The first time I had a beignet is probably, for many people, they first time they’ve ever had a beignet–in New Orleans. I ate my first one (and second and third one…) at the legendary Cafe du Monde in the historic French district, and it was the only reputable restaurant establishment I’ve ever been in that can get away with (no, relish in!) having a healthy layer of sticky powdered sugar on the floor and it being absolutely no problem at all. As for the beignet itself, I loved the soft, chewy insides and the fried, doughnut-like crispy outsides, the way the line cooks dusted each one with a light snow of confectioner’s sugar as it went down the assembly line and the way the sugar fell off the top and pooled underneath the beignet, turning into a viscous, sticky liquid. All the beignets at Cafe de Monde are the exact same–palm-sized fried dough balls with the sugar on top.
I didn’t revisit the beignet until a recent trip to Mobile, Alabama, a Southern city two hours from New Orleans with its own Mardi Gras (many claim the first Mardi Gras!) and its own take on the French beignet. There, I had the chance to not only reacquaint myself with that beautiful ball of dough, but also to try a bunch of different kinds of beignets. Up until this point, I’d thought all beignets, the sweet, sugary things they are, were the same. I learned in Mobile that they do beignets a little differently–just a little more creatively–here.
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