Enjoy a mountaintop Mardi Gras in Vail
February 28, 2014
Traditionally, Mardi Gras ("Fat Tuesday" in French) is a holiday of indulgence before the ritual fasting of Lent takes place. But since when is just one day enough time to truly indulge? Cue the season of Carnival, which culminates multiple days of festivities and fun, delicacies and debaucheries.
Although Mardi Gras celebrations didn't start in America, New Orleans adopted the tradition from French settlers, and the southern city has since been known for its elaborate spreads of hedonistic offerings — during Carnival season and throughout the year.
Colorado can't claim any sort of Mardi Gras roots, but it's a state that still likes to be a part of the party. Vail has offered a variety of Carnival-style events over the years, but none has stuck to ribs and minds more than what's known as the "World's Highest Low Country Crawfish Boil."
Since 2002, Eagle's Nest on Vail Mountain has hosted the annual celebration, which combines every ounce of Mardi Gras goodness, from bluegrass music to Cajun cooking.
"It's just something we have always done up here," said Jack Ridenour, executive chef at Eagle's Nest. "People come up and have a good time and eat some good food."
This will be Ridenour's fourth season cooking for the event, and he said it's also a time when people get to try a taste of spring skiing and outdoor deck time — weather permitting, of course.
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"Sometimes we get snow, but that's just the Rocky Mountains," he said.
Food and entertainment combo
Ridenour said about 600 pounds of crawfish will kick-off the event this Sunday, along with 200 pounds each of corn, potatoes and Andouille sausage.
Admission to the event is free, and combo plates start at $14.95. Combos include one pound of crawfish, with sides of Andouille sausage, corn, new potatoes and garlic bread. Extra sides of gumbo, crawfish etouffe and king cake can be purchased as well, along will draft beer and hurricane cocktail specials.
The event is from 12 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, and will feature live music from Thunder & Rain, a Colorado band based out of Golden.
"The tagline for out band is 'mountain made Colorado country," said Pete Weber, founder and mandolin player of Thunder & Rain. "We are a bluegrass band in that we feature bluegrass instrumentation, including a guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle — and then we add a drummer to that mix to make a blend of original rock and country-style music."
Weber said that throughout the past year, the band has been putting together the types of pieces that appeal to people of the Colorado mountains — bluegrass-style, toe-tapping tunes.
"Our music is meant to be danceable and fun, but also to evoke emotions and to help people enjoy the natural elements around them," he said.
A majority of the band's song composition comes from member R.P. Oates, Weber explained, who is from western North Carolina and has spend a vast majority of his like amidst the influence of southern music.
"On Sunday, you'll get something that is a mix between those southern roots and what comes out of musicians from Colorado," he said. "This event is meant to celebrate a southern holiday, but we will also be on a mountain in ski country, so what you'll get is music that is also rooted in that, and ultimately designed to appeal to the entire crowd."
Carnival continues …
MARDI GRAS BALL
Have an authentic New Orleans evening at the 14th annual Mardi Gras Ball Saturday night at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek. The event benefits St. Clare Of Assisi Catholic School and Vail Christian High School, and includes New Orleans cuisine, a "wander down Bourbon Street," Riverboat Casino gambling and traditional Hurricane cocktails. Festivities start at 5 p.m. with cocktails and silent auction, dinner and a live auction at 7 p.m. and dancing and gambling starting at 8 p.m. For more information, call 970-306-8556 or visit http://www.scavchsmardigrasball.org.
FAT TUESDAY FESTIVITIES
On Tuesday, beginning at 11:30 a.m., Hooked Beaver Creek is holding a crawfish boil, partnering for the second year in a row with Crazy Mountain Brewery. Riley Romanin, executive chef and owner of Hooked, said the restaurant has ordered even more crawfish for the event this year — all boiled in Crazy Mountain Beer and Cajun seasonings. For $20, you'll get a half-pound crawfish order with corn, potatoes and Andouille sausage, along with two Crazy Mountain beers. No reservations are available for Tuesday, so come in first-come, first-serve, and crawfish plates are available until they sell out. Call 970-949-4321 for more information.
Main Street Grill in Edwards is celebrating its own New Orleans roots with a crawfish boil and live entertainment on Tuesday night. Boiled crawfish and all the southern fare — poor boys, gumbo, jambalaya, shrimp creole, etouffee — will be available to enjoy after 5 p.m., until it all sells out. Live music will accompany the celebration. For more information, call 970-926-2729.