Just Add Water

A New Orleans bookshop sells the secret to perfect gumbo

Forget roux and "the holy trinity"; when it comes to perfect New Orleans-style gumbo, the secret is in the water. Any local will tell you it's the city's taps that provide that elusive flavor, but if you don't live in the Big Easy, don't worry: The French Quarter bookshop Kitchen Witch will ship genuine New Orleans water directly to you.

Kitchen Witch might specialize in rare and first-edition cookbooks, but it's the peculiar selection of Cajun and Creole cooking staples that makes it stand out. If the price of authentic NOLA water ($20 a gallon, plus shipping) is too much to swallow, the shop's homemade Creole spice blend ($5 for 7 ounces) will give your deep-fried oysters the flavor of "laissez les bon temps rouler." And a dash of the shop's homemade vanilla extract ($10 for 8 ounces) will help you master the art of bread pudding.

If you make it to New Orleans, be sure to stop by the shop and pick up a first-edition cookbook Tennessee Williams might have used.

Kitchen Witch, 631 Toulouse St., New Orleans; 504-528-8382 or kwcookbooks.com