Brussels sprouts—smoked, charred, covered in bacon. It doesn’t matter how they are prepared; they remain the darling veggie. But every year one non-profit, Promise of Peace Gardens (P.O.P.) gives the spotlight to another veggie: okra. That’s right, okra.
This September, P.O.P hosted its 8th annual fundraiser, Okrapalooza at the dog and kid-friendly The Lot in East Dallas. Several Dallas-Fort Worth area chefs created their best okra dishes for guests to taste. Besides the fact that the temperature swelled to 96 degrees the event was a success and the variety of okra creations left me with okra-lust!
The participant list looked like a who’s-who of chefs that included Chef Josh Sutcliff (Mirador); Chef Peja Krstic (Mot Hai Ba); Chef Matt Pikar (Nora); Chef Alex Astranti (Uchi and Top Knot); Chef Graham Dodds and Angela Hernandez (The Statler Hilton); Chef Mark Wootton (Garden Café); Chef Thomas Archer (3015 at Trinity Groves); Chef Daniel Pittman (Luck); Chef Anastacia Quiñones (Oddfellows); Chef Oliver Sitrin (The Blind Butcher); Chef Ryan Barnett (Lark on the Park); Chef Blaine Staniford (Grace); private Chefs Noelle Hendrix and Nick Amoriello and Chef Uno Immanivong from Chino Chinatown and more!
Judges (Alice Laussade, D Magazine and Meat Fight Inc.; Krista Brown, Whole Foods; Nanci Taylor, Edible Magazine; Bev Garvin, Kevin Marple Studios) crowned Chef Quiñones as Okrapalooza champion for her fried okra taco while guests awarded the People’s Choice award to Chef Julio Ortiz from Flora Street Cafe. I admit that the latter was the only dish that I didn’t try but that’s only because their table was directly facing the sun and by that point I was already melting!
The judges were correct in saying that it was a very difficult decision to pick a favorite! There were so many stand-out dishes such as Chef Wootton’s Middle-eastern style okra stew, Chef Staniford’s okra served over Indian flatbread, Chef Sutcliff’s brightly flavored okra with yogurt and tomato relish and Chef’s Amoriello and Hendrix’s savory okra ice cream with tomato and okra gazpacho. We also heard first-hand from Chef Amoriello about a new venture with Chef Hendrix and The Mitchell in downtown Dallas (listen here). Listen to bar manager Cody Ryan Riggs from The Mitchell describe his okra-infused gin cocktail (yes, it’s a thing!) here.
Another perfect bite, the okra corn dog from Chef Immanivong. Keep an eye out for her new food stall, Red Stix Yakitori and Banh Mi to open this Fall in the soon-to-be foodie heaven Legacy Hall in Plano.
*Okrapalooza supports P.O.P. Gardens and its comprehensive programming aimed at restoring urban communities while making sure that all have high quality nutritious food on their plate. P.O.P. transforms unwanted land into thriving gardens and teaches low-income families about sustainable living. Portions of produce grown in P.O.P. gardens supply a few Dallas-area food pantries.