Rathbone Mansions
Historic New Orleans Hotel, Steps From the French Quarter
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Insiders Guide of things to do, eats and drinks in New Orleans

Rathbone Mansions Insiders Guide

With its unique, vibrant history, award winning chefs, craft cocktail bars, and party atmosphere, there's no wonder NOLA is consistently ranked one of the best cities to visit. We've got you covered with insiders' tips on the best places to visit, eat and drink during your stay. Click through our blog for suggestions, current events and truly experience New Orleans like a local.

New Orleans has a unique, vibrant history, award winning chefs, craft cocktails galore, and a low-key, Southern fun atmosphere. There's no wonder NOLA is consistently ranked one of the best US cities to visit.  We've got you covered with tips on locals' favorite spots to check out during your stay. Scroll through our blog for suggestions, current events and truly experience New Orleans like a local.

 

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Louisiana Loves Its Gumbo

One of the best decisions I’ve made in recent months was to sign up for a subscription to the magazine Southern Living. I think it’s absolutely terrific. Why? Well, for one thing they love food and every issue has stories about Southern specialties plus mouth-watering recipes. For example, in the January 2019 issue they had a great article by Jennifer Justus titled The Super Bowl of Gumbo. Here are the highlights:

 

Smoked Turkey and Andouille Gumbo: Beau Beaullieu and Andy Soileau’s team has taken first place 11 times at this cook-off. They won in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Photo courtesy of  Southern Living

Smoked Turkey and Andouille Gumbo: Beau Beaullieu and Andy Soileau’s team has taken first place 11 times at this cook-off. They won in 2015, 2017 and 2018. Photo courtesy of Southern Living

AT 5 A.M. ON A WARM OCTOBER MORNING…

 

in South Louisiana, the sun had yet to lift over the Bayou Teche, but Kevin Sonnier and his teammates were ready to make a few hundred quarts of gumbo in the dark. They hauled in bags of Gold Medal flour, jugs of vegetable oil and packages of sausage and chicken. They strapped headlamps across their foreheads and allowed the “ROUX POLICE” to poke through their coolers with flashlights looking for contraband (premade roux).

 

AT 6 A.M., A SHOTGUN FIRED AND THE ACTION BEGAN…

 

at once – or, here comes the World Championship Gumbo Cook-off in New Iberia, Louisiana (146 miles by car from New Orleans). “We in cook mode now,” says Sonnier. Steam rose over cauldrons that dotted the downtown park while the scrapes of whisks and spoons against gumbo pots skittered across the silence.

Huge pots are used for the cook-off and “Yes” ladies enter this competition – photo courtesy of  Southern Living

Huge pots are used for the cook-off and “Yes” ladies enter this competition – photo courtesy of Southern Living

 

THE FESTIVAL BEGAN 30 YEARS AGO WITH 12 BOOTHS…

 

but now the count has blossomed to more than 80 (in all those years, they’ve missed only one festival due to a hurricane). Cooks can enter as amateurs or professionals, with the pros competing in SEAFOOD or NON-SEAFOOD categories. Amateurs can choose (a) seafood, (b) chicken + sausage and (c) mélange or mixture (a wild card that could be anything from duck to gator).

 

“I LEARNED FROM MY MAMA IN THE KITCHEN SO…

 

that’s why I don’t eat gumbo at a restaurant,” said teammate Jaime Gaither, who worked over another pot nearby. He flies helicopters into the Gulf of Mexico oil fields by day. By night – for the past three nights anyway – he has readied his stock with 10 lbs. of leg quarters, a hen and seasonings. “Everybody’s got a different idea and nobody’s wrong,” he said, spooning roux into stock.

 

WORKING OUTDOORS IN BATCHES MEANS MISHAPS…

 

can happen so at yet another booth, Nelson Boutte, a hospitality chef, burned his first batch of roux. “I’ll be worn out for sure,” he said, vigorously stirring a second batch. By 11 a.m., the park swarmed with locals sampling the deep, earthy flavors of gumbos while Cajun bands had dancers twirling under a pavilion.

Folks come from far and wide to sample this tasty event – photo courtesy of  Southern Living

Folks come from far and wide to sample this tasty event – photo courtesy of Southern Living

 

A FEW HOURS BEFORE THE TROPHY CEREMONY…

 

the finalist teams received signs to hang on their booths. A sign means bragging rights and signals to attendees where they might want to snag a sample. Boutte’s team earned a sign despite the rocky start. But Gaither’s guys didn’t get one, even after many wins in the past. “That’s part of it,” said the team leader with a smile and shrug.   

 

Nelson Boutte has the smile of a real winner – photo courtesy of  Southern Living

Nelson Boutte has the smile of a real winner – photo courtesy of Southern Living

BACK AT SONNIER’S TENT THERE’S A DISPLAY OF…

 

winning trophies from years past but there was no winner this year. “That’s okay,” Sonnier added. It was almost a perfect weekend. LSU won. The Astros won. The Saints won. But we didn’t – maybe next year.”

 

NOTE: As we said earlier, New Orleans is only 146 miles from New Iberia by car, following the I-10 route – that’s two hours and 45 minutes if you drive nonstop. Why not come for a visit and stay at the Rathbone Mansions?

 

Shaun Nelson-Henrick