any reason to have one.

Good report card? Nice weather? It’s Tuesday? You better believe a New Orleanian will find something to celebrate with food, family, friends and fun.

With both my husband and myself being native citizens of our jovial Crescent City, we were raised with Sunday afternoon family gatherings at our grandmothers, enjoying the spoils of a friend’s fishing or hunting excursions with a Saturday night feast or turning a Saints win into a dance party.

Needless to say, with such similar backgrounds two things were inevitable when we got married:

  1. Our favorite season would be Carnival and
  2. We were bound to find a lot of reasons to have “gatherings” and parties at our house.

Deciding to live Uptown, it was kismet that we found ourselves only a block from the parade route too. 

With the beginning of Carnival season following only 12 days after the jam-packed holiday season, it’s hard to rally friends and family for one more party. Throw in New Year’s resolutions to eat and drink better, and it can be a tough sell.

After years of racing to the corner of Nashville and St. Charles Avenues, just to see the Phorty Phunny Phellows ride by on their streetcar in a flash and rationalize with my girls on why they did not catch anything “at the parade” we decided to kick off Carnival a new way.

Enter in our brilliant idea of our “King Cake and Champagne Twelfth Night Carnival Kick-off.” I agree the title is a little long, but assure you the idea is perfect for anyone who loves king cake and a reason to celebrate.

We packed away the ornaments and tinsel of the holiday season and adorned our home with the Carnival colors of purple, green and gold. Seeing the close of one season and beginning of another so distinctive of our city makes telling Christmas goodbye for another year a little easier for my girls as well. And on one of the three freezing (and only freezing rainy) days we have experienced in New Orleans in the better part of the year, our family and friends gathered for our inaugural Twelfth night party.

We enjoyed it so much that I wanted to share with my fellow Carnival fans so you can join in the revelry next year!

Here are a few tips on how-to throw a King Cake and Champagne Carnival Kick-off:

  • Have your guests each bring a king cake from their favorite local bakery. In a city that is rich in history, we are also rich in food. One of my favorite conversations surrounding Mardi Gras is hearing where everyone gets their favorite king cakes. We even mourn the loss of king cakes that, in the words of Benny Grunch and the Bunch, “ain’t dere no more.” So what better way to see which truly wears the crown of “best king cake” than host a tasting challenge masque’d as a party?
  • Make sure your guests also bring a bottle of bubbly to share. What could be more decadent that king cake, than king cake with a little bubbly. Champagne, Procesco, Cava or sparkling wine. I can say first hand the spritz of the beverage pairs very well with the sparkling sugar crystals of the king cakes.
  • Make sure to have some other parade food staples for your guests. After all that sugar, this is the perfect opportunity to make sure your gumbo, red beans and rice or jambalaya recipe is just right for the main event.
  • If you enjoy a little friendly competition, have the party-goers place their bets for their favorites in a jar next to the king cakes. Whoever brought the winning cake, gets to be king (or queen) for the rest of the evening. Or if you enjoy the satire of Carnival, they get to host the party next year.

And in my opinion, it is perfectly acceptable to host this party every week during the Mardi Gras season! Cheers to another Carnival!


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