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Great Gumbo
From now through mid-September, diners who order the Gumbos 1-1-1 sampler at Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 899-8221) and Cafe Adelaide (Loews New Orleans Hotel, 300 Poydras St., 595-3305), may vote for the best gumbo chef, choosing between Commander's Chef Tory McPhail, Adelaide's Chef Kevin Vizard and longtime Tabasco Brands Chef Eula Mae Dore. Each chef has developed five gumbos for the competition; the sampler combinations, served in demitasse portions, will change every two-to-three weeks throughout the summer. On Sept. 15, when the ballots are tallied, the winning chef will receive a $3,000 check to present to a favorite charity; the runners-up will receive $1,000 for the same purpose. McPhail's chosen charity is The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Louisiana (, Vizard's is Girls First (an organization created to provide sport and movement activities for underserved girls in New Orleans) and Dore's is America's Wetland Campaign to Save Coastal Louisiana ( An additional incentive for diners: Each week, following a drawing of ballots, one voter will receive a prize -- perhaps a Tabasco gift basket, an overnight at the Loews New Orleans Hotel or a dinner at Commander's Palace. From this Tuesday through July 21, the sampler will pit McPhail's Tabasco-smoked rabbit and roasted garlic gumbo against Vizard's duck gumbo and Dore's sausage and shrimp gumbo.

Early Birds
As they do throughout the year, Greg and Mary Sonnier are serving an early evening menu at Gabrielle (3201 Esplanade Ave., 948-6233) this summer: Three courses for $16.95 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Through the end of August, the same menu will be available until closing time for just $20.04. The early evening menu changes daily. Gabrielle is open for lunch on Fridays and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.

The Case for Cheese
Mike Morgan, the resident cheesehead at Martin Wine Cellar (3827 Baronne St., 899-7411) called to alert me to several new domestic cheeses currently stocking his cheese case. I've since tried a few, the most notable of which is the triple-cream Mt. Tam from California's Cowgirl Creamery, an organic cow's milk cheese with the texture of Brie. I detected a pleasant nuttiness when the cheese was allowed to soften to room temperature; the Creamery's Web site documents an earthy, white mushroom flavor. I also enjoyed Cowgirl Creamery's sharper Red Hawk, and a firmer, mellower cow's-milk cheese called Carmody from California's Bellwether Farms.


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