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With a name like International Flavors of Carnaval, there were sure to be some amazing culinary creations at this year's Mardi Gras festival at Universal Orlando Resort. And boy, did we find some! Universal's gastronomic magicians more than doubled the amount of food and drink offerings available this year at the festive event — inspired by Carnaval celebrations from countries around the world. (You better believe we were drooling just thinking about most of these items.) When Mardi Gras season finally arrived at the resort, our feet didn't fail us as we hopped around Universal Studios Florida ... and neither did the food. Without further ado, here's our list of the top 10 food and beverage items you can get at Universal's Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval in 2023.
Fruity, creamy, cold and crunchy — this Colombian beverage has it all. Derived from the El Valle region of Colombia, choladas are a cross between a fruity dessert, a fruit cocktail and a drink. Seriously, what more could you wish more?!? In Universal's version, you'll find shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk, mango, strawberry sauce, wafers and Lulo syrup. (What's Lulo you ask? Think a combination of kiwi, citrus and pineapple. Yum!) We absolutely loved the delicious mix of flavors and textures in here — especially once the mid-day heat started to hit! You'll find this booth hidden away right next to Animal Actors on Location! at the entrance to Woody Woodpecker's KidZone.
French Quarter #1: King Cake
Named after the story of the three kings who brought gifts to a famous baby, King Cake is as synonymous with the Big Easy as beignets and jambalaya are! This delicious dessert is like one giant cinnamon roll — a cake traditionally made with cinnamon-flavored dough and covered in cinnamon swirl icing and colored sanding sugar. Those colors being the iconic Mardi Gras yellow, green and purple — symbolizing, power, faith and justice, respectively. Of course, it's also topped with the signature miniature plastic baby. (Mardi Gras tradition states that if your slice of cake contains the baby, you're known as the king and charged with the responsibility of bringing a king cake to the next event.)
Be sure to order this with your whole squad because it absolutely cannot be conquered by one frog alone! You can find this booth right outside of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon in Gramercy Park.
Germany: Chicken Schnitzel with Käsespätzle
Talk about comfort food! This hearty favorite is a fried chicken thigh served with baked spätzle (a German egg noodle pasta) and beer cheese sauce. As a certified cheese lover, dipping the crispy, crunchy schnitzel into the gooey, creamy spätzle was incredibly satisfying. I highly recommend this dish if you're looking for a savory option that's picky eater-safe (since it's not that far off from a chicken tender and macaroni and cheese). Oh, and be sure to squeeze your lemon slice over it before dipping! You can find this booth at the end of the bridge right in between the London Waterfront and MEN IN BLACK Alien Attack.
Indonesia: Nasi Goreng
The culinary geniuses at Universal Orlando absolutely hit it out of the park with its brand-new Indonesia booth this year! Another savory option, this dish contains Indonesian-style fried rice with egg, Thai fried shallots, cucumber and a prawn cracker. Salty, savory and perfectly spiced (but by no means spicy), this amped-up take on fried rice was an instant favorite among our frog squad. Don't froget to crack the yolk to saturate this already satisfying dish! You can find this booth in San Francisco right outside the exit of Fast & Furious - Supercharged.
Indonesia: Bubur Ketan Hitam
Another win for Indonesia, this sweet porridge is made with Indonesian purple sticky rice pudding, coconut condensed milk, mango and shaved toasted coconut. Slightly sweet, subtly fruity and perfectly light, this appetizing afters was a surprise favorite for the frog fam! We also loved that it came chilled and was beautifully served in a palm-leaf bowl. If you're looking for a delicious dessert at Universal Mardi Gras, this is definitely one you won't have to feel guilty about.
Indonesia: Bali Punch
Of course, I couldn't list my favorite sips and sweets at Universal Mardi Gras without mentioning at least one adult beverage. Rounding out our trip to Indonesia, the Bali Punch was yet another slightly sweet and subtly fruity offering. Made with Batavia Arrack Van Oosten Indonesian rum, guava and lime juices, simple syrup, mint extract and Peychauds bitters (and served with a stick of sugar cane), this was incredibly refreshing and the perfect way to wash down our delicious meal at this booth.
Japan: Ube Ice Cream Sesame Bubble Waffle Cone
A festival favorite returned to Universal Mardi Gras this year and we couldn't have been hoppier! The perfectly Instagrammable Ube Ice Cream Sesame Bubble Waffle Cone (try saying that five times fast) is ube (purple yam) soft serve ice cream served in a toasted black sesame bubble waffle with cookie crumbs, pocky (chocolate covered biscuit sticks) and a Meiji (chocolate crème-filled) panda cookie.
What does that taste like, you ask? Well, as for the ube ice cream, think of it as "vanilla but better" as a fellow frog in line with us described it. As for the black sesame bubble waffle, imagine a light, fluffy, pancake-like dough. We recommend eating this as quickly as you can, though, as it definitely started to melt after about 15 minutes in the Florida heat. Was it worth it, though? Absolutely. You can find this booth hidden away in Sting Alley in the streets of New York.
Indonesia wasn't the only booth to hoppily surprise us this year. We couldn't have been more in love with the Okonomiyaki we ordered on a whim! A popular street food from Osaka, Japan, this savory cabbage and bacon pancake is topped with Kewpie mayonnaise, hoisin, cilantro, sesame and katsuobushi (simmered, smoked and fermented skipjack tuna shavings). Do not let that description scare you! All we can say is that this tasted like the epitome of comfort food. Every bite was more delicious than the next. If you're looking for a savory option, this should absolutely be near the top of your list.
Puerto Rico: Alcapurrias
If you have dough and/or meat in a dish, Leap will most likely order it. Suffice to say, he raved about the Alcapurria which is a crispy green banana and yautia (a starchy root vegetable) masa (maize dough), filled with picadillo beef and served with mayo ketchup. Picadillo is a traditional dish in many Latin American countries and is made with ground meat, raisins, olives and other vegetables. While the Alcapurrias itself was delicious enough on its own, dunking it in the mayo ketchup dipping sauce made for a mouthwatering and flavorful experience. You can find this booth in New York just outside Revenge of the Mummy.
TODAY Cafe: Mardi Gras Rum Cake
While not officially an International Flavors of Carnaval menu item, there was absolutely no way I was leaving this slice of heaven off this list. One of the Mardi Gras exclusive pastries from TODAY Cafe, the Mardi Gras Rum Cake was, hands-down, one of the most delicious cakes I've ever eaten. Not even exaggerating. Beautifully vibrant with green, yellow and purple dough and icing with royally off-white frosting, this cake was perfectly rich and yet somehow not overly sweet. Share it with a friend or enjoy it by yourself. Do not miss out on this melt-in-your-mouth, moist, buttery indulgence.
What do you think is the best food or drink item at Universal Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnival? What can you not wait to try? Let me know in the comments below!
Related: Our Jubilant Guide to Universal Orlando Mardi Gras: International Flavors of Carnaval
Mardi Gras at Universal Studios,
Universal Orlando Special Events,
Universal Orlando Resort,
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