Saturday, February 11, 2012
Portera's Panetteria, $4/bag
Sure, the renovated Market in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter is a genericized tourist trap: where else can you find feathered masks, taxidermy ashtrays, blingy sunglasses, and marked-up cans of chicory coffee?
In at least twenty other souvenir shops within a four-block radius.
But in other ways the French Market still has its own unique texture, accumulated over the two centuries that trading has taken place on the site. For a glimpse into that past, turn your back on the sparkliest stalls and head for the tables reserved for a rotating cast of small-scale vendors and craftspeople.
Maybe you'll run into Cynthia Portera, smiling from behind two card tables piled high with colorful cookies and sweets. Pastries from Portera's Panetteria are a delicious reminder of the Sicilian migrants who once made up almost half of the French Quarter's population, many of whom made their livings more or less this way, selling fruit or sweets from carts, stalls, or small shops.
Portera's products are based on Sicilian traditions; ingredients and flavors that signal the island's rich heritage of Mediterranean and North African influence. Cookies include potent little nuggets scented with anise or lemon, and cucidate stuffed with fig jam and topped with sugar sprinkles (above). For special occasions there are bouquets of candied almond "flowers" (the five petals invite health, wealth, long life, fertility, and happiness) and, in season, bags of the shaped pastries offered on a St. Joseph's Day altar (including a sandal, wreath, cross, crown, and loaf).
12652 River Rd.
Destrehan, LA 70047