Best Gumbo - 2004
The evolution of French bouillabaisse into Louisiana gumbo took the better part of a century, and God knows it was time well spent. "Gumbo, c'est bon, c'est tout," goes the old Creole saying, and this fragrant confluence of Gallic, African, Hispanic, and Native American tastes and textures -- our closest culinary equivalent to jazz -- truly is both good and everything. Like Mexican mole and Spanish paella, gumbo is a treasured edible icon with a pliable nature; there are a thousand variations. The only thing every bowl must have, aside from the holy trinity of celery, scallions, and garlic, a good roux to start with, and a hillock of rice at the finish, is a dark, rich, smoky essence touched with spices and peppers mixed by the devil himself. At 500 Jackson, Todd Kniess' handsome new temple to American seafood, the house gumbo is appropriately ... worldly. Luscious fillets of smoked duck, succulent bits of crawfish, thick slices of peppery, brick-red andouille sausage, and glistening rounds of okra interact in a deep, heady, ardent brew. Laissez les bon temps roulez, indeed.