Giving a hip new twist to a time-honored tradition, New Orleans chefs will vie to simmer the best vegan gumbo in a contest at this weekend’s Tremé Creole Gumbo Festival in Armstrong Park.
For the old school, 10 vendors will also dish up bowls of traditional favorites: gumbo z’herbes, seafood, chicken and sausage, Creole file and dark roux with sausage gumbo.
The trendy vegan gumbo bans any animal products. That’s been an interesting challenge for Wayne Baquet, owner of Li’l Dizzy’s Café in the 7th Ward, a food vendor at the festival for the past seven years and winner of the 2012 award for best gumbo.
“We’ve been around for 40 years doing our gumbo. I sell my gumbo seven days a week, so for the festival we want to concentrate on doing the best vegan gumbo,” Baquet said.
Baquet recruited his wife to create a recipe just for the festival.
“My wife makes a tremendously good vegan gumbo,” he said. “Our vegan gumbo consists of a vegetable stock, garlic, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, button mushrooms, zucchini, and this year we will add fresh okra to it.”
Those who sample the vegan gumbo can vote on whose is worthy of the festival title. Winners will be announced at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9.
Festivalgoers should come hungry; gumbo tasting portion are $3, regular size bowls are between $6 and $9.
Meanwhile, brass bands will provide a soundtrack to the annual festival, sponsored by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.
And like the gumbo, both older and contemporary strains of the music will be represented.
“The musical focus has always been on traditional New Orleans music, especially those artists with a strong connection to the Treme,” said Scott Aiges, director of programs, marketing and communications for the foundation.
“Brass bands are so iconic for New Orleans that it wasn’t a big stretch to move in that direction. Plus, there isn’t really a major festival in New Orleans that focuses on the brass band tradition,” Aiges said.
“Traditional bands tend to emphasize the traditional repertoire of hymns and old songs, and they dress in the classic attire of black pants, white shirt, black tie and white five-pointed caps,” he said. “The younger, more contemporary bands play songs that reflect current tastes, often with a hip-hop influence, and tend to dress more casually.”
Also this year, the festival has expanded to include a large art market with a family-friendly focus.
“We’ve invited a number of our crafts vendors to lead crafts-making sessions with kids in a variety of media,” Aiges said. “Plus the New Orleans Community Print Shop will lead three silk-screening workshops for kids on Sunday. And PlayBuild NOLA will have their large ‘playbuild’ building blocks on site, and will lead two craft-making sessions per day,” Aiges said.
Parents will also appreciate enclosed areas for diaper-changing and breastfeeding.
With festivities running throughout the day, from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., festivalgoers can pace themselves with the variety of activities, music and of course, gumbo — ensuring they taste the best of the local delicacy.
“Creole gumbo is all about New Orleans,” Baquet said.
Treme Creole Gumbo Festival
When: 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, and Sunday, Nov. 9
Where: Louis Armstrong Park, 701 N. Rampart St.
Cost: Free More info: www.jazzandheritage.org/treme-gumbo
Saturday, Nov. 8
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.: Red Wolf Brass Band
12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.: Treme Brass Band
1:45 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.: Brass-A-Holics
3 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Hot 8 Brass Band
4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.: Shamarr Allen & the Underdawgs
6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.: The Stooges Brass Band
Sunday, Nov. 9
11 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.: Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Brass Band
12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.: Ecrib Müller’s Twisted Dixie (featuring Brice Miller)
1:45 p.m. to 2:15 p.m.: Class Got Brass Winner: Edna Karr High School Brass Band
2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Pinettes Brass Band
2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.: Second Line Jammers Social Aid & Pleasure Club
3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.: Class Got Brass winner: St. Augustine High School Brass Band
4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.: To Be Continued Brass Band
5:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.: Vegan Gumbo Winners Announcement
6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.: Soul Rebels