I told you yesterday that pecan-lovers are going to be ecstatic this weekend, because both national food holidays celebrate pecans :) Yesterday was Pecan Sandy Day, dedicated to those crumbly, crunchy, shortbread-y cookies with crushed pecans inside them; and today is National Pralines Day, which some confectioners in the United States use as a term for candied pecans used in desserts. Actually, the term praline has a few definitions: it could be the confections or cookies involving pecans, or any nut; or it could be the Belgian praline, which are definied as soft or liquid fillings surrounded by a hard chocolate shell–much like the French bonbon. They don’t even have to have pecans in them! There are many different varieties of praline–for both definitions–so for this National Praline Day, let yourself loose and try something new!
When I started doing research for this food holiday and saw that Belgian chocolates are called “pralines” in their nation of origin, I just had to include it, even though we as Americans aren’t used to calling them by that name. Come on, people, they’re Belgian pralines! Delicious! It reminds me of my trip to Brussels when I studied in Europe back in college. Two of my friends and I went with the full intention of catching a few tourist attractions and eating our weights in waffles and chocolate. (This one waffle stand near Grand Place served us Belgian waffles DIPPED in chocolate, and that was basically better than sex.) And since we had to share all these wonderful chocolates we were enjoying with our families back home, we went to the only shop in Brussels that would actually mail chocolates overseas. Yeah, crazy! But Leonidas does just that. An international chain of Belgian chocolates, Leonidas has made a name for themselves all over the world. There’s even a shop right here in New York City (because New York has everything, naturally) where you can taste the Belgian pralines we fell in love with back in Brussels. Try out all of their varieties, from the dark chocolate covered ganache to orange peels dipped in chocolate–hell, even get a praline praline if you’re so inclined ;-) I’m just so glad that I don’t have to order chocolate from Europe to get the real Belgian praline experience again!
Leonidas Fresh Belgian Chocolates
485 Madison Ave (between 51st St & 52nd St)
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Leonidas ranks in my top three chocolatiers in the city, with a creamy praline and smooth chocolate that makes my heart happy. This location is a bit on the small side, but all that glitters is gold – and is edible too! The sales clerks are nice, the selection is good, and the quality is good.”–Suanne L.
“Pralines, orange peels and dark chocolate, oh my! All the pralines here are good, I stick to dark chocolate cause thats what I like and I will do anything for their dark choco orange peels (slivers, not slices). Gianduja is divine and I really like the kirsch liqueur choco as well.”–Marina G.
But when you’re in America, and you hear the word “pralines,” you’re not looking for chocolate bonbons–as delicious as they may be. You want some damn pecans! I especially like them when they’re candied and distributed throughout sweet, cool ice cream–Pralines and Cream! Or how about frozen yogurt? You can’t get Pralines and Cream at Pinkberry, but there’s something way better than the ubiquitous fro-yo chain. Up in Harlem, Chill Berry is a family-owned oasis of self-serve frozen yogurt in a neighborhood the Pinkberries and Red Mangoes have seemed to overlook. Their fro-yo is tart and cool, but unlike the chain stores downtown, you can find inventive and delicious flavors here, like New York Cheesecake, Red Velvet Cake, and–you guessed it–Pecan Praline. Toppings include perennial favorites like sprinkles and cookie crumbs to fresh mango slices, cookie dough balls, and even mochi! For all its Asian-ness, you can’t get mochi on your fro-yo at Pinkberry. Plus it’s great to buy from local, hard-working businesses like Chill Berry, in a neighborhood that’s often overlooked by the “trendy” new franchises. Head up to Harlem and try a bite!
414 Lenox Ave (between 131st St & 130th St)
“With 10 rich low fat flavors like Cake Batter, Pecan Praline, and Pistachio, and numerous fresh fruit and classic toppings from sprinkles to the exotic moochi, the sky is the limit in terms of fantastic combinations to enjoy. Chill Berry is cozy and inviting with an uber friendly staff eager to walk you through the process of self service and offers countless samples. The space has a lounge like feel with banquette seating, wooden stools and tables, as well as 4 flat screen televisions featuring music videos and soothing R&B playing overhead to set an escapist mood.”–Stay Uptown
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“I ended up choosing a little bit of 3 flavors – vanilla, pecan praline, and cookies and cream. All are delicious! I think my favorite was the praline – so so good! I topped it with some fresh strawberries and mango and cookie dough bites – so many toppings to choose from that include some healthy options. It is really nice that it is self-serve because you can get exactly what you want.”–Julen H.
“With flavors like red Velvet, Cake Batter and Pecan Pralines, and toppings like cheesecake bites, Captn Crunch and lots of fresh fruit, this is definitely something I am looking forward to taking advantage of this summer. I can’t say that I am a frozen yogurt connoisseur, but my initial impression is that this is definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood!”–Sarah C.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!