Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Pralines in New Orleans

I'm still catching up on desserts from my summer trip to New Orleans. One Big Easy treat that I'd be remiss in neglecting is the praline. In the French Quarter, several local stores compete to sell these creamy, melt-in-your-mouth pecan candies to us tourists. My wife, who arrived in New Orleans a day or two before me, surprised me by leaving a box of pralines in our hotel room for when I arrived (she was busy at a conference when I got in). Exotic flavors, like coconut, were delicious, but they couldn't compete with the original. I mean, really, what could be bad about cream, butter, sugar, and pecans? (Obvious answer to the rhetorical question: nothing!)

The next time I'm in New Orleans (and make no mistake, I'll be back!), I'll be sure to pick up a few pralines to snack on between (rich, ample) meals.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crème Brulée Cheesecake

Here in Massachusetts, we have a great local chain restaurant called Not Your Average Joe's. Over the years, their desserts have been hit or miss, though with more hits than misses. One of the biggest hits is their crème brulée cheesecake. Standard (but very well executed) cheesecake meets the thin, crisp sugary topping of a crème brulée. Why did no one ever think of this before? (Okay, someone probably did, but this is the first I've heard of it.)

The reason this works so well is that the basic cheesecake at NYAJ's is excellent. The graham cracker crust complements a creamy, flavorful cake. The
bruléed top just adds a little extra texture and flavor, without overwhelming the cream cheese taste.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Konditor & Cook brownies in London

A few months ago, I went on a business trip to London. I searched for some tips on where to eat in the neighborhood in which I was staying, near the Waterloo Tube stop. Lucky for me, someone mentioned the bakery Konditor & Cook, a small chain with a location near Waterloo. Everything they had looked amazing (see for yourself), but I had to go for the brownies. I got a couple different kinds, one fudge brownie with chocolate chips, and one that was more like a toffee or turtle type of thing, with caramel and nuts. Both were outstanding, rich and chewy and, most importantly, chocolatey. Hopefully the good folks at K&C won't mind me using one of their photos to illustrate the fudginess.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Emeril's Banana Cream Pie

Emeril's banana cream pie!!Last week, I went to New Orleans for the first time. A few days and a couple pounds later, I regretfully had to return home.

One of the dessert highlights was this banana cream pie from Emeril's. (Okay, not this particular pie, which was photographed by flickr user something.from.nancy. But it looked just like that for a very short time.)

What made this so good is that it didn't try to get too fancy. Graham cracker crust, bananas in a creamy filling, whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel sauce, and some chocolate shavings. I was a little dubious at first about that chocolate—would it taint the delicate flavors of the banana and cream? Nope. The thinly shaved chocolate added just a light, pleasant accent without turning the whole dish into a chocolate-banana pie.

Even after appetizer, drink, and an entree, I had no trouble finishing a pretty decent size piece of pie. So, fine, I admit that isn't all that unusual for me, but really I didn't even consider stopping when I felt full. Every last bite of that pie was going down the old, well, pie hole.

I have to say, the entire dinner at Emeril's was great. You never quite know what you're going to get with a celebrity chef restaurant, but this one lived up to the hype.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate

If you saw the title of this post, or the label of the chocolate bar pictured here, and thought "that sounds weird," you're not alone. My wife brought this back for me from Seattle after a recent business trip. I like coconut curry, and I like milk chocolate. But would I like the combination? The short answer is "yes."

Theo is a small chocolate company based in Seattle. They emphasize the use of fair trade, organic ingredients, and they have a penchant for creating unusual flavor combinations. What makes this bar work is the wise decision by the folks at Theo to go with a creamy, mild milk chocolate, instead of putting the curry into competition with the strong, complex, bitter flavor of dark chocolate. I will admit to a bit of disappointment that the coconut didn't come through more, but the yellow curry powder played perfectly against the sweet, rich, smooth chocolate. This might not be the chocolate bar you'd seek out if you were having a serious chocolate craving, but it's perfect for a small bite. It also is a fun novelty item, and one that your coworkers won't be mad at you for making them try.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chocolate Velvet

Recently I attended an event at the fancy-shmancy J.W. Marriott in Washington, DC. (That's just how I roll. Or not.) Imagine my delight when, following a delicious plated dinner, I learned that there was a dessert buffet. As you might imagine, leaving a dessert blogger alone with a dessert buffet is a bit like leaving a fox alone in a hen house. I didn't sample every item on the table, but I did try several. One item, labeled "chocolate velvet," I tried three times. They could have been called feathers. They were so light, I thought they might float away. The base was some sort of delicate chocolate cake, very thin, and the rest had the texture of something in between a marshmallow and cotton candy, but with a rich chocolate flavor enhanced by the cocoa powder dusted on the outside. I don't know how they made them, and I regret that I may never have the opportunity to enjoy them again, but I'm grateful I had the opportunity at least once!

Beard Papa Cream Puff

Okay, so I don't get out to the west coast very often. Surely that's the reason that I had never heard of Beard Papa, the oddly named chain of cream puff shops. Yes, shops that specialize entirely in cream puffs. I don't know whose sick, twisted idea this was, but when I encountered such a shop near the Moscone Conference Center in San Francisco, I wasn't going to pass up a taste.

The cream puffs are filled to order with your choice of cream flavors. They had the standard white/vanilla, chocolate, and a couple exotic flavors, including mango. Having never had a mango cream puff, I went with that. They offered powdered sugar (yes, please!), and after watching the mango cream get injected with something that looked like a surgical instrument from the middle ages, I was ready to eat.

I'm no expert on French pastry. My baked good tastes tend more towards the American-style brownie or chocolate chip cookie. Still, this seemed like quite a good cream puff. Flaky, light, with just a slight chew. The mango cream was great. Imagine a sweetened mango puree whipped up into a mousse. The combination worked for me. In fact, if I hadn't been eating my mango cream puff while meeting with a business associate, I might have gone back for a second.

If you find yourself in California and looking for a light snack, look for the crazy shop with the crazy name.