A Mardi Gras to remember
“Mardi Gras is a thing that could hardly exist in the practical North….For the soul of it is the romantic, not the funny and the grotesque. Take away the romantic mysteries, the kings and knights and big-sounding titles, and Mardi Gras would die, down there in the South.”- Life on the Mississippiby Mark TwainBB&B, Vail’s defunct, top-secret spring-time celebration is gone, but thanks to Vail Resorts, Mardi Gras celebrations are here to stay. From Feb. 5 8, Vail giveth back what it was forced to take away when the infamous BB&B, got too wild.The second-annual Mardi Gras party brings deep-South fun (including live music with Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers, the world’s highest “low country” crawfish boil) and a quintessential street parade to Vail. Complete with floats, a marching band, colorful beads and detailed masks, the parade is designed to bring out the wild side. At night it is an event where one can drink hurricanes like a rock star and even trade a flash for some beads during the parade.But during the day it is a colorful, family-friendly event. There’s a parade from 5 – 6 p.m. on Fat Tuesday which runs from the International Bridge to the top of Bridge Street.Vail’s ambassadors to everything Southern, the boys of Moe’s BBQ (Mike, Ben and Jeff), couldn’t be more excited then to have their favorite Southern celebration make its way northwest to their new-found home.The boys from Alabama opened Moe’s BBQ, which delivers some of the only authentic southern BBQ in the area, in 2002. All three owners swear on the Bible that Mardi Gras wasn’t started in New Orleans as many believe; but in their home state of Alabama.”I don’t think many people know this,” says Moe’s cook Mike Fernandez in his deep, Southern Drawl, “but Mardi Gras originated in Mobile, Alabama.”After a weekend of revelry, Mardi Gras crams in one last party culminating on “Fat Tuesday” (Feb. 8). The following day is the Catholic holiday Ash Wednesday, when lent begins. Just like New Year’s resolutions, many give up drinking or smoking for the 40-day duration. The phrase “go out with a bang,” must’ve had some origin with Mardi Gras a weekend-long opportunity to burn out those bad habits.At last year’s Mardi Gras celebration Moe’s competed in the gumbo cook-off and came in second place a fact Fernandez is still lamenting. The winner’s gumbo didn’t have okra in it a mortal sin by southern standards.”Gumbo is an African word for okra,” Fernandez says, “you can put almost anything in it but it needs to have okra in it to be a gumbo.”Moe’s authentic gulf seafood gumbo includes gulf shrimp, bacon, lump crab meat and oysters.”This is what people down South are accustomed to getting,” he says. “This is as authentic as you are going to get up here in Vail.”Besides shooting for first place this season in the gumbo contest, Fernandez says the boys from Moe’s are doing all they can to Southernize the newer event. They’ll be cooking up jambalaya and red beans and rice while avoiding crawfish leaving that to the massive Eagle’s Nest crawfish boil, which heats up 11 a.m. 3 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 6.Fernandez says the Moe’s crew is tracking down Moon Pies and RC Colas; both classic items thrown out to kids at authentic southern Mardi Gras parades. “We want to be a strong part of Vail’s Mardi Gras celebration,” Fernandez says, “it’s a Southern thing and anything Southern, we’re into.”Southern musicBesides authentic food, drinks and the parade, music plays an integral role in almost every respectable Mardi Gras celebration. Lil’ Brian and The Zydeco Travelers, who play Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Lionshead street party from noon 5 p.m., combine Creole sounds and party atmosphere with an R&B mentality. Packed with the sounds of the squeezebox, upright keyboard and even a little washboard, this crew is modernizing the traditional bayou music of the south. Not simply Zydeco, but Cajun music for a new millennium, the act even incorporates some hip-hop beats into their intensely interactive and fun show.”We even got a great authentic Zydeco band,” Fernandez says, referring to Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers. “We’re lucky to have them, as most bands won’t leave New Orleans this time of year.”On Fat Tuesday, the weekend of everything Cajun culminates with the parade and the “King and Queen’s Ball,” which will reveal the identities behind the carnival masks.Details can be found on http://www.vailmardigras.com. The site also includes Mardi Gras history and a cutout carnival mask that can be designed at home. Those needing beads, boas and masks can pick them up at the General Store, 610 West Lionshead Circle (970) 479-3223 or at Rucksack, 288 Bridge Street, Vail Village (970) 479-9000. VTThe Mardi Gras calendar of eventsSaturday, Feb. 5Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge, Mardi Gras style.Lionshead Street Party from 12 5 p.m. featuring a free concert with Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers straight from New Orleans at the base of the Eagle Bahn gondola.Sunday, Feb. 6’World’s Highest Low Country Crawfish Boil’ at Eagle’s Nest from 12 3 p.m. with more live music from Lil’ Brian and the Zydeco Travelers as well as gumbo and crawfish with potatoes and corn.Monday, Feb. 7Gumbo Cook-Off from 12 8 p.m. around town with $2 samples at participating restaurants.Fat Tuesday, Feb. 8Mardi Gras parade in Vail Village from 5 6 p.m. from the International Bridge to the top of Bridge Street with an awards presentation from the Red Lion deck immediately following.Throughout Mardi GrasBar and food specials at Bart and Yeti’s, the Tap Room, Lion’s Den, Moe’s BBQ and FuBar.Mardi Gras just ain’t the same without a Hurry-cane. Here’s the recipe you’ll need to kick start your Mardi Gras weekend.Hurricane drink recipe2 ounces amber rum1/4 cup passion fruit juice, or 1 tablespoon passion fruit syrup1 teaspoon superfine sugar1/2 teaspoon grenadineJuice of 1/2 limeCherries and orange slices to garnishIce cubesIn a cocktail shaker mix the rum, passion fruit juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add the grenadine and lemon juice and stir to combine. Add the ice cubes and shake. Strain hurricane into a cocktail glass. Garnish with orange and cherries.Like Gumbo y’all? Here’s the basic recipe for spicy seafood gumbo to get started then you can add your own unique flavor as you get a taste for the Southern thang!1 cup vegetable oil1 cup flour4 medium onions, chopped8 stalks celery, chopped3 cloves Garlic, minced4 15 oz cans chicken broth2 28 oz cans chopped tomatoes2 10 oz packages frozen okra, sliced, thawed1 pound crab claws1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce1 tablespoon hot sauce5 bay leaves1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced2 teaspoons dried whole thyme2 teaspoons dried whole basil2 teaspoons dried whole oregano2 teaspoons sage1 teaspoon pepper2 pounds shrimp, medium size, unpeeled1 quart oysters, undrained1 pound crab meat1 pound fish fillets, cut in 1" cubehot cooked riceCombine oil and flour in a cast iron skillet; cook over medium heat 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until roux is brown, but not black. Stir in onion, celery, and garlic; cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Transfer mixture to a Dutch oven. Add chicken broth, tomatoes, okra, crab claws, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, basil, oregano, sage, and pepper; simmer two hours, stirring occasionally.Peel and devein shrimp. Add shrimp, oysters, crab meat, and fish to dutch oven; simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves. Serve gumbo over hot rice and, if desired, sprinkle with fil.