In New Orleans, we don’t track our seasons by the weather. We know them by the rituals we’ve built around them.
In this way, Saints season always begins with high hopes and bold predictions. Crawfish season starts with debates about price and mudbug size around a backyard boiling rig.
Carnival season arrives with king cake, eagerly eaten up by those who know that a treat they could theoretically have any time is best reserved for the special span between Epiphany and Mardi Gras.
Once just another facet of Carnival, king cake has grown into a New Orleans food season in its own right. If you’re ready to belly flop into it all, a pair of parties get the king cake craze rolling Jan. 6.
King cake for breakfast at King Cake Hub’s kick-off
On Monday morning, you can celebrate the sweet life with an early slice of king cake in a one-time mortuary. How New Orleans is that?
King Cake Hub is a seasonal outlet for king cakes from many different makers under one roof, and that roof is the Mystère Mansion, the stately, historic former funeral home by the Mid-City cemeteries that is now operated as the Mortuary Haunted House.
On Jan. 6, King Cake Hub hosts its second annual Carnival Kick-Off party from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. There’s music from Benny Grunch and the Bunch and Panorama Brass Band, appearances from the Carnival-themed characters Professor Carl Nivale and Grand Marshal Marty Graw, and a ceremonial cutting of a king cake.
The party continues an annual event once held at Pizza NOLA, the Lakeview eatery that developed a dual identity as a distribution point for Dong Phuong king cakes. After Pizza NOLA closed in 2018, proprietor Will Samuels developed the King Cake Hub concept to carry on the king cake impresario role.
This year, King Cake Hub will sell cakes from 50 different makers, from nearby bakeries to regional players (though not Dong Phuong). This year’s line up includes special cakes from Caluda’s and Gambino’s sold only at the King Cake Hub, and the shop will have king cake by the slice, as well as king cake on a stick, king cake “nuggets” and king cake bread pudding.
King Cake Hub Carnival Kick-Off Party
4800 Canal St., (504) 518-2953
Monday (Jan. 6), 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.
A king cake block party at Bywater Bakery
Bywater Bakery officially opened in 2017 on Jan. 6. It was no coincidence.
Founder and longtime local baker Chaya Conrad knew how much New Orleans loves king cakes. Each year since, this neighborhood bakery has marked the start of Carnival season with an event that has progressively grown larger and more festive.
This year’s King’s Day Block Party is shaping up to be its own small neighborhood festival, revolving around the bakery counter and extending out to the street with a full day’s line up of live music, including Al “Carnival Time” Johnson with a “super group” of well-known local musicians.
To produce this year’s event, the Bywater Bakery partnered with the Backbeat Foundation, a nonprofit that supports community music and arts events.
Beyond king cake, the party brings in many components of Carnival culture, including Mardi Gras Indians, skeletons and baby dolls and a middle school marching band, 65 students strong, in full uniform for a parade season practice run.
Bywater Bakery this season has eight varieties of king cake, as well as savory king cakes (boudin, crawfish, and spinach and artichoke). You can get them whole or by the slice. During the party, local Creole soul food queen Linda “the Ya-ka-mein Lady” Green will serve her signature, restorative soup and red beans and rice (Twelfth Night is a Monday, after all).
Here’s the schedule:
- 11 a.m.: Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton
- 12 p.m.: Tin Men
- 1 p.m.” Soul Brass Band
- 2 p.m.: Magnetic Ear
- 3 p.m.: Al “Carnival Time” Johnson with Fredy Lonzo, Corey Henry, Detroit Brooks, John Boutte, David Torkanowski, Herlin Riley and Wendell Brunious
- 4 p.m.: Renaissance School Marching Band full dress, street parade
- 5:30 p.m.: Pinettes Brass Band
Bywater Bakery King’s Day Block Party
3624 Dauphine St., (504) 336-3336
Monday (Jan. 6), 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Source: Thanks https://www.nola.com/entertainment_life/eat-drink/article_efdc7742-25db-11ea-b4c7-b36d35f24912.html