For pastry chefs in New Orleans, innovation is ever on the rise, as witnessed in the creative and risky flavor pairings showing up in many a New Orleans restaurant. While sorbet – the refreshingly light frozen treat – used to be traditionally served between meals to cleanse the palate, lately you may have noticed a growing trend in gourmet house-made sorbets as highly-regarded dishes in their own right, not to mention a recent shift toward intriguing desserts that rely on sorbet as an essential component. Leave the ubiquitous whipped topping at home, because desserts featuring sorbet are the coolest option for summertime dining.
Sometimes dessert arrives at your table and seems too beautiful to eat. This is actually the case with every dish at Stella!, from Duck Five Ways to caviar dreams. Executive Pastry Chef Rebecca Cohen’s dishes, in particular, have that illustrious appeal, the one that sets everyone’s camera phone flashin’. Get lucky enough to receive a sampler plate compliments of the chef and you’ll flit about the orange blossom macaroons and raspberry filled cream puffs like a bumblebee drunk on pollen. Though it’s the Chocolate Lime Dome with Southern Comfort center and lime sorbet that’s the epitome of the summertime dessert. A dense orb of silky chocolate arrives on a plate festooned with dazzling tart citrus sauce the color of jungle leaves, which trails off to a countering orb of tempting sweet and tart lime sorbet. The strangely innocuous Southern Comfort is imperative to the experience, hidden deep in the center of the dome and offering a faintly boozy innuendo – the perfume on the handkerchief (or in this case, perhaps the tanning oil on the beach towel) – before wandering out into the sultry night.
The best grits in town, cocktails to kill and Leonardo DiCaprio sightings – as if you need more reasons to eat at Maurepas Foods. Here is another: Pastry Chef Jessica Stoke’s dessert menu recently began to feature a grilled cheese sandwich. The Brioche Grilled Cheese features Livarot, a pungent washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from Normandy with its dark orange rind (perhaps inedible, though I’ve seen people try) and incredibly creamy texture. It is a beefy cheese; smelly would be an understatement. There is no denying that the inclusion of Livarot in any dessert would be a risky undertaking, especially in this case as the cheese is melted down to arrive at an array of even yet more flavor. At Maurepas the pay-off for such precariousness is absolutely delicious. Despite an amalgam of potent ingredients – the dish also features a Riesling and Black Pepper Syrup – the small grilled cheese itself, lusciously savory on warm brioche, remains unassumingly dainty as a dollop of refreshing cucumber sorbet melts over the sandwich, lending itself perfectly to a decadently questionable experience. This ain’t your mama’s apple pie; it’s a sorbet-washed grilled cheese – and it’s fantastic.
Lilette Pastry Chef Beth Biundo, long revered for her amazing cakes, is also working her magic with two sorbet-focused desserts. A Mascarpone panna cotta with strawberry sorbet, anise shortbread and red wine syrup is an obsession-worthy dessert for any passionate sweet tooth. The prosecco float with blood orange sorbet, vanilla ice cream and pistachio cookies is a playful summertime treat for the young at heart.
For caffeine freaks, La Divina Gelataria’s Affogato, which is a scoop of gelato or sorbetto “drowned” in espresso —the meaning of the Italian word affogato is “drowned” – is something you must try immediately. You might remember seeing certain people at Jazz Fest wandering the grounds with what looked like a badly melting ice cream but no, that was gelato in a pool of glorious espresso. It is the best way to wake up from a summertime heat coma. Their Turbo Dog sorbet is also a tasty option.
Patois’ version of a “Snickers” features brown sugar cake with chocolate sorbet, caramel chocolate mousse, salted caramel, chocolate sauce and peanuts, but you shouldn’t stuff it in your purse for later.
Maurepas Foods | 3200 Burgundy St. | 267-0072
Restaurant Stella! | 1032 Chartres St. | 587-0091 | RestaurantStella.com
Lilette | 3637 Magazine St. | 895-1636 | LiletteRestaurant.com
La Divina Gelataria | 3005 Magazine St. | 342-2634 | LaDivinaGelataria.com
Patois | 6078 Laurel St. | 895-9441 | PatoisNola.com