I have heard of pralines before and I have probably even eaten them. But when I asked myself what a praline was, I wasn’t quite sure. The image that came to my mind was nuts. I was pretty confident pralines were all about nuts. Then I wasn’t exactly sure how the nuts were used. I pictured a candy, similar to a toffee. But I also pictured a cookie, one of those fancy type cookies. Then I recalled hearing about pralines in ice cream. I was still kind of confused about everything praline. Turns out, I was on the right track. A praline is a confection made from nuts, sugar and cream. It originated in France where it was originally made with almonds but when Americans started to make them, the pecan became the nut of choice. The pecan hints at the Southern origins in America and that’s where pralines are more common. A french praline is more hard while the American version is more creamy, like a fudge. At least that’s what Wikipedia tells me. They also tell me that there is a praline cookie which is made with ground pecans, so when I thought a praline was a cookie, I wasn’t wrong.
I was working for most of the day so I knew I wouldn’t be able to do much in terms of cooking pralines. More than that, I wasn’t able to plan out where I could get a good praline. As I left for work, I kind of put my faith in Clements. I could stop there on my way home and hope to find something praline-y. That wasn’t that much of a Hail Mary play. Clements has an array of fine cookies, candy, ice cream and others such sweets. Surely they would have something praline. I didn’t care what. They could have had praline cereal and it would have worked for me today. That was my hope as I went into work and I didn’t give it any more thought throughout the day. I didn’t have the time.
It was a strange day at work. When I arrived, it was raining. About an hour later, it was torrentially raining. About three hours later, it was 85 degrees outside, sunny and humid. The weather report called for heavy rains in the morning and sun in the afternoon and they were spot on. Normally this would be fine but working at a place that has inside and outside bars, it creates some chaos. When it was cloudy and rainy in the morning, we set up all the bars inside. When the sun came out in full force, we had to scramble and move all the bars outside. That meant moving heavy tables and empty barrels from inside to out. It meant doing it in a hurry too under blazing noontime sun. So after we were all set up after a good half hour of straight chaos, I was drenched in sweat. This was also the time I had to go give the one o’clock tour. I apologize to all those one the tour who thought I had a pituatary problem.
I cleaned up as best I could in the bathroom and then headed out to the tour meeting area like I do for every tour. I started inside with the history and after all were briefed on that and on the safety concerns for our walking tour, we headed back out into the sun and into the vines. When I head into the vines, I wait for everyone walking behind me to catch up. As I wait, I do a fake headcount. The headcount makes it look like I’m making sure I don’t lose anyone on the tour although it’s really something I do to just pass the time until everyone is situated. While I was doing this, I happened to notice a new face that just joined the tour when we headed outside. It was Lola. She jumped in the tour to check things out. She was a welcome sight.
I continued on my way with my usual tour spiel and filled the tours’ minds with incredible factoids about the art of winemaking (a work of fiction on my behalf). Lola stayed with the tour to the end and she said I did a good job. I even heard her solo laugh when some of my jokes fell flat on the group. It was fun having her there. Afterwards, she sat down at the bar for a tasting and I got to give her a taste of some of the wines we serve. She was my cutest patron of the day. She actually grabbed a sandwich too and then ate it at the bar. She was only there for about an hour but it was a fun little surprise to have her nearby. After she left, the day went on. I got moved to an inside bar, I finished out the day and then finally got out at about 7:30. Then it was time too start thinking about pralines again.
I pulled into Clements with high hopes. I was really tired at this point and a little dehydrated. Our clean up at the end of the night is a lot of physical work so I had worked up another sweat. I was tired, my feet were sore and I was hungry. Still, I was on a praline mission. When I walked in the first place I went to was the section were they have Del’s Lemonade in bottles. I popped it open right there and chugged it before walking through the rest of the store. I needed this refreshment even though it added another notch to my odd Clements behavior. Then I started searching. I started in their special candy section where they have truffles and chocolates and turtles. This was where I had the highest of hopes I would see pralines, but alas they had none. I then moseyed over the candy aisle. They have a good collection of specialty candies there but after a pretty thorough row-by-row search, they had no pralines. The cookie aisle was next. For a brief moment I had the hope that a praline was a Pepperidge Farm cookie flavor. I could almost see it printed in the bag. But after another search down the whole cookies section I came up empty, even in the Pepperidge Farm section. My hopes were running low but I figured I’d give the ice cream section a check. I kind of hoped for praline ice cream because ice cream seemed particularly dreamy at this point of the day. I did my row-by-row search and spent extra time in the specialty ice cream areas. The search in the ice cream aisle was more difficult because every freezer door was frosted up, so I had to stop and open each door, look at them all, then close it and move to the next door. All that searching and I came up empty. It wasn’t looking good.
As a last ditch effort, I walked over to the bakery section and started searching. That’s when I found it. In their homemade fudge section I found their Chewy Praline Fudge. I had never had their fudge before but I did know that they made their own. They usually have all kinds of flavors which is why I thought to look there. It was a white fudge with a layer of pralines through the middle. It clearly said praline on the label and that’s all I needed to see. I grabbed it and made a beeline for the check out counter where I paid for it along with my now empty Del’s. Then it was on my way home.
I had some after I showered and drank about four more bottles of liquid and ate all the watermelon we had left. I was seriously dehydrated. I was ready for some nice sweets and the praline fudge was the perfect ending. It was a white chocolate fudge on the outside and it had that soft, creamy texture and vanilla flavor that you get from white fudge. It was topped in a caramel sauce which just added a bit more sweetness. But the star was the praline center which was a thick but chewy caramel with whole pecans swirled in. It combined nicely with the sugary fudge and it was a special treat. Even Lola agreed, although she called my attention to a citrus finish on the bite which made me think they added some zest to the mix. I guess that brightened the flavor, but it was an odd finish to an otherwise sweet treat. Clements’ fudge passed the taste test with flying colors and they delivered on my Hail Mary praline quest.
It was a long day and an exhausting one, but it wasn’t without its sweet rewards which came in the form of a sweet dessert at the end of the day and a pretty, smiling face in the middle of it. Once again the folks at Clements came through in my desperation to complete this quest. Even though it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it was something new and different and delicious. That’s a celebration. I guess that’s what I have to remember when I have days where I feel I took some liberties to achieve the end result. It’s the experience. The discovery. The enjoyment. The pralines were a reward at the end of a long day and that’s why the celebration continues. I look forward to more praline discoveries in the future too. They seem to be the perfect solution to long and tiresome quest.
Next up: National Strawberry Parfait Day