November 8, 2018 – City Feed and Supply Jamaica Plain, MA
Bless their Yankee hearts. Think of a Bostonian that summers on the Cape, Nantucket, or the Vineyard and winters in ski areas of New Hampshire and Vermont. That Bostonian would have certain expectations for New England clam chowders. You may even be one of those people. Imagine that same Bostonian visiting a restaurant in New Orleans called Boston’s, ordering the New England clam chowder and being served New York style clam chowder full of tomatoes. The thoughts, the confusion, the disappointment, and some anger would emerge as you look at the bowl of red soup referred to as New England clam chowder on the menu. Well my yankee friends, this is how I feel when I order gumbo up here. I’ve never been happy with what is served but I always give folks a chance.
Piles of laundry from a month of traveling down south and west were displayed before me and I was starving. I headed down Centre street in my neighborhood of Jamaica Plain (JP) for lunch and walked into City Feed and Supply Store, an urban store meant to look and feel country with beaten up wood floors and higher end grocery items scattered about. I admit that their soups are generally very good and come with cubed rosemary focaccia. It was a cool day and I hadn’t acclimated to Boston weather yet so I wanted soup. Soup is what I got but it was called turkey gumbo. Carrots in gumbo? I’m an advocate of recipe experimentation but this is off the rails. Turkey stock, mirepoix, tomato remnants, and tiny bits of cubed turkey is just a basic soup. With no roux to speak of, no spice, no depth, and no soul I sat sadly missing the Gulf Coast wishing for something else.
0 out of 5 Stars cause this ain’t gumbo y’all.
November 2, 2018 – Reel Deal BBQ and Seafood on Dauphin Island, AL
My last day in Bama 2018 came with a dream of bringing my bicycle to Dauphin Island and riding the bike trail from end to end. Because of relentless winds I decided to walk the Audubon Bird Sanctuary trails and find some gumbo for lunch. I even got to see a gator sunning on the banks of Alligator Lake. The chill in the air leant itself well to a giant styrofoam container of shrimp, chicken, and Conecuh sausage gumbo from Reel Deal BBQ and Seafood on the west end of the island. Conecuh sausage is extremely popular throughout Lower Alabama (LA) and comes from Conecuh County, AL. I have to tell you that this was one of the best gumbos I had on my 2018 coastal trip. Filled with popcorn shrimp and finely shredded chicken, this gumbo had a nice throat burn from Conecuh sausage, excellent tasting base, and medium colored roux. I talked to the owner and her sister makes the gumbo and also grew up in Bayou La Batre. The owners are Vietnamese so I had to try the egg roll. People rave about it on various websites like Yelp but I thought it tasted like an everyday egg roll found in the frozen food section of a grocer. If you find yourself on Dauphin Island you must stop at this place for lunch.
5 out of 5 Stars
November 1, 2018 – Kravers Seafood Mobile, AL
I had this gumbo back in February of 2018 and it had more shrimp then. This time it also had a bit of liquid crab boil which I’m still on the fence about. Mama says there is no room for crab boil in a gumbo. She becomes more of a purist in all foods as she gets older. You’ll be damned to hell if you put cheese in her grits.
Anyhow this cup of gumbo was great with a medium colored roux, shrimp, crab, and of course crab boil. Several years ago you would get a punch of poultry seasoning in your first bite of gumbo in the Mobile Bay area but now tastes are evolving away from poultry seasoning to crab boil. I think the popularity of crawfish boils has changed the local palate and people have come to love the flavor of crab boil.
4 out of 5 Stars
October 17, 2018 – Jefferson Island-Rip Van Winkle Gardens and Cafe Jefferson
After yesterdays flooding that got water to cover the bottom step and lighting that made me feel like the little church I’m staying in had Jesus and the Devil fighting outside, I put myself together and made a plan for the day. After visiting Avery Island yesterday and taking a class with Chef Lionel Robin on proper crawfish Étouffée, I decided to venture out to Jefferson Island. Like Avery Island, Jefferson Island is a natural salt dome and hard-to-come-by higher ground in Acadiana. The difference is the drilling incident in 1980 that sank half the island and drained Lake Peigneur and Bayou Carlin. I grew up hearing stories of a man and his son fishing in their pirogue when the water drained out from under them and they thought the world was ending. This event is one that locals will never forget.
On to the gumbo. Rip Van Winkle Cafe serves two kinds of gumbo and I got both today. The Weezie’s andouille and chicken gumbo rivaled the MéLange gumbo from the festival outlined below. With a deep, rich flavor and a dark roux with plenty of meat, I simply could not stop eating. Plus the waitress called me Baby, Darlin’, and My Love so I had to get a second glass of wine. Weezie is the owner’s wife and the waitress said little about her. I wanted to yell out “Hey Weezie! Where y@?” She could not be found. The Holy Trinity was cooked so long it disintegrated. I’ll never forget Tiffany Faison, a “Top Chef “, asking me if I pureed my Holy Trinity and I explained that I only cooked it long enough. She did a stent in New Orleans but they are a different gumbo world with large kitchens producing food for the masses. Hi Tiff! No hard feelins’!
The second gumbo was a seafood with large pieces of lump crab, good sized shrimp, and crawfish tails that I’m sure Weezie had something to do with. The base was a shell stock and most likely crab. That crab base gives a flavor that can’t be competed with. I ate that too, real quick, and opted to not have rice like I always do. Instead I crush Lance brand Captain’s Wafers into the gumbo and it gives it an extra salty boost with a kick of sweet. Sitting down to a table on the Gulf Coast and seeing a basket of Captain’s Wafers is usually a good sign you came to the right place.
5 out of 5 Stars
October 13, 2018 – International Gumbo Festival in New Iberia, LA
After hitting the road at 5:30am in Bayou La Batre and driving to New Iberia I was definitely ready to try some gumbos. I drove in and found parking close to Shadows on The Teche Plantation. I remembered how gorgeous it was when I was there last in 2007 and the cajun lady who wrapped a scarf on her head every time she walked outside during the tour of the plantation. I guess the humidity would have warped it.
I walked up Main Street and scoped out the situation and found that there were 75 gumbos to try! There was no way to try that much gumbo so I narrowed the scope and decided on 4. I spent almost an hour checking out every gumbo team and made my decisions.
Gumbo 1: Smoked duck and duck sausage gumbo from the chef at Cypress Bayou Casino. It was an impressive bowl full of duck sausage but I couldn’t find the regular duck.
4 out of 5 stars
Next up was Chef Vitto and The Basin Ballerz with their MéLange gumbo. That’s basically sausage, ham, turkey, hen, and most any other bird or pig product you can put in there. One bite and slurp and I knew this was the gumbo I would love the best. The depth of flavor was outstanding and I could have gone back for seconds if I had belly space.
5 out of 5 stars and I want more!!
After land based protein gumbos I wanted some seafood. These typically have lighter roux’s so it doesn’t overpower delicate shrimp, crab, and crawfish.
The first was a seafood gumbo from Jenz Trenz and was just okay. Lump crab and shrimp were the main ingredients. No okra or hint of filé.
3 out of 5 stars
After walking around for 2 hours in a heat index over 100º while being beaten down and sunburned, I just couldn’t remember who made the gumbo. It was pretty damn good seafood gumbo and they sure put butter in it. I never want to know how much but it added a richness that a seafood gumbo often lacks because of the light roux used. Loaded with crab and shrimp, I would have this again.
4.5 out of 5 stars
*I haven’t seen a chicken and oyster gumbo on any menu or at the gumbo festival. Is this a South Alabama thing? Lemme know y’all!
August 20, 2018 – New Gumbo Classes Available!
Check out this link and book through my website. Book a gumbo class through Self-Up
June 21, 2018 – Maxine’s on St. James – Boston, MA
Lord let me tell ya. I had their gumbo via Uber Eats and I will order it again. It might be missing a roux but I do know they put crab boil in it. That’s the taste anyone missing the gulf coast will pick up on and not put down. The catfish was really good and the collards were a way to mummify yourself with salt if you ate the whole serving. Imma have to stop by and bring my gumbo for em’.
May 17, 2018 – Make Ya Own Damn Gumbo At Home!
Good God Almighty! – My adventure into various grocery stores on my 2018 visit to the gulf coast showed me all the many short cuts you can take to make gumbo at home. Here’s a tip, make your own! Most have artificial ingredients in them and some have things no one should ever put in gumbo like anchovies. Bless they hearts!
February 26, 2018 – Herbsaint in New Orleans, LA
A trip to mama’s is not complete without a sideways jaunt over to New Orleans for a day. I squeeze as much as I can into the trip and it always includes lots of food, drink, and shopping. After having liquid libations at Hermes Bar, SoBou, Brennan’s, and Cafe Lafitte in Exile I danced over to Rubensteins for clothes and shoes, and then to Meyer the Hatter for two hats. I didn’t get the sunglasses at Krewe because I wasn’t tipsy enough. I also squeezed in a bite at Pesce , Willa Jean, and Herbsaint. Of course I had the gumbo at Herbsaint which was chicken, tasso, and andouille. iiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee! Damn it was good. Spicy and rich with a dark roux, this gumbo put me in the same spot I imagine a heroine addict goes to. Damn son.
5 out of 5 Stars
February 24, 2018 – Kravers in Mobile, AL
Walter Kraver was born and raised in Bayou La Batre, AL and became one of the most successful local businessman in the seafood industry. His newest family venture is a restaurant in West Mobile and on the Eastern Shore. I visited the Mobile location with daddy and mama and I got to listen to a few of their bayou stories. Daddy told stories of Tinkie who is Walter’s wife, at least I think so. They never even knew her real name but everyone knew Tinkie, and the bar is built like the stern of a shrimp boat and is named after Tinkie. Men typically name their boats after their wife, mother, or daughter. We had the Mary Agnes who was named after Grandma Pendarvis.
The gumbo was loaded with shrimp crab and had a light roux base with a light spice and a great seafood flavor
4 out of 5 Stars
February 24, 2018 – Bozo’s Seafood Markey and Deli in Pascagoula, MS
Off to Pascagoula, MS, where I was born, via the Bayou-Grandbay Highway and Highway 90 past the areas of Pecan, Orange Grove, Kreole, and Moss Point, MS. Deep in the heart of Katrina torn Pascagoula lies a brick and metal building that’s been dishing out Po-Boys, gumbo, and fresh boiled/steamed seafood to patrons since the 1950’s. I always have to visit and get a combo shrimp and oyster Po-Boy and this time I wanted to try their gumbo. Owned by the same family and currently ran by Keith Delcambre, this place has grown in size and popularity. It’s hard to park and the lines are long but it’s a gulf coast institution and one that is worth the wait. I also used to buy my filé here and it came in a Gerber baby food jar. Needless to say it was homemade filé which only a handful of old-timers make anymore. Once they stopped carrying the filé I knew the person who made it was no longer able to make it or was no longer on this earth with us.
Bozo’s seafood gumbo was served in the finest black plastic bowl and had shrimp, crab, crawfish, and okra. With a light roux as you should have with a seafood gumbo, it had a more homemade taste.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Outside Bozo’s in Pascagoula, MS
February 23, 2018 – Fishers in Orange Beach, AL
The Mardi Gras madness is over and the dust has settled. This means I need to visit others parts of the gulf coast and get myself out of Bayou La Batre and Mobile. I headed over to The Redneck Rivera to see how things have changed in the past few years and I had a particular restaurant in my sights. Fisher’s in Orange Beach, AL has been under the guidance of Chef Bill Briand and owner Johnny Fisher since its opening in 2013. A James Beard nominated restaurant in 2016, 2017, and 2018 this place was sure to have excellent gumbo. Chef Briand of New Orleans trained under Chef Emeril Lagasse and Chef Donald Link and knows the coast and its cuisine.
Chef Briand did bring the classic bayou addition of potato salad to his gumbo. This is something you see in bayou towns throughout Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and it’s basically a glob of potato salad in gumbo without pickles, because that’s gross anyway. Overall it had a great spice but was sweet. I couldn’t really put my hand on it but I thought it may have red wine in it. Full of shrimp and okra it was disappointing that the roux was burned a tinge. Even a little burn in a roux ruins the whole thing.
2 out of 5 Stars
February 22 2018 – Bayou Seafood Market in Bayou La Batre, AL
The bayou has struggled because of hurricanes, oil spills, bad leadership, and lack of education and opportunity. It’s always nice to see a place stay open and to do so it must be good. I visited the Bayou Seafood Market in Bayou La Batre, AL after a morning trip to Dauphin Island and went during lunch. It was filled with shipyard workers and seafood workers so I ordered a takeout oyster Po-Boy and a bowl of gumbo. I took it to mama’s up the road and ate it up. The gumbo had a light roux and was very good, homemade, and loaded with shrimp, crab, and okra. I hope this place is around next year when I visit.
February 10, 2018 – Gumbo at Cream and Sugar in the Oakleigh Garden District Mobile, AL.
It was a rainy day with flooding and Mardi Gras parades were cancelled. I sat a spell at Cream and Sugar Cafe and had their famous gumbo grits. Take a bowl of seafood gumbo and add a glob of yellow grits in the center. It’s heaven in a bowl ya’ll, and it comes with a biscuit! What else could you need? Factoid: A Chevron gas station in the Mobile suburb of Satsuma was one of the first places to combine the two.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
February 10, 2018 – Mystics of Time Parade in Mobile, AL.
Mystics of Time is a secret, fully masked, mens Mardi Gras krewe that was formed in 1948. It’s typically the largest parade of the Mobile Mardi Gras season and is held every Saturday before Fat Tuesday. This year it was held on Lundi Gras because of flooding rains on Saturday. This is Vernadean the dragon.
February 12, 2018 – Lundi Gras – Chuck’s Fish on Dauphin Street in Mobile, AL
The day after Joe Cain Day is one that is always painful. I’ve never fully understood how my body takes Mardi Gras, especially the last week of the madness. Parades every day and every night including the Mystic Stripers, Crewe of Columbus, Mystics of Time, Joe Cain Day (always a doozy), and then Lundi Gras brings King Felix III, Infant Mystics, and Order of Doves. Then Fat Tuesday happens with Order of Athena, Knights of Revelry, Comic Cowboys, The Mamga Mammoth Parade, and then it all ends with Order of Myths which is America’s oldest parading society.
All of that madness means you need to eat, and eat I did including gumbo at Chuck’s Fish in Mobile, AL. It’s a new establishment in Mobile’s LoDa (Lower Dauphin) entertainment district. They have a dock in Destin, FL where they get all of their seafood directly from fisherman. This gumbo was very spicy which I like and was loaded with shrimp and fish. It was oddly thick and very salty. It’s excellent for a Joe Cain Day hangover but I wouldn’t be able to eat more than a cup.
3 out of 5 Stars
February 6, 2018 – Gumbo at Felix’s Fish Camp in Spanish Fort, AL on the Mobile Bay Causeway.
With shrimp, crab, okra, and no sausage this gumbo is a basic seafood gumbo and those never have pork. I think they added sugar which can cause you to be struck down by god. It also had a very mild spice and was loaded with rice, too much rice. I won’t be back plus the place smelled weird. They need a re-do because it used to be much better!
1 out of 5 Stars
February 5, 2018 – I made it to Mama’s!
The dogs are free from the Boston cold and can run, sniff, pee, and generally be country dogs. With six fenced acres my two dogs and mama’s two dogs can run off but not too far unless they find a way to get under the fence. This is mama calling for her dogs. She uses a cow bell now.
February 4, 2018 – Gumbo in Asheville, NC
On my way south to mama’s on the gulf coast, I stopped at my sister’s home in Asheville, NC and taught them how to make gumbo. Her husband also grew up on the coast in Mississippi and never learned how to make it. We did a turkey andouille and shrimp gumbo. They don’t eat pork so turkey or chicken andouille are great alternatives. Lance crackers are a staple on Alabama restaurant tables that serve gumbo.. at least it is at The Lighthouse in Bayou La Batre, AL. Underneath all that gumbo is a glob of potato salad. That’s how people deep on the coast eat their gumbo.
January 30, 2018 – Gumbo Cooking Event at Down The Road Brewery in Everette, MA
Gumbo for 20? Yes I did it at Down the Road Brewery. The owner contacted me and wanted to pair beer with gumbo. I had a blast and the folks attending raved about it. I paired a Kölsch beer with shrimp and andouille gumbo. Instead of white wine that I typically add to gumbo, I added Kölsch.
December 7, 2016 – The Noble South in Mobile, AL
This is one of the best gumbos I have ever had! Pork gumbo with a piece of cornbread. Simple and damn good! Not long after eating that I gave a gumbo course to a family in Boston, MA and they requested pork gumbo.. man it was good and I made cornbread for them for their lagniappe.