What is it about the wintery, holiday season that makes folks want to eat mint? Isn't it cold enough already? It's like we can't get enough of shivering on the outside, we have to freeze on the inside, too. Whether it be peppermint candy canes, mint hot chocolate or even "winter mint" gum, we are steered to combine cool flavors with chilly weather, yet no one seems to question this odd combination. Well, no one except me... But I think I've come up with an answer to this double-chilling question, a solution that is actually quite simple once you think about it. During the holiday season, we stuff ourselves silly with...well...stuffing, turkey, ham, roasts, ducks, casseroles, rolls, candied yams, cranberry sauce, the list goes on and on. Because of this heavy, over-indulgence, it's only natural that we would seek something gentle on the belly as a finisher. After all, mint has been used for centuries to soothe upset stomachs and cure the aches common to indigestion.
Let's say you are having lunch at Katie's Restaurant in Mid-City. Everyone raves about this homey, neighborhood gem, including Food Network's Guy Fieri who featured Katie's on his ever-popular show, Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, and with good reason. With dishes like Fried Green Tomato & Shrimp Remoulade Po-Boys or Jenny's Garlic Feta Fries, it's easy to see why this restaurant has become so popular. So, you're having lunch at Katie's and you decide to dare Chef Scot Craig's mega po-boy called "The Barge," over-stuffed with fried shrimp, catfish and oysters. After this huge, delicious, deep-fried feast, you might want to ease your future pain with a nice, thick slice of Thin Mint Doberge cake. Created for Katie's by Debbie Does Doberge, this multi-layered beauty is creamy, surprisingly light and tastes exactly like an Andes Mint. Remember "the peak of all candies?" If you're seeking something snappy to have at home, head on over to your local grocery store and aim directly at the freezer section for a few pints of New Orleans ice Cream Co.'s Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream. Reminiscent of that thin mint flavor your father would stash in the freezer and hoard to himself, this creamy, light green crispness is loaded with hunks of mint chocolate cookies and chocolate flakes that will ease not only your tummy, but your sweet tooth as well. Plus, you can feel even better about every spoonful because for every pint sold of Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream, New Orleans Ice Cream Co. donates a portion to actor Brad Pitt's Make it Right Foundation to help rebuild the Lower 9th Ward.
Yet another minty, ice cream option can be found on Prytania Street at the Creole Creamery. Chef Bryan Gilmore has Mint Chocolate Chip on hand all year round, but he whips up a unique flavor especially for the holiday season. Called Pink Peppermint Pie, Gilmore's recipe is similar to the actual , traditional pie, which includes crushed peppermint candies, lots of cream and a bit of food coloring, but he adds crushed Oreo cookies just for some added, chocolaty pleasure.
Over on St. Charles Avenue, near the corner of Polymnia Street, lies another source of minty satisfaction, a little confectionery shop called Pralines by Jean. Although Jean offers a shop-full of sweet, nutty pralines, she also makes a variety of cupcakes. One favorite that is romantically dubbed and full of minty bliss is called "I was mint for you!" This moist chocolate cupcake is heaped with a mint butter cream frosting and a flurry of chocolate sprinkles, a dessert definitely "mint" for a post-meal treat.
Finally, for something a little different, jaunt on over La Divina Gelateria on Magazine Street, or their location on St. Peter in the French Quarter if it's closer. After scarfing down a delicious panino, whether it be a Tacchio with smoked turkey and crispy pancetta or a Porchetta with Tuscan-style pork loin smothered in a house made mostarda, cool it down with a Pineapple Mint Sorbetto. Tropical, fruity, sweet, tart and cool all at the same time, this refreshing, Italian dessert is an excellent, minty finish to your meal.