• Top 5 Eats at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras

    By: Leigh M. Caldwell


    Universal Orlando’s Mardi Gras is underway for 2012. While the biggest draws are the New Orleans-style parade and the weekend concerts at Universal Studios Florida, there’s one more part of the festival that should not be overlooked: the food.

    Special booths set up in the French Quarter Courtyard at Universal Studios Florida dole out all sorts of Cajun concoctions, so this is one of those times when I would definitely recommend eating dinner at the park. Here’s a look at the Top 5 eats at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras:


    » IMAGE GALLERY: Top 5 Eats at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras

    5. Cajun Wings

    You can pick up a platter of chicken wings with a Cajun flair for $8. There’s also a “Voodoo Hot Wing” platter available for the same price, if you’re brave enough to try it.

    4. Twisted Tater

    OK, so it doesn’t necessarily scream “New Orleans,” but how can anyone resist freshly cut and fried potato chips? These chips on a stick are available with seasoned salt, garlic butter, sour cream and chive, or salt and vinegar, and they cost $5 each.

    3. Jambalaya

    What’s not to like about rice, meat, spices and even a crawfish on top of a plate of this Jambalaya? It comes with a soft roll for $8.

    2. Beignets

    These gorgeous pillows of fried dough covered in a cloud of powdered sugar are a New Orleans must-have, so we would be remiss if they didn’t make our Top 5 Mardi Gras foods list. A plate of three sweets costs $4.25.

    1.Shrimp Gumbo

    The gumbo at Universal Orlando Mardi Gras is the best food bargain at the theme park, with a big bowl of the meat, seafood and rice stew going for $5. And the dish packs a big flavor punch. The recipe that Universal Orlando uses is the authentic way of preparing this classic Cajun dish, and they shared it with us to recreate at home:


    1/2 cup onions (diced 1⁄4”)

    1 cup celery (diced 1⁄4”)

    1/2 cup red bell peppers (diced 1⁄4”)

    1/2 cup green bell peppers (diced 1⁄4”)

    4 cloves garlic (chopped fine)

    5 slices bacon (diced into pieces)

    1 bay leaves 1/2 Tbsp. Thyme leaves

    1/2 lb. Okra, frozen (cut into bite size pieces)

    1 28 oz. Can tomatoes diced with juice

    1 Tbsp. Fish or shrimp base

    1⁄4 tsp. Black pepper ground

    1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

    4 cups Fish stock strong, hot

    1 Tbsp. Gumbo file 1/2 cup water, cold

    1/2 lb. Shrimp (raw, peeled 26-30 count)

    1/2 lb. Andouille sausage

    4 Tbsp. Butter unsalted

    4 Tbsp. Flour all purpose

    1⁄2 tsp. Tabasco


    1. Prepare brown roux by cooking flour and butter.

    2. Heat bacon in soup pot and cook until lightly brown add onions, celery, bell peppers and garlic and cook until tender.

    3. Blend in okra, bay leaves, thyme, black pepper and Tabasco, stirring constantly.

    4. Add fish stock, sausage and tomatoes and bring to a boil and then blend in roux mixing well.

    5. Bring back to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir frequently.

    6. Add shrimp, Worcestershire sauce and simmer 10 more minutes.

    7. Remove from heat, blend gumbo file and water with wire whip and stir into soup. Taste and adjust seasoning.

    8. When serving, put one spoon of boiled hot rice into cup, pour in enough gumbo to cover and garnish with chopped green onions.

    The Mardi Gras party continues at Universal Orlando on weekends through April 14.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leigh M. Caldwell is the Clermont mom behind ThemeParkMom.com (http://themeparkmom.com), a site that tells you not only when that new attraction is opening, but also what ages it is appropriate for and whether or not there are diaper-changing facilities in the restroom closest to it. Ask your questions and join the discussion at the Theme Park Mom Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/themeparkmom), and follow Leigh on Twitter @ThemeParkMom (https://twitter.com/#!/themeparkmom).