Eat This Now: Mabel's Pralines
I love New Orleans for many things. Everybody has music in his or her head, Creole cooking is immediately welcoming and comforting, and the town invented one of my favorite drinks, the Sazerac.
It's also the spiritual home of the praline, a sweet candy that's like rough brittle. I don't normally like sticky, sweet candies, but I'm a sucker for good pralines. It's easy to find them in New Orleans, but less so here.
I was surprised, then, to see a stand called Mabel's Pralines at the Long Beach Marina farmers' market on Sunday mornings, distributing samples. Curious, I tried it--and was hooked. The candies are surprisingly tender, the nuts aren't overwhelmingly huge, and the brittle is knocked into sensibly sized pieces, so you can have one piece . . . all right, maybe two.
It's pretty much a one-item stand, though they do sell sweet-potato pies and banana pudding that beats the late-but-not-very-lamented Nana Queens truck. You can order online, but the prices are cheaper at the market ($8 for a half-pound bag at the market vs. $10 online).
Mabel's Pralines, 625 Pine Ave., Long Beach, (562) 491-5354; mabelspralines.com. Find them on Thursdays at the Bixby Knolls farmers' market, on Fridays at the Long Beach Downtown farmers' market and on Sundays at the Long Beach Southeast/Marina farmers' market.
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