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Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor

The Search for Mardi Gras

March 2, 2001
by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

Who: Adrienne Krock, Matthew (The Duck) Krock, Adrienne Vincent- Phoenix

What: Well, that's a longer story...

When: Tuesday, February 27, 2001

Where: Disneyland and Downtown Disney

Why: Because it was Mardi Gras!


It all started with an Instant Message.

Adrienne: "We need to do a story about Mardi Gras at Disneyland" 

Adrienne: "But Disneyland doesn't do anything for Mardi Gras" 

Adrienne: "I know, but we have to try. We can always go to Brennan's for lunch" 

Adrienne: "They better not be out of beignets this time"

In case you're confused, there are two Adriennes at MousePlanet - Adrienne "Parenting in the Parks" Krock (AK for short), and Adrienne "MouseShoppe" Vincent- Phoenix (AVP for short). And we were on a Mission From Al - to experience Mardi Gras at Disneyland.

AVP: Adrienne K. has been to the real New Orleans, Louisiana before, and had an idea of what Mardi Gras should look like. I, on the other hand, have not stepped foot into a non- Disney New Orleans Square, and had only the televised images of Mardi Gras to guide me. Of course, we knew that Disneyland was noted for it's lack of Mardi Gras celebrations. And it was pouring rain. Undaunted, we bundled ourselves, and Adrienne K's son Matthew, into our rain gear and headed for the Disneyland Resort.

Is he the Morton's Fisherman, or Paddington Bear? You decide.
Is he the Morton's Fisherman, or Paddington Bear? You decide.

AK: Well I thought I was the one who originally thought of Brennan's for lunch, but I'll let Adrienne VP think it was her. Although I've been to New Orleans before, it was the week after Mardi Gras. That said, I have an appreciation for the wonderful flavors of New Orleans, and I've seen the varieties of beads vendors solicit to tourists in the French Quarter (apparently year round!).

The city of New Orleans is more humid than Southern California, but this was ridiculous. The local weatherman (whose marketing phrase used to be, "Fritz said it would be like this!") had said it would be much lighter than this. He said "just a touch of sprinkles, not really a lot." This was more than a touch. Al was going to owe me big time. And it was cold, too. Fortunately, I was prepared. I brought Mickey ponchos, one for me and one for the stroller, and Matthew's raincoat, hat and boots. It was Fat Tuesday -- and being seven months pregnant, with my sweater, jacket and poncho on -- I was definitely fat! Let me tell you, the Anaheim resort in the rain with a two-year-old is a lot easier with another set of hands to help. Especially when it's someone who the two- year- old adores, and who adores the two- year- old in return!

AVP: Once we stepped off the tram, it was decision time - : "Do you want to try the park, or do you just want to go to Brennan's?" Adrienne said she was hungry, so we decided to eat lunch at the Brennan's Creole Cafe, which is their casual counter service restaurant with patio seating. As we approached the restaurant, it was apparent that we had made a good choice. The outside of the restaurant was decorated with balloons, and a "Mardi Gras" banner hung inside. Beads were dripping from the statues outside, and the employees were dressed in outlandish Mardi Gras costumes. Best of all - they still had beignets!

[Note: Pronounced ben-YAYs, beignets are pillows of rectangular, hole-less, French donuts that are served hot, with a big tuft of powdered sugar on top. Served 24 hours a day at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans' French Market, with three beignets per order, they are usually enjoyed with a hot mug of cafe au lait.]

Adrienne Krock, and the wonderful muffaletta sandwich
Adrienne Krock, and the wonderful muffaletta sandwich

AK: Once we got off the tram, it was time to eat-- no decision had to be made. On a previous visit to Brennan's, I had noticed that they served muffuletta sandwiches. For those of you who have not been to New Orleans, a muffuletta is served on a roll that is about 12 inches in diameter. Onto this sesame seeded bun, deli meat and cheese are topped with a pickled relish of chopped olives, cauliflower, carrots, celery and other veggies. Yes, they are big, which is why I ordered a half muffuletta. I enjoyed my muffuletta at Brennan's but I have decided that I must return soon to try a po-boy next. Peeking over at the other tables I could see that they're big and look very tasty! The cafe also offers hot dishes such as the New Orleans staple, gumbo.

Of course, Matthew's memory of a previous visit to Brennan's cafe was "donuts!" So after finishing most of our muffuletta (Matthew and I shared) I returned inside to order one bag of beignets. When we stayed in New Orleans, our hotel was located on Canal Street so my husband and I frequently visited Cafe du Monde locations at the French Quarter and at the Riverwalk. Brennan's uses the Cafe du Monde mix and is able to re-create the Cafe du Monde experience for me very well, right down to the mounds of powdered sugar that coat them.

The Brennan's staff dressed for the occasion
The Brennan's staff dressed for the occasion

If you have yet to experience beignets, do yourself a favor and order a bag of beignets and a cafe au lait (decaf is available.) When you order a bag of beignets at Brennan's, be sure to shake the bag to distribute the powdered sugar around the beignets.

To properly eat beignets, you must allow the powdered sugar to fall to the ground so that it looks like there are powder sugar "bombs" everywhere. Trust me, it's more authentic that way. These people who try to use a napkin to catch the sugar haven't been to the French Quarter. Also, for the record, in the early weeks of Brennan's opening, it seemed that every time we went by to pick up some beignets, they had run out of mix! It appears that this situation is improving as I assume Brennan's is still figuring out what the demand for these heavenly pastries is going to be.

While we ate our beignets, the chef came out with a bag and handed out some beads for everyone. The Adriennes took yellow beads. Matthew decided the green beads weren't fun to wear, so he held on to them instead.

Waiting in the rain for a real Mardi Gras meal.
Waiting in the rain for a real Mardi Gras meal

AVP: The Jazz Kitchen, the downstairs room with the indoor seating, was offering a $25.00 buffet lunch in celebration of Mardi Gras. Even with the rain, they had a steady queue of customers waiting to be seated. A live band was scheduled to come in at 4:00 p.m., and the upstairs formal dining room was booked solid. 

Inside the Jazz Kitchen
Inside the Jazz Kitchen

AVP: Having thus experienced Disneyland's newest version of Mardi Gras, as hosted by real New Orleans restaurateurs, we walked into the park to check out New Orleans Square. 

AK: Did we mention it was raining?

AVP: Yes, you did - but the ducks were enjoying it! (What does this have to do with our story? Nothing, but I love the baby ducks you see at Disneyland in the springtime)

And they didn't even complain about the weather
And they didn't even complain about the weather

AVP: I am so glad we ate before we got into the park. The first thing we noticed was that Pirates of the Caribbean was closed for it's annual rehab. No Pirates usually means no Blue Bayou, and that which turned out to be the case this day. A sign outside directed us to Cafe Orleans, right across the street. Except that Cafe Orleans was closed as well. 

No Pirates, No Bayou
No Pirates, No Bayou

AVP: So, what was there to eat on Mardi Gras in New Orleans Square at Disneyland? Two choices - French Market, or the Royal Street Veranda, the latter of which offers gumbo and clam chowder in bread bowls. Even in the rain, the French Market had a line. I guess a lot of people wanted to eat in New Orleans Square on Mardi Gras. Of course, the French Market has about three indoor tables for when it rains. We saw many groups taking their food across to the empty Cafe Orleans patio, which is slightly more sheltered, to eat.

It's a good thing we had already eaten!
It's a good thing we had already eaten!

AK: When Matthew and I were grabbing a quick rest at a covered table at the Royal Street Veranda, I saw a CM pushing a cart of sourdough bread bowls marked "Boudin." We'll have to find out if those bread bowls have always been from Boudin or if this is new. Either way, we'll also have to find out if they're the same bread bowls that are being made over in DCA!

French Market
French Market

AVP: As I mentioned, my entire Mardi Gras experience has come from news reports. From this noble education, I expected a few things at Mardi Gras: Entertainment, drinks and beads. Of course, this is Disneyland, so Hurricane cocktails were definitely out. That's ok, I don't drink. What about a mint julep? I hate the things, but it seemed like something we should do in honor of the day. Nope, sorry, mint julep bar was closed. "If you'd like a mint julep, the French Market serves them,", offered a Cast Member. Maybe that's why they had such a long line. 

Music.... where were the musicians? On any given day in New Orleans Square, there are several music groups to watch. The Bayou Brass Band is one of my favorites. You can also catch the Side Street Strutters and Lisa Haley. There have been tap dancers, a solo saxophone player, and the occasional pianist. All missing in action, because of the rain. 

Well, there are other performers in New Orleans Square. And I wanted some beads, so we went on a hunt for Lagniappe, the mime. He's always good for beads, if he has them. Nope, not there. What about the mayor of New Orleans Square, who bops along with his jaunty umbrella? He throws beads from the balcony of the Disney Gallery. Nowhere to be found. It was raining, you know!

AK: Yes, we know! We're still drying out!

AVP: It looked like our search for beads was going to be a total flop, when we stumbled past a couple decked out in the new blue Disneyland Resort ponchos, and dripping with.... BEADS! Lots and lots of beads! There was hope! We walked up to them, and wished them a happy Mardi Gras. Oh, and by the way, where did you get the beads?

The real heroes of this story
The real heroes of this story

AVP: You're not going to believe this - they brought their own. And they were walking up and down the streets on Disneyland's New Orleans Square, throwing beads to the rain-soaked guests and bewildered Cast Members. It was true Disney Magic, but in a very unexpected form. Whoever you two were, thank you! You really made our day. 

AK: These weren't just lots of beads, these were cool beads! Nice and big (although not huge). Not the little ones that most places give away. They also had pretty beads in different shapes and colors. One set looked like little disco balls. The CMs were standing in the doorways of their stores comparing beads with each other. It was really fun. The tourists asked us if we were from New Orleans, "too." They were actually from New Orleans and had brought a little bit of Mardi Gras with them. We chatted very briefly. I mentioned how happy I was that Brennan's had brought authentic New Orleans flavors to Downtown Disney, and they agreed. Did I mention how cool their beads were? It was lagniappe, provided by our fellow guests!

[I know what you're thinking-- "lagniappe. " Didn't the other Adrienne say that he's the mime? Lagniappe is a Creole word that means "a little something extra."]

Bring your own rum
Bring your own rum

AVP: By this time, we were soaked and wanted some respite from the rain. We popped into some of the New Orleans shops to see what we would find. Now, amazingly enough, Mardi Gras was for sale in Disneyland. You could actually buy everything but the beads and rum. Perhaps you were craving a real Hurricane, or a Typhoon? Both the mix and the glasses are available. How about a feathered mask? Yep, got those too. And while they didn't have beads for sale, they did have the next best thing - coins and jewels. 

AK: You can also get Cafe du Monde's blend of coffee and chickory , as well as beignet mix. Personally, I'm not the type to make beignets at home. I'll let Brennan's do the deep frying for me, thank you. I do wish they had the decaf coffee and chickory, though! You can also get some hot sauces there, but this is Disney's version of New Orleans, so you won't find shelves upon shelves of hot sauces with the more "colorful" names. Sue Kruse recommends Aunt Sally's brand of pralines, and with her affinity for sweets, I must trust her judgement on this matter. 

(By the way, you can get fresh pralines delivered to your house from www.auntsallys.com. They also offer the Cafe du Monde product line, and have gift baskets available!)

A handful of Mardi Gras - $6.00 a bag
A handful of Mardi Gras - $6.00 a bag

AVP: When we asked CMs why there wasn't something happening at Disneyland for Mardi Gras, some replied: "Every day is Mardi Gras at Disneyland" (Of course, others replied "Today is Mardi Gras?" - go figure) I learned today that CMS were told on Tuesday to direct guests who asked about Mardi Gras festivities to New Orleans Square, and to Brennan's. Maybe the memo just didn't make it to New Orleans Square! I think the slogan needs to be amended to: "Mardi Gras Celebrated 364 Days A Year."  

AK: I'm going to amend that one: "Mardi Gras Celebrated Unless it Rains," because it does rain for more than one day a year here. Even in normal years. Did we mention that it was raining? Without even stopping for short breaks?

AVP: Ok, but compare this to WDW, where they don't even have a New Orleans Square. Pleasure Island hosts a huge Mardi Gras celebration, complete with theme merchandise. (Though I understand that "Show us your bra" is about as risquÚ as they let the party-goers there get.)

I know it was raining, but that's no excuse. You didn't have any extra entertainment scheduled, so you can't blame the weather. The CMs didn't even know what day it was, so I doubt there was much hype planned. It was just another day in New Orleans Square, which is really too bad.

AK: I agree. If everything had been cancelled because of rain, that would be one thing. But nothing special had been planned at all. They could've broken out some of the Kool-Aid, er, I mean, Hurricane mix, and had non-lethal Hurricanes for sale for the day perhaps, in addition to mint juleps. Although, really the whole Hurricane experience is drinking that much rum and being able to walk afterwards. But then, I'm a very lightweight drinker and I wouldn't dare drink a Hurricane while pregnant anyway!

AVP: I would have understood if the brass band and the mime were up on the Disney Gallery balcony, which is covered and sheltered. Even that much would have made the day feel special. By contrast, I was there again today. Two bands were alternating performances, and the piano player and the saxophone player were out. There were even beads! It was 100% more Mardi Gras than we experienced Tuesday.

So, the moral of the story: If you want to celebrate Mardi Gras at Disneyland, you need to plan in advance. 1) Hope that it doesn't rain! 2) Make reservations at Brennan's for dinner, at least two weeks in advance. 3) Head to New Orleans Square to pick up your feathered mask 4) Go back to Brennan's and spend the rest of the day soaking in real New Orleans atmosphere.

Bayou Brass Band - In Our Shoes
The Bayou Brass Band CD is available through MouseShoppe

And, if it's raining, pick up some Hurricane mix, a box of pralines, and a Bayou Brass Band CD. Then you can head to your warm, dry house and host your own Mardi Gras party.


The Search for Mardi Gras


ABOUT THE EDITOR

Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix is the super-shopper behind MouseShoppe, your personal and unofficial shopping service for the Disneyland Resort, and the owner of CharmingShoppe, a Disney collectibles store located in Anaheim.

In addition to scouring the park to find you the latest and greatest merchandise, she keeps you updated on all of the merchandise events happening in the parks.

If you want to talk to her about this column, merchandise, or events, contact her here.

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