It’s Bananas [Foster]!

There’s no such thing as “too much of a good thing” when it comes to the endless iterations of this classic New Orleans recipe.

You’ve placed your napkin on the table and declared yourself “full” when all at once you’re surrounded by the caramel-like aroma of melting butter, brown sugar and bananas. Out of the corner of your eye, you discretely glance at the next table where a group of friends have unabashedly ordered dessert, now being prepared table side by their exuberant server. She adds a splash of rum with a theatrical flourish, and the pan is set aflame, sending orange-tipped tongues of fire towards the ceiling while the delighted diners emit oohs and aahs. The bubbling mixture is spooned over generous scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream and served, and as they begin to dig into their spectacular dessert, you realize you’re not that full after all.

New Orleans-born and loved the world over, Bananas Foster is an incredibly simple, yet astoundingly delicious dessert invented by Owen Brennan at his Vieux Carré in 1951. It’s typically made with only five ingredients (six if you count the vanilla ice cream) – brown sugar, butter, dark rum, a dash of cinnamon and bananas – and if you’re a daring home cook who’s not afraid to flambé, you can easily reproduce it at home. But creating it yourself or ordering it at a high end, white tablecloth restaurant certainly isn’t the only way you can enjoy that Bananas Foster flavor . . .

Bananas Foster Ice Cream at Creole Creamery

Chef/owner Bryan Gilmore of Creole Creamery understands the demand for this uniquely New Orleans flavor. At his ice cream shops, whether you’re at the location Uptown on Prytania Street or in the burbs on Metairie Road, Bananas Foster-style ice cream makes a regular appearance. Gilmore’s version is a creamy banana ice cream swirled with a brown sugar, butter and rum caramel sauce. Enjoy two scoops in a crispy waffle cone or go complete nuts with a fully loaded banana split topped with caramel sauce, tons of whipped cream and chopped peanuts.

In the continued interest of keeping your cool, head over to Tchoupitoulas Street for a Bananas Foster sno-ball at Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. For over 80 years, this iconic New Orleans sno-ball stand has been sweetening spring and summer with their superfine shaved ice concoctions. Their syrups are always made by hand and the Bananas Foster is no exception. Doused in banana syrup and topped with bruleed bananas, this is a seasonal treat to stand in line for, and make no mistake, you will be standing in line. But it’s worth it!

Bananas Foster French Toast at Stanley

If you happen to be in the French Quarter one fine morning, or even afternoon, don’t miss a sweet breakfasty treat at Stanley. Owner and chef Scott Boswell and his wife Tanya are offering breakfast (and lunch) daily at their restaurant on the corner of Jackson Square, mere steps away from St. Louis Cathedral. Among other incredible dishes like their Eggs Benendict Po-Boy and filet gumbo with shrimp, oysters, chicken and andouille sausage, Stanley offers a Bananas Foster French Toast. Made with Leidenheimer, the French toast is topped with fresh, sliced bananas, house made vanilla ice cream, crunchy, toasted walnuts and that signature, boozy Bananas Foster sauce.

Less than a block from the Ashe Cultural Arts Center on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard you’ll discover Cafe Reconcile, a non-profit lunch spot serving Southern favorites while offering at-risk youth workforce development and training. The cafe’s program is adept at not only creating a space for youth ages 16-24 to get real-time, on-the-job work experience, but it also excels at providing a supportive and safe environment for their personal growth, enriching the community as well as setting them on the right path for success. Stop into the cafe for lunch and devour a plate of jerk chicken and pickled peppers, a fried green tomato sandwich on jalapeno cornbread toast, or smothered turkey necks served with rice and gravy – all offered under budget! Just don’t leave without getting a slice of their award-winning, custardy Banana’s Foster Bread Pudding for dessert.

Bananas Foster Doberge Cake at Bakery Bar

Down on Annunciation Street, the Bakery Bar is cozy restaurant with a craft cocktail program led by Vincent Heitz and Joseph Witkowski and a menu of shareable eats by Chef Lydia Solano. But what launched the Lower Garden District, and their main attraction, are the slices and bites of New Orleanian’s unofficially official celebratory cake – doberge – created by Debbie Does Doberge or Charlotte McGehee and Charles Mary IV. If you’ve never had the pleasure, doberge (pronounced “doe-bash”) is a multilayered cake (six is the hard minimum) with alternating layers of pudding covered in buttercream or ganache and a thin fondant shell. Though the traditional flavors are lemon and chocolate, Bakery Bar (and Debbie on the Levee in Kenner) feature flavors of the more creative-and-boozy variety ie. Cafe Brulot King Cake, Peppermint Bark, Spiked S’Mores with bourbon, and Pina Colada. It’s not on the menu all the time, but now and again they’ve been known to offer a big-fat slice of Bananas Foster Doberge with layers of banana cake and caramel pudding spiked with a hefty dram of spiced dark rum.

Speaking of hefty drams, Palace Café on Canal Street can always whip up a frosty, frozen cocktail with Bananas Foster-flair, and why wouldn’t they? It’s one of Dickie Brennan’s restaurants! It’s a sweet creamy, banana-salted caramel shake blended with a kick of white rum and a dash of cinnamon, grab a large go-cup for $11 and let the evening begin!

*Article originally published in the Jazz Fest 2023 issue of Where Y’at Magazine

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