It’s that time of year again when DC locals can temporarily pretend we live in a magical place where Carnival is a thing, public drinking is encouraged, and for a brief period it’s legal to hurl large plastic beads at just shy of the speed of sound at people’s faces – DC Mardi Gras. The festivities kicked off last night with Louisiana Alive at the Dupont Hilton. Never been? Make that the first thing on your “Goals for 2014″ list. The large ball-room is lined with custom made sponsor booths where those of good fortune (and a special colored wrist band) can access. In addition to the only level that serves hard liquor, the various sponsored booths (mostly energy/power companies) allow their guests a place to sit, enjoy the large place of steamed Gulf shrimp provided, and throw beads, boas, and whatever else you can find at the masses walking past on the lower level. Plus it provides a pretty sweet view of the band and other attractions.

DC Mardi Gras Louisiana Alive the hungry lobbyist

Resending down to the main floor, you have the stage in the center, a dance floor, various street and circus-type performers, several bars (sans liquor), and food vendors. This year provided some of the best food in recent years.

There were these little crab cake bites with caviar on top that were very good – although over-salted.

DC Mardi Gras Louisiana Alive the hungry lobbyist

Of course, steamed Gulf shrimp that were tender and perfectly cooked.

DC Mardi Gras Louisiana Alive the hungry lobbyist

And then the real food. The gumbo was out of this world. Shredded chicken, sausage, and shrimp with sauteed vegetables simmering in this thick, rustic sauce, served over white rice.

DC Mardi Gras Louisiana Alive the hungry lobbyist

But these potato dumpling things in a thick rue with shrimp where amazing! By far the best thing there.

DC Mardi Gras Louisiana Alive the hungry lobbyist

Also available where shrimp and grits, and fresh Gulf oysters (though the line was very long), all being inhaled by the increasing less sober crowd.

The festivities continue all weekend with the Captain’s Dinner tonight, and the actual Ball on Saturday night. Details can be found online here.

Actual Mardi Gras is February 12th this year and we’ll provide full coverage of all the DC events and restaurants offering Mardi Gras celebrations.

Until then…laissez les bon temps rouler!