Forget the gumbo. I confess. My People Choice’s Vote went for the Whiskey Sauce and Pecan Bread Pudding at the Gulf Breeze Rotary Gumbo Cookoff. The Arcadia Team cooked the best whiskey sauce I’ve ever eaten, and even served it over warm bread pudding with a silver plastic spoon.
This year’s gumbo entries were imaginative in ingredients and the judges were creative in their scoring. None of the six winners was on my list of favorite gumbos, if that’s any comfort to you losing teams.
I did see the trays of gumbo samples being delivered to the judges’ table, so I know the panel did the tasting, but they may not have known what they were eating. It’s those innovative ingredients that kept several official winners off my list of favorites. I just don’t like the taste of alligator or frog legs or crawfish in any dish, much less messing with the flavor of good shrimp and crab.
Most of the entries were so tasty that I had to do a second round of tasting. But somehow the second taste is never as good as the first. The butter turns to grease, the vegetables are a little overcooked, the spices too hot. But it’s understandable because to compete, each team prepares 15 gallons of gumbo. By the time I finished the first round of 20-plus teams, the chefs were spooning up entries from another batch, so second rounds didn’t help. It’s the first taste that makes a winner.
My favorite gumbos came from the tents of Bank of America, where the cook put a nice twist on New Orleans’ chef Paul Prudomme’ s seafood recipe by sautéing the okra. I also liked Ed and Paul’s chicken and sausage gumbo – just a couple of regular guys keeping it
simple. Hemingway’s on the Beach cooked up the best professional gumbo in my book. A gumbodiaries special commendation goes to Seaux Gumbo for dishing up tiny containers of jello for the kids.
Here’s the official judges choices: Professional Division: 1st: Tiger Point Country Club; 2nd: Rosewood Manor; 3rd: Olde South Gumbo; Amateur Division: 1st: Omega Construction; 2nd: City of Gulf Breeze; 3rd: Rebol-Battle and Assoc. People’s Choice: 1st: Rosewood Manor; 2nd: Bay Breeze; 3rd: All American Employer Services LLC.
Congratulations to the Gulf Breeze Rotarians for hosting a great event that brings in tens of thousands of dollars for local scholarships. If I’m ever asked to judge I hope I don’t have to eat crow in my gumbo.