Crescent Cremes Pralines
Crescent Creams produces some of the most divine pralines and candies in the area. Wayne Brown's creations include the distinctly old-fashioned Nipples of Venus, and delicious "gator mints," a buttery and addictive concoction with the fresh snap of real mint.
And of course there are big and delicious pralines, in four different flavors: coconut, cafe au lait, chocolate, and the much-beloved pecan. Gift boxes are available for far-flung praline lovers, and can be ordered off the website.
Crescent Cream's story begins in the aftermath of Katrina, when Mr. Brown began to make pralines as a "thank you" gift to those who had helped him get through the storm. Using his mother's recipe, Brown's friends ate them up - more then that, they told him he should start selling his candies. Which he did. Brown is now a fixture at the Crescent City Farmer's Market, selling his delicious treats to a healthy contingent of satisfied customers.
Brown told me a little bit about the illustrious history of his Nipples of Venus, which hail from an extremely old French recipe. The mildly erotic looking candies are the antecedents of the flat pralines we know and love today, and were called "prasline" in their native home. The name is thought to be a homage to sugar industrialist and candy genius Marshal du Plessis-Praslin, who invented the European style praline: almond in caramelized sugar. The chef, Clement Lassagne, has a variety of origin stories surrounding him and the invention of the praline. An innocent tale involves the curious Clement coming upon children caramelizing sugared nuts over an open fire. A more colorful version involves the hound-dog du Plessis-Praslin asking the chefs to invent a treat that would really make court ladies skirts fly up - we may never know the truth.
French immigrants to New Orleans brought over their candy recipes, and found that local pecans made a convenient substitute for the almonds they used back home, added cream for thickening purposes, and incorporated local cane sugar: the recipe evolved in a delicious direction from there on out. Nipples of Venus, then, may be viewed as primordial praline, a true taste of the past, complete with a "scantily clad" chocolate drizzle. Nipples of Venus are still a popular treat in Europe, and turn up in a dizzying array of varieties around the continent.
Praline in Europe means something different from the flat patties known in the Southern USA. European praline generally refers to ground sugar coated nuts, and is often used in pastries, cakes, and chocolate candies. It's tasty stuff, but in my (unbiased) opinion can't hold a candle to the stuff we eat in America.