Gumbo Challenge in NOLA


Our Enchilada book project has been a fun new adventure, but it has also been somewhat overwhelming and exhausting.  We all needed a break, and there’s nothing that cures the soul like a trip to New Orleans.  Suzy and I, our son Trevor and our friend Amy piled on Southwest and spent a few fun and meaningful days in New Orleans for bon temps.  Since we all love the hunt, we decided that we should search for the “best” gumbo.

After the devastation of Katrina, we decided to sell gumbo at our Cappy’s Restaurant and give half the proceeds to Katrina victims. Trevor and our executive chef, Gabriel Ibarra, worked hard to develop what has become a signature dish.  Our guests loved the gumbo, and that yearlong effort yielded over $16,000 in contributions.  I know it seems a bit backwards, but we wanted to see how the gumbos of New Orleans faired in comparison. 


During our four-day culinary exploration we sampled over a dozen gumbo dishes in some of New Orleans most famous restaurants.  We concluded there is no such thing as bad gumbo, but there are a wide variety of interpretations.  First, gumbo comes from the African word for okra: gambo.  It would seem that gumbo ought to have gambo, but many of our samplings had none.  All but one of our chosen competitors had roux, ranging from gravy thick to dark as a moonless night.  One, from a very notable restaurant, was tomato-based, and while it was tasty, it didn’t seem like gumbo.  The NOLA gumbo may have shrimp, oysters and fish or it may have duck, chicken or sausage.  Gumbo in truth is an undefined icon of the Crescent City.  It’s all good.


Our two favorites this trip were at Pêche and Brennan’s.  Both were delicious and almost as good as Cappy’s.  Now, you try.  Go to New Orleans, follow our trail and eat at: Felix Oyster Bar, Acme Oyster Bar, Paladar 511, Elizabeth’s, Cochon, Butcher, Shaya, Ruby Slipper, Pêche, Ralph’s on the Park, Brennan’s, Mr. B’s, Commander’s Palace, Lüke and August.  If you choose to enter this competition, forward this blog to 20 friends, go to New Orleans, spend a lot of money, eat too much, drink milk punches and Sazeracs, and surely we’ll be able to collectively decide who has the “best” gumbo.  It’s hard and dangerous work, but someone has to do it.  Fun travels and bon appétit!