Mar 18, 201012:00 AM
Our weekly blog on the New Orleans fine dining scene
Sweetness on Magazine
These Meuniere chocolates, from Sucré's Saints Collection, are filled with brown butter and white chocolate ganache.
Sucré is a boutique unlike any other in New Orleans. Modeled after shops that owner Joel Dondis visited during a trip to Europe, Sucré offers beautiful pastries, chocolates and gelato in a sophisticated setting at 3025 Magazine St. With huge windows looking onto the street, light-green walls and spotless glass display cases, the shop appears to have been lifted directly from a Parisian street.
Dondis is from Lake Charles and became involved in the restaurant industry at an early age. He operates two restaurants in New Orleans: Grand Isle, at 575 Convention Center Blvd. on the Fulton Street corridor, and La Petite Grocery, at 4238 Magazine St. As the principal of Joel Catering and Event Planning, he is also one of the premier caterers in New Orleans.
His vision for Sucré was ambitious, given the economic climate in New Orleans in 2007, but his gamble has paid off. From a single storefront, Sucré has expanded to encompass catalog and Internet-based sales; the increased volume that Sucré is able to produce to meet the demand for such sales results from a confection studio Dondis opened in November 2008.
The studio dramatically increased the size of the workspace available to the staff at Sucré, and it’s full of high-tech equipment for baking, making ice cream and creating chocolates. But the real work is done by the skilled chefs who staff the operation, led by Tariq Hanna, a talented and inventive pastry chef who is Dondis’ partner at Sucré. Hanna is the creative force in the kitchens at Sucré, and his skill is on display in the cases that line the walls of the shop.
The selections in those cases are beautiful, from chocolates seasoned with thyme, absinthe, chicory or port to elaborate pastries, each decorated with virtuosity. There are excellent coffee and drinking chocolate in dark and peppermint flavors and pound cakes with pecans, pistachio and dried cherries, and lemon and coconut. The brilliantly colored macaroons come in such flavors as orange, pecan, almond, chocolate and pistachio and are deliciously crisp. How the shop manages to create macaroons that defy our humidity is a puzzler.
Cakes are another mainstay of Sucré’s business. Hanna has a background in baking competitions, and some of the work he does with fondant is almost architectural in scope and design. There is an ongoing debate as to whether chefs are more akin to artists or craftsmen, but one look at some of Hanna’s work will end it at least where he’s concerned. The cakes are not just pretty; the staff at Sucré takes pride in making each one as delicious as the individual pastries on display in the shop.
Sucré’s Web site allows you to shop online and additionally provides the option to download a catalog. It’s a good idea to check the site frequently because the selection changes with the seasons and for certain holidays. Currently, for example, the shop’s windows are decorated with flowers made of fondant, and Sucré is featuring chocolate bunnies filled with caramel and “golden ticket eggs.” The eggs have a hollow center; some contain a coupon for a free scoop of gelato or a T-shirt, but 10 contain tickets that allow the holders to visit Sucré’s production facility for a day. While there, the winners will get to observe and take part in every aspect of Sucré’s operation and will leave with a bag of their own creations along with some lagniappe from the professionals. It is not clear to me whether Dondis or Hanna will play the role of Willy Wonka on that day, but even more mysterious –– where do they find the Oompa Loompas, and what do they do with them the rest of the year?
For Mother’s Day, the shop will produce chocolates infused with botanicals such as lavender, violet and rose. Shortly thereafter, Sucré will focus on what Dondis calls “a world of gelato” for the summer.
The shop already has a great selection of the ultra-rich ice cream, but as the weather heats up, the shop will roll out new flavors; specialty sundaes; and drinks, some of which will include alcohol. Sucré goes all out during these seasonal changes; even the art and photographs that adorn the walls change to match the theme.
Summer is also the best time to catch the Sucré Gelato Van, which rolls around town selling gelato, iced coffee, fresh lemonade and iced tea. You can track the van’s progress on Twitter here.
For information on the latest happenings at Sucré, stop by the store or call them at (504) 520-8311. The shop is open Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to midnight.