Though August in New Orleans means endless, sweaty, hot and humid days where we hide indoors and hope our air conditioners can handle the strain, the word also happens to be a delightful, little adjective. When something or someone is described as “august,” it means that they inspire reverence or admiration, evoking supreme dignity, grandeur and majesty and when it comes to food, I can think of nothing so eminent or venerable than dessert.
Laugh all you like, but I think making a truly, awe-inspiring dessert is a difficult task. One that requires a lot of patience, determination and creativity. Not only does it have to taste euphoric, verging on ambrosial, it has to look fantastic. Just as an example, have you ever watched the painstaking work involved at a pastry competition? Delicate swirls of chocolate balance precariously over fruit cut to look like paisley shaped butterflies floating over a serene pool of crème anglaise nestled in a rich, moist cake top iced within an inch of it’s life…phew! Just talking about it makes me break out in a nervous sweat.
When you discover an elegant, stunning, mouth-watering dessert that leaves you breathless, it is difficult to ever forget the experience.
Chef Justin Devillier at La Petite Grocery, located on the corner of General Pershing and Magazine Streets, has created a wonderful dessert that has become something of a classic. Derived from the old campfire favorite of roasted marshmallow and a hunk of chocolate sandwiched between two graham cracker squares, Devillier dazzles us with his version of S’Mores.
A shortbread tart shell is filled with rich chocolate mousse and capped off by a thick, beautifully charred layer of house made marshmallow and served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream off to the side. This dessert will send your mind reeling back to your youth, yet keep your taste buds firmly planted in the here and now with it’s perfect balance of flavors and textures…truly a dizzying feat.
Other spectacular creations can be experienced further Uptown at the quaint neighborhood establishment on the corner of Webster and Laurel Streets, Patois. Pastry Chef Lisa Gustafson has wowed with many dazzling desserts, but one that I considered a true marvel was the Chocolate Hazelnut Gateau.
This dish was presented in three separate parts, beginning with the gateau or dense, rich chocolate cake chock full of chopped hazelnuts and draped in a thick chocolate sauce. The second part was a small, chilled canister filled to the top with a chocolate “budino” or Italian pudding. Finally, a perfectly spherical scoop of Frangelico ice cream was delicately balanced atop a crispy disc of buttery, hazelnut brittle.
Simple or elaborate, chocolate or fruity, rich or light; desserts can be inspirational, dazzling and most definitely memorable. It’s easy to answer the question, “Who makes your favorite dessert in New Orleans?”
*Article originally published in the June 2011 issue of Where Y’at Magazine