The gumbo at Cherry Block looks small but packs an exceptional depth of flavor.

When I reported on Bravery Chef Hall for our February cover feature on the citywide food hall explosion, more than one of Bravery's chefs told me their favorite dish at the hall was Jessica DeShams Timmons' gumbo at Cherry Block.

For example, Ben McPherson of the Downtown hall's BOH Pasta & Pizza—who knows just about everyone in the Houston food scene—can't get enough of it, especially the potato salad Timmons drops in each bowl before serving.

"It adds that creamy, over-the-top, punch-you-in-the-face feeling," he says. "It's that wow factor we're always trying to find and trying to get out of someone. It has that, and it's always consistent."

So it's not surprising that the gumbo is a hit—a major hit. Timmons starts the stock with smoked pork shank bones—think of all that marrow. The roux is pork fat and flour, and spices add another layer of heat. By itself the broth is a deeply satisfying and smoky revelation. But wait, there are also smoked ham hocks and pull-apart Andouille sausage. Finally, for that punch, there's the creamy, egg-based potato salad that substitutes for rice. 

I drank the last drops of my gumbo. I could've had another couple bowls. 

Next week is Houstonia's Gumbo Smackdown, and, for the second year in a row, I'll be judging the 10 entries. I had Timmons' gumbo as preparation for the big show (I know, it's a tough job), but boy, these teams have a high bar to clear after my Cherry Block visit.

Houstonia's Gumbo Smackdown, scheduled for noon to 4 p.m. Feb 22 at Sugar Land Town Square, benefits the Fort Bend Rainbow Room, a non-profit that provides emergency and transitional supplies for the unmet needs of children and families involved with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Tickets are $40, $20 for ages 13-20. For more information and tickets, click here.

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