An informal poll conducted in my Uptown neighborhood revealed that, given the extreme polarization with which we currently live, some are relieved to have toxic Cousin ‘Rona still hanging around as a handy excuse to avoid gathering with family over the Thanksgiving dinner table. Others simply cannot break with tradition and are dreading conflict and struggling to find some sort of common ground upon which to gather with loved ones from whom they are ideologically polarized.
Allow me to offer dessert as that safe thing around which disparate sensibilities can gather. Stay away from tried and true numbers from your traditional family menu and seek out something new, unexpected and distracting enough as to be worthy of conversation. To make it easier on your already frazzled self, allow me to further suggest that you purchase said dessert(s) from one of our fair city’s many fine bakeries or restaurants.
“Pretty much anything can be had to go at this point,” says Maggie Scales, Executive Pastry Chef for the Link Restaurant Group. “The best of the best from just about any restaurant can be enjoyed at home. Just place an order. It’s the new way.”
Scales has secured a crop of Southern apples from a farm in Jemison, Alabama, for use in a variety of pies, tarts and turnovers that will be for sale at La Boulangerie bakery. At Cochon, she makes good use of the apple crop in a very soft Brown Sugar Pound Cake topped with apple compote and served with a spiced apple butter.
The Orange Hazelnut Torta Scales created for Gianna is an impressive, complicated affair pairing layers of hazelnut meringue with ricotta semifreddo, candied orange and candied orange syrup.
That should get them talking.
After nine years of working from a home kitchen on the Northshore, Nicole Eiden and Marielle Dupre, the duo behind Windowsill Pies, recently opened their first brick-and-mortar location on Freret Street. While they have many very fine pies and tarts from which to choose, their signature Amaretto, Pear and Dried Cherry Pie is a standout.
“This was one of the first desserts we ever created,” Eiden says.” It combines juicy pears and dried cherries reconstituted in Lazzaroni amaretto liqueur peeking through a golden lattice of crisp, buttery autumn leaves dusted with freshly grated nutmeg and lemon zest.”
This could leave them speechless.
While our brethren to the north are heading inside to seek the heat, our turn has come to head out to enjoy the fine, dry, cool weather we have awaited so desperately. To encourage outdoor gathering the ground outside of Picnic at the corner of State and Magazine streets has been covered with AstroTurf and a collection of comfortable, socially distanced picnic tables has been installed. Happy Hour, Wednesdays-Sundays, 3-7 p.m., is a particularly nice time to visit when Vodka Gimlets, Whiskey Gingers and Old-Fashioneds are $6; glasses of Francois Montand Blanc de Blancs and Le Grand Courtage Sparkling Brut Rose are $6; and Michelob Ultra and Urban South Paradise Park are $2. A selection of value priced “Snacky Things” changes frequently.
At Lula Distillery, also offering outdoor seating, weekdays bring Happy Hour 4-7 p.m. Large (usually $12) fresh Blackberry Mojitos are available for the price of a small, $8.
Chef Nathanial Zimet of Boucherie has launched a new Happy Hour every Tuesday-Saturday, 5-6 p.m., at his recently reopened Uptown eatery, which includes a new outdoor space. Happy Hour specials include $5 select wines by the glass, $1 off all draft beers and a $7 Old Fashioneds or Sazeracs. There is also “Geaux Local” special for $8, featuring a local draft beer and fries. Draft beers change regularly to support local brew houses. During happy hour, food specials include mussels for $10, boudin balls for $5 and French fries for $4.
Boucherie, 8115 Jeannette St., 862-5514, BoucherieNola.com
Cochon, 930 Tchoupitoulas St., 588-2123, CochonRestaurant.com
Gianna, 700 Magazine St., 399-0816, GiannaRestaurant.com
La Boulangerie, 4600 Magazine St., 269-3777, LaBoulangerie.com
Lula Distillery, 1532 St. Charles Ave., 267-7624, LulaNola.com
Picnic, 741 State St., 266-2810, NolaPicnic.com
Windowsill Pies, 4714 Freret St., 381-4953, WindowsillPiesNola.com