A mini-guide to #NOLA
Today I want to talk about all that is SWEET in the city. I know what you’re thinking, how will you ever get to dessert with all the Po-boys, boiled seafood, and other delicious Cajun dishes?
Fear not! Getting around the French Quarter requires lots of walking. You will end up with plenty of room for dessert. Or at least enough to not feel too guilty.
Not to be too dramatic or anything, but pralines are heavenly. Never had one? You’re in for a treat. Pralines are a traditional candy made with sugar, butter, cream, and pecans. Recipes and techniques vary but in general, the sugar and cream (or milk) are boiled until the soft-ball stage and the mixture must be stirred constantly. Once the mixture is ready pecans and vanilla are added and everything is whipped to incorporate air which gives the pralines their wonderful texture. While you explore the city stop into any of these shops and ask for a “PRAW-leen.” Some people say PRAY-leen but most Louisiana natives will argue it’s a praw-leen.
Ms. Loretta Harrison, The Praline Queen
Loretta’s website: https://lorettaspralines.com/
Capital One features Ms. Loretta’s Authentic Pralines: Rebuilding Your Business.
You can get Loretta’s Classic Pralines in the French Market or at the old-timey sweets shop on the corner of Frenchmen Street and North Rampart.
Southern Candymakers can be found at 334 Decatur Street in New Orleans. They’re an award-winning candy shop with a variety of tasty treats. On my last visit to the city, I sampled their Sweet Potato Pralines which were delicious.
What are beignets? And how is that word even pronounced?
A beignet (BEN-yay) is Louisiana’s donut, deep fried and covered in LOTS of powdered sugar. The go-to spot, i.e. the super touristy spot, is the famous Café du Mond. Don’t let the giant lines dissuade you and do order a Cafe au lait.
Of course, you can get beignets all over the city. And y’all, Ms. Loretta makes PRALINE BEIGNETS!!!
Things you should know when eating beignets. Yes, the plural because how often will you end up in NOLA? #Indulge #ThisOneTimeInNewOrleans I ate too many beignets, ended up covered in white powder and…
- Eat ’em while they’re hot!
- Don’t wear dark colors.
- Don’t breath as you take a bite. That’s right. Hold your breath so you don’t send a cloud of powdered sugar flying over innocent bystanders trying to get their deep-fried sugary fix.
- Don’t breath as you take a bite. That’s right. Hold your breath so you don’t have a coughing fit as you take that first delicious bite.
- Stock up on napkins.
One of my favorite Louisiana traditions. Every Mardi Gras season someone would bring in a King Cake to share with the class. Sometimes it was our teacher or someone’s parent would drop one off. What a treat! We all waited with anticipation for our sweet slice but the real surprise was the baby! You see, whoever gets the BABY brings in the next cake. What a wonderful, sweet cycle of sugary goodness.
To be perfectly honest, this tradition isn’t limited to grade school. My wonderful colleagues perpetuate this delightful tradition each year. Then we all lament our Winter-weight and King Cake pounds. Staying fit in Louisiana is tough.
Thankfully, (REAL) King Cakes are only available during the Mardi Gras season and can be found in almost any grocery store. Beware, not all King Cakes are created equal. Your big box stores are notorious for selling dried out pastries with sup-par fillings and slimy bottoms. This is one item where a generic product just won’t do. Bakeries well-known for quality King Cakes are worth the drive and cost.
What makes a great King Cake? I’m glad you asked!
- A tender pastry. Not too tough or dry and please, please, please, not too soft. Apply the Goldilocks standard when it comes to texture.
- Plenty of icing that is well set. Even if the weather is humid (which it always is).
- Evenly distributed sugar. No one wants to crunch on a pile of sugar.
- Good filling to pastry ratio IF you go the filled route.
- The colors. It’s not a King Cake without the traditional purple, gold and green colors.
My favorite King Cakes are actually the plain cinnamon. I usually scrape off about half of the sugar and icing and wash it down with black coffee. If you come across a King Cake in November, try it, even though it’s not officially Mardi Gras season. You can’t pass on King Cake.
This darling little bakery is located at 617 Ursulines Avenue right around the corner from the Old Ursuline Convent. They have a really nice menu with sweet and savory items plus plenty of beverages. The Almond Croissant is amazing! And their Palmiers have more layers than you could ever count.
By now you’re in a carb-overload coma. How can you even take one bite of bread pudding? I ask, how can you NOT?! Louisiana bread pudding is in a league of its own. I worked at a Cajun restaurant in Baton Rouge for five years and they had the most amazing bread pudding. It was dense, but in a good way with crispy edges (love that corner piece), a smooth texture and so much boozy sauce.
There are so many variations on Bread Pudding but I prefer nut and raisin free with a traditional buttery-bourbon sauce. If you’re a fan of Bread Pudding or want to know where to find the best versions in NOLA, check out this article: http://www.frenchquarter.com/bread-pudding-new-orleans/
With Thanksgiving right around the corner consider making Chef Kevin Belton’s Sweet Potato Bread Pudding.
Chef Kevin Belton’s Egg Nog Bread Pudding recipe is featured on page 79 of this recipe collection: http://interactive.wwltv.com/360/cookbook/resources/In-The-Kitchen-Holiday-Recipes.pdf
This is my husband’s favorite dessert and it’s super easy to whip up. We eat Bananas Foster over ice cream or wrapped in crepes.
The Times-Picayune wrote this amazing article about the history of the dessert in June 2017. Here’s the opening paragraph:
THEN: In 1951, when the Brennan restaurant operation consisted only of Brennan’s Vieux Carre on Bourbon Street, Owen Brennan asked his sister Ella to come up with a fancy new dessert for a dinner that night honoring Richard Foster for being named chairman of the New Orleans Crime Commission. An already-overworked Ella Brennan gathered her chef, Paul Blange, and headwaiter in the kitchen to help her dream up the new dessert. Scanning the kitchen and spying bananas, she thought of a simple dessert her mother had made by splitting the yellow fruit and sauteing the halves with butter and brown sugar. To jazz it up, she said in her memoir, they poured rum and banana liqueur on top, setting the mixture on fire at tableside, tossing in cinnamon to make it sparkle and serving the concoction over vanilla ice cream. They called it “bananas Foster.” A classic was born.
NPR featured some interesting information about the recipe and the history of the banana trade in New Orleans back in 2016. History buffs read up here.
Do you have some lovely ripe bananas that are just dying to become tonight’s dessert? Here’s the recipe: https://www.npr.org/s ections/thesalt/2016/09/30/493157144/the-sweet-success-of-bananas-foster-has-an-unsavory-past
This is a NOLA must. We’re talking delicious budget-friendly, grab-and-go eats made with local ingredients PLUS it’s fun to watch your crepes being made.
Located at 1039 Broadway Street not far from Tulane University. They serve from 9:00 am until midnight and are open every day. Gluten-free options available.
is/was run by women entrepreneurs who had/ have an awesome vision.
- As of August 19, 2018 I have not been able to verify if they are still operating.
Located in the French Market Serving crepes from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Serves Traditional, Vegan and Gluten-free Crepes
- Had wonderful reviews on their (now unavailable Facebook page).
It’s always Sno-ball season in Louisiana. Some locations are only open during the summer while other locations stay open all year. Eating a Snow-ball is a right of passage. I didn’t realize sno-balls were a NOLA creation. And these syrupy fruity treats aren’t to be confused with snow-cones or shaved ice. There’s nothing quite so delicious, yet simple as the creamy texture of the ice doused in your favorite syrup and topped with condensed milk (because what’s one more tablespoon of sugar in 50 grams you’re already consuming?). Turns out the machines that shave the ice were actually made in New Orleans back in the 1930s.
You can get plain, topped with cream (condensed milk), stuffed with ice cream, and even cheesecake!
Here are some Sno-ball shops around the city:
The Original New Orleans Snowball: 4339 Elysian Fields Ave., New Orleans, LA 70122
Oh. My. Yes!!! Say a resounding YASSS!!! to this delicious concoction. My school Besties bought me this cake for my birthday last year. It was delightful, as always. You can find a great recipe here.
This cake boasts multiple layers of whipped cream with a mixture of whole berries and is iced in delicious (real-deal) buttercream.
Another New Orleans creation, the Doberge Cake (pronounced dough-bage: like garage) is super popular in these parts. I actually don’t like it but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a slice. This cake is layered with filling and glazed with ganache. Super sweet and decadent.
So now that I’ve inspired you to gain 25 pounds eating all these delicious desserts, let’s take a second to think of a better plan. First, when you see me at ACTFL invite me and three other people to SHARE a dessert. One bite each then we walk it all off. Second, remember this #OneTimeInNewOrleans Viviana made me eat 100 grams of sugar for three days straight and…
See you at ACTFL2018!