Tower 13 in Cardiff threw a Mardi Gras bash on Saturday March 1st that was just the kind of thing we could fully enjoy and feel like we had a good dose of New Orleans food, drink and entertainment without the travel, crowds and overindulgence of the real thing.
We had stopped in for a happy hour bite on Friday and the bartendress was mixing up a fruit concoction in a big vat she had placed precariously on a bar stool. It dawned on me-hurricanes! I was right and we became the lucky taste testers. Now hurricanes from scratch (instead of the kool-aid like powder you can buy and mix up) is a sweet, yummy treat. I can’t drink too much because of its sweetness but it is delicious and she was doing a great job with it. Of course, Dan very helpfully suggested it needed more of an alcohol bite to cut through the sweetness. Ha! Randy, the chef who had come out front while we were tasting the batch, being from New Orleans backed him up whole heartedly.
By now we have realized they are throwing a Mardi Gras party and we are getting down to details. Randy tells us in his southern drawl which I suspect was a little enhanced from all the back home activities he had been engaging in, about the difficulties he had in getting his live crawfish this year. It had been such a cold winter in the South that the ones in New Orleans weren’t big enough and he had to go to Central Florida for these. He had 300 pounds delivered and pots the size of bath tubs ready to boil them up in. Then he starts in about the gumbo and jambalaya he’ll be fixing up to go along with it. Man, he had me at crawfish! What a feast, count us in for sure. A big storm is blowing in though, and in San Diego, when it rains we practically expect the National Guard to rescue us so they were concerned that it might hurt their turnout. Hmmmm, more crawfish for us?
It did in fact storm all night. It made national news, it rained so hard. But it stopped raining that morning and most of the day. The ocean was still super stormy and it was windy and cloudy so it was very exciting to go down by the water. Tower 13 is right across the highway from the sand. What a spot! When we parked there were sea-foam bunnies about 18 inches long scurrying down the beach. Something you rarely see here. I had to watch a little bit, even though I was wearing purple feather fake eyelashes and therefore was risking eye injury in the wind just to face that direction. For once the waves were louder than the traffic.
We were quickly lured inside by the smell of the crawfish cooking out back and the amazing sounds of Euphoria Brass Band, the band that we had made sure we were on time to hear. It felt like we were stepping off the streets of New Orleans, not the beach of Cardiff as the sounds, smells, laughter and good times of the Big Easy greeted us at the door. The crowd was definitely coastal, North County San Diego…our peeps, but the feel was all N’awlins. And our peeps were definitely getting their Southern Good Times on.
One of the best things for us about living in North County Coastal San Diego is that the crowd at most of the bars is on the older side. Checking id’s is kind of silly and Dan and I don’t feel like we dropped in from our time machine. Tower 13 is no different. The crowd is very mixed, young surfers mixed with what are probably some of the original surfers! Professionals of all ages and all having a good time with a view of the ocean, good food, creative cocktails and a very nice menu. A great place to drop in on if you are visiting and want a really “California beach experience”, because the locals hang here.
We had the hurricanes. Perfect! Not as strong as in New Orleans but that was probably good, because the storm would have made it very hard to sleep it off on the beach. We had the crawfish. Randy hooked us up and let us know when a fresh batch was coming out so they didn’t oversteam. Oh man, were they good. They kept them a little less spicy than down South for us which is OK by me and they were delicious. I could hear people saying “better than shrimp or lobster” but they were saying they are hard to eat. I was just thinking “worth it” and “you get better at it”! Gumbo and jambalaya were decent but didn’t have the depth of flavor I was hoping for. Probably because they don’t have that stuff cooking regularly to keep layering it in.
Hey Mista’! Gimme some beads!
Now Dan is no dummy. Before we left home he grabbed a bunch of Mardi Gras beads and stuffed them in his pockets, my jacket pockets, anywhere he could. I sort of thought he was being silly but he definitely had the last laugh on that one. Clever like a fox that one! He started out slow. Slyly sitting at the bar, chatting with a nice couple to our left. The lovely gal didn’t have any beads and after a couple of minutes talking with her, Dan mentioned it. He knew I would prod him to give her some, and right on cue, I did. Turns out her boyfriend was from Louisiana and he immediately got his back up, worried Dan was looking for a little “flash the boobie” action but Dan just laughed and said no, no, no but a hug would be nice. She hopped right up and gave him a nice, long hug and he was off to the races!
Dan claims he used to sit in a bar all night and try to strike up a conversation with “female people” but they would look straight through him with something closely resembling disdain. He’s come a long way baby. It is so fun to watch him now because he gets so tickled with himself. It is all very harmless, he really wants to see how many beads he can give away, he enjoys talking to the ladies and they get the immediate read that he is harmless and friendly. Even in his purple pimp shirt. Now, some people may think that’s strange that I don’t mind that he does that, but I know my Dan, and he will be in the middle of 3 lovely ladies while I am talking to someone else and he will bring me into the discussion. So, he isn’t trying to get away with anything, he is just having fun. And I support fun!
As the afternoon wore on and he was getting more comfortable with his role as bead distributor (more full of himself) I ran into a beautiful blonde in the washroom. She was very vivacious and commented on my beads, lamenting that she didn’t have any. I confided that I knew where a guy was that was giving them out. Even in her tipsy state she knew enough to ask what she was going to have to do to get them. “Well, I think you will have to hug him” I replied tentatively and she was all aboard. As we left the washroom she grabbed another stunning blonde told her the story and I said “follow me, I’ll point him out”. I led her around to where we were hanging out with some friends, whispered “you owe me” to Dan as I passed and then pointed to him behind his back for the girls. They were all giggly and cute flirting to get the beads that he was more than happy to provide. They ended up talking and laughing for a while, Dan blushing deeper and deeper and the hugs kept going every time he said something they thought was funny. Finally Dan pointed out that I was his wife and they just laughed and laughed and hugged me too. They could not believe how funny it was that I would bring them over, they bought us drinks, got Dan a few more girls to hug and drifted off. Dan is one sly bead-toting fox. It sure livened up our area of the bar! The bartender was definitely taking notes on technique. Of course, he would need me as his wing man…
Euphoria was rocking the house the whole time. The gal playing trombone joked that she was icing her mouth at each break, and I am not sure she was joking. They were killing it with the music up there. Close your eyes and you were sure that you were on the River Walk coming up on a bunch of jovial looking black men in uniform with shiny faces blowing their brains out, but no! It was a bunch of white folk by the Pacific Ocean! Unreal.
They wrapped it up though. I think maybe one of them collapsed a lung in service to the event. A new band started up with more generic music, Dan ran out of beads and we ran out of steam. The crowd was doing that thing it does around here. Changing over to a younger, hipper crowd for the later evening. That’s fine by us, we are still having fun, we just do it a little earlier now. We will definitely be back for this again next year!