Last week I posted my Top 10 Must Eats for New Orleans, La but there’s a whole other world of food when it comes to desserts. Here is my list for Top 10 Sweet Treats. This list has been tested and approved by several of my friends visiting for the first time so I guarantee you won’t be sorry trying any (or all) of these selections.
Beignet’s are squares fried dough that are sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar. Some people refer to them as a New Orleans doughnut but its taste is quite unique and far from that of the traditional doughnut. You can find this treat throughout the city but the most popular place to enjoy them is at Cafe du Monde on Decatur Street as you listen to a live jazz band.
The praline (pronounced prah-leen) was brought to New Orleans from France in the 19th century and today is a dentist’s nightmare. Made with brown sugar, butter and pecans, this candy can be bought in just about any store in New Orleans. Aunt Sally’s is a popular praline candy maker. If you’re in the French Quarter, stop by the store for a free sample.
In New Orleans, King Cakes and Mardi Gras go hand in hand. While some bakeries make and ship these ring-shaped pastries year round, you’ll only find them on store shelves from about the end of December until Ash Wednesday. That means “King Cake season” is a short-lived event that locals look forward to all year. You can enjoy this treat plain or filled with different fruits but all are topped with a thick, colorful sugar-icing.
Sometimes, when bread in New Orleans goes stale it gets a second chance in the form of bread pudding. Found in many restaurants in the Big Easy, this dish is soaked in an egg mixture before being baked and then topped with a thick, sweet sauce (usually rum-based). It is sometimes served with pecans or, my favorite, raisins.
You’re not going to find this fruit-filled pie in restaurants but in most every grocery and convenience store in the city. While distribution has been temporarily halted due to a fire everyone who has had the joy of seeing this in their lunchbox growing up is anxiously awaiting its return. If you’re lucky enough to visit once these are available make a point to pick one up. You’ll be glad you did.
Sweet Potato Pie
Once again, sweet potato pie is more of an all-around southern dish. However, in New Orleans you can experience the legend of Omar the Pie Man who began selling his homemade sweet potato pies from his truck in the 1960’s. While the Pie Man left us in 2002, you can still enjoy his confections via The Southern Sweet Potato Pie Company which distributes pie’s to local restaurants and businesses in the area and across the country.
This is not a sno-cone or shaved ice, it’s a sno-ball. A big difference if you ever leave New Orleans and try to find a comparable substitute. A sno-ball is finely shaved ice that is saturated in flavored syrup. A popular flavor that you won’t many other places is chocolate. You can also top it with condensed milk or “cream”.
Each Summer is marked with lines of kids standing in line at a sno-ball stand with their dollar trying to decide which flavor to get.
Roman Chewing Candy
If you’re lucky you’ll spot the infamous Roman Chewing Candy Co. wagon during your visit to New Orleans. Built in 1915, this wagon sells homemade taffy-like dessert for a mere one dollar a stick. Four generations later, the original Italian recipe is still used to make this unique candy.
Roman Chewing Candy was always something to look forward to during school trips to the Audubon Zoo as a child and kids are still enjoying the same chewy treat today.
This dessert can be a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Introduced by the New Orleans establishment Brennan’s Restaurant in the 1950’s, Banana’s Foster is ice cream topped with cooked banana and a thick sauce of sugar, butter and rum that is flambéd (at your table if you’re lucky).
You can find this dish almost anywhere in the city but for the original head to Brennan’s Restaurant for a taste of where it all began.
Banana pudding isn’t an exclusive New Orleans treat. It’s a southern thing that New Orleanians are happy to embrace. You’d be hard pressed to find a dessert menu that doesn’t offer this item. Layers of vanilla wafers, banana slices and banana pudding are difficult to mess up.
Different restaurants like to add their own personal touches but it’s a good bet that it’ll be delicious wherever you choose to go.