United Way‘s Got Gumbo? is one of my favorite annual events. A tasty gathering of over a dozen competing restaurants, the event is hosted in the Royal Sonesta by General Manager Mr. Alfred Groos, creator of Got Gumbo? Participants compete for Best Traditional Gumbo, Best Seafood Gumbo, Best Exotic Gumbo and Best Vegetarian Gumbo as well as the People’s Choice for Best Dessert, Best Float (decorated table display) and Best Gumbo. Multiple chefs compete in multiple categories – each offering their very best – it’s like going to “gumbo heaven” complete with fun table displays and charitable gumbo-lovers (United Way receives the $25 ticket price as well as the bar).
The event took place on a Friday during Lent in this predominantly Catholic city so the majority of offerings this year were seafood. Some of the standouts included the always wonderful Raymond Signal sponsored this year by The Corporation Bar & Grill, Liberty’s Kitchen (Youth Development Program) Smoked Turkey & Andouille Gumbo with Grilled Mustard Greens and Potato Salad and Tulane Sodexo’s Crab Gumbo – layer upon layer of crab flavor, meat and claw. Every time I eat Tulane’s homey and exceptional food, I second-guess my educational choices.
There were some creative ideas like Royal Sonesta Restaurant R’evolution’s, Shrimp and Egg Gumbo. It was so like a Yakamein, I had to wonder what Yakamein Queen and member-of-the-judging-panel, Miss Linda Green thought of the twist. But this year’s most creative gumbo was certainly the “Gumbolaya” from Roux Bistro at the Sheraton New Orleans. They poured their richly-flavored gumbo over a jambalaya made with seafood boudin (sausage). It was such a simple idea and treat for the tastebuds, it made me wonder why we hadn’t been doing it forever.
I also enjoyed the Turkey & Andouille Gumbo from the beautifully decorated Palate New Orleans table, Spiced Sausage & Seafood Gumbo from Desire Oyster Bar at Royal Sonesta, Wild Boar & Duck Sausage from Charlie’s Restaurant and the “Exotic Gumbo” entry of Green Onion, Shallot and Smoked Chicken Thigh Boudin Gumbo and “Seafood Gumbo” entry of Pontchartrain Blue Crab, Gulf Shrimp, Oyster and Smoked Pork Andouille Gumbo from 1718 Catering at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. With their well-lit display of fresh ingredients, 1718 Catering was my choice for “Best Float.”
Dessert offerings included a fanciful Bread Pudding Po-Boy from Roux Bistro, a Lemon Meringue Pie Macaroon from Tulane Sodexo (so jealous of those students!), a Butterscotch & Praline Popcorn Sundae for the kid in you from 5 Fifty 5 and my favorite – Chocolate & Sugar Chouquette Profiterole, Coconut-Lime Chibouste & Chocolate Praline Soup from 1718 Catering.
Exotic Gumbo – 1st Place – Charlie’s Restaurant, runner up – 1718 Catering at the Hyatt Regency
Seafood Gumbo – 1st Place – Roux Bistro at the Sheraton, runner up – Charlie’s Restaurant
Traditional Gumbo – 1st Place – Tulane Sodexo, runner up – Liberty’s Kitchen
Float Decoration – 1718 Catering at the Hyatt Regency
Dessert – 5 Fifty 5 at the New Orleans Marriott
Best Gumbo Overall – Roux Bistro at the Sheraton New Orleans