Bronwen Wyatt's Guide to New Orleans Sweets
The spring has brought more than just a resurgence of the legendary New Orleans humidity and oriental magnolia blossoms for La Petite Grocery's Bronwen Wyatt—she's fresh off a nomination as one of Food and Wine's Best New Pastry Chefs. Her quintessential dessert—grilled vanilla bean panna cotta with satsuma sorbet and pistachio brittle—speaks to her love of sweets that are well balanced, walking a fine line between savory and sugary.
This isn't her first time in the spotlight, though. She was given a nod last year by former Times-Picayune restaurant master Brett Anderson as one of the rising stars of the New Orleans pastry scene: a role she has quickly embraced and expanded upon through her creative, thoughtful work at La Petite Grocery, a perennial James Beard favorite restaurant.
Journey with Bronwen through some of her favorite sweet snack spots in the city, where bacon-fat-drizzled pecan pie and pear cake en papillote are happily eaten side-by-side.
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Maurepas Foods: Maurepas Foods and pastry chef Jessica Stokes makes some of the best sweets in the city. The mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches are my favorite. If I had to choose one dessert to eat right now, that would probably be it. It's perfect: not too sweet, the texture is great, and the use of fresh mint instead of mint extract really makes it.
Herbsaint: I have a lot of respect for Rhonda Ruckman as a pastry chef. I think she does a great job of playing with texture inside all of her desserts. I've never found any of them to be cloyingly sweet or over the top, which I think is a real accomplishment.
Hansen's: There are a ton of options, but Hansen's is my top snoball in the city. I like to order the snoball version of a creamsicle, where a satsuma snoball is drizzled with condensed milk over the top.
Domenica: The pastry chef, Lisa White, is so talented. She's playing with a very real Italian aesthetic in every dessert, but doing it in a fresh, contemporary sort of way. For a while she was making a pear cake that came en papillote and was presented at the table. (If you're noticing a trend, I find that the desserts that end up being memorable for me are never really overly sweet. In New Orleans, that can sometimes be a bit of a rare find.)
Camellia Grill: My biggest guilty pleasure is probably the pecan waffle at Camellia Grill. It's pretty much perfect at all hours of the day. The pecan pie, too, is amazing because it's cooked on a flat top. When they pick it up to flip it and the pie mixes with the bacon grease—there's nothing better.
Brigtsen's: The pecan pie here is fantastic as well. The crust has this unusually gooey bottom, but the top is super crunchy. They also have a lemon crème brulee that is simple but elegant, nice, and refreshing.
Coquette: I love the beignets here, and they are constantly doing fun interpretations of non-traditional food dessert items, like doughnuts. In general, the bread is the best bread in the city by far, so they have a good foundation from which to work.
Angelo Brocato's: I have a real soft spot for this joint: it's a New Orleans classic, but for good reason. I love anything citrus that they do with their gelatos—lemon, orange, key lime—and the cannolis are outstanding.
About the author: Sarah Baird is a writer, editor, and petit four aficionado living in New Orleans, Louisiana. She likes planning elaborate dinner parties surrounded by her collection of dwarf citrus trees. You can read her latest musings and about her various misadventures on her website: hellosarahbaird.com or follow her on Twitter: @scbaird.