New Orleans Restaurants: Sucre

Duck out of the dingy antique-and-thrift bustle of Magazine Street into Sucre and you will find yourself in a long, cool, well-lit room out of Willy Wonka. The sleek design features an array of pastel colors to match the "French macaroons" (bite-sized, cream-filled meringues) stacked up on the counter in pinks, teals, and lime-greens. Smiling girls sweetly cajole you to try the sparkle-topped pastries behind a glass display case. These are the creations of Food Network regular Tariq Hanna, and his work shows off both incomparable taste and a keen eye for the lavish architecture of a treat – he calls them "artisan" sweets, and they are truly art, as attune to fantasy as to flavor (the offerings, all lovely, vary; if the Pistachio Griottine is available, grab one before they run out). Hanna decries the repetitive dessert menus that one tends to find at even New Orleans's best restaurants, and Sucre has added a needed jolt to the city's sweet scene. Still, the French-style desserts have some local touches, including a Nectar Cream ice cream (patterned after a popular sno-ball flavor) and the "New Orleans Collection" of luxury chocolates, which includes a white chocolate ganache designed as a miniature version of Paul Blange's famous Bananas Foster. Sucre also serves excellent sandwiches, soups, and salads for lunch, but the sweet tooth is the key – one's hopes for a light lunch would be quickly dashed by the temptation for a taste of toasted almond gelato or champagne rose petal sorbet. A spare but elegant wine list makes it the perfect after-dinner spot for a date, or some solo gluttony. [3025 Magazine Street, 504-520-8311,]