Bon Appetit Reviews Willa Jean, All you can sweet from John Besh's longtime pastry chef


Kelly Fields makes us mad sometimes. The Besh Restaurant Group’s executive pastry chef has a nasty habit of taking life’s simple pleasures—say, a humble platter of cookies and milk—and ruining any other iteration of them for you. At this all-day café, Fields offers the results of her more than seven years of R&D: cookies that are crisp and caramelized around the edges, soft in the center, and studded with gooey pockets containing not one, not two, but three (very specific) varieties of Valrhona chocolate. The milk—cold and rich, infused with Tahitian vanilla bean—miraculously tastes as though one thousand cookies have already been dunked in it. And the kicker? The egg-beater whisk served alongside, onto which clings more raw cookie dough than any grandma, no matter how permissive, would ever let you sneak. Yeah: It’s like that. Everything that comes out of the ovens at Willa Jean—lovingly named after Fields’ grandmother—is pure gold, from the moist cornbread to the tender croissants dusted with everything-bagel seasoning. While it’s true that the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, our preferred meal here figures primarily of carbs and sugar. Look what you’ve done to us, Kelly.  PRO TIP: If you’re visiting NOLA from far afield, stop in for a bite and a box of sweets to go before catching your flight—a great gift, if you can keep from eating it all on the plane.   THE DETAILS: Open seven days a week starting at 7 a.m. The space is big, so it’s unlikely that you’ll have to wait, but if you do, it’ll be during weekend brunch.

The Cocktail Heatmap: Where To Drink Right Now

April 15, 2016
By: Gwendolyn Knapp and Nora McGunnigle, Eater Nola

With the help of the Eater 38 and the Eater Heatmap, it's a breeze to find out where to eat right now, whether it's a hot newcomer or an old neighborhood standby. Now it's just as easy to find out where to get a good, stiff drink in New Orleans.

Eater's Cocktail Heatmap is a guide to the hottest bars of the moment, so only places that have opened, or undergone a major change, in the past year qualify. We will assume the readership already knows how to get their CureFrench 75Latitude 29, and Twelve Mile Limit on.

Happy drinking, and as always, feel free to leave a comment with new suggestions.

16 Willa Jean

This bakery and then some boasts not only carby delights to eat, but also a coffee and tea based cocktail menu unlike any other in town. Boozy coffee slushies, like a frappuccino gone wild (but not too sweet) make for great brunch drinks.



The Hot Sauces Our Favorite Chefs Actually Use

April 15, 2016
By: Andrew Goble, GQ

Here at GQ, we cover all things edible, whether it's about thebest new spots, the diets of the fittest people on the planet, or even giving our resident Chicken Tenders Editor a course in foodie-dom with Daniel Boulud.

But for some, the beauty is in the details. What do they actually use at the best restaurants in America? We're talking salts, secret spices, spatulas—if it makes the food at these places that good, we wanna know what it is. So, we sent out a survey to dozens of our favorite chefs across the country. First up, we asked them to answer our spiciest question: What hot sauce do you actually use in the kitchen?

Our revelations: you don't have to go much further than your local grocery store to get the right stuff. Over 15% of our chefs preferred Tabasco (the No. 1 choice), with other staples like Cholula, Crystal, and Sriracha close behind. Our hunch? Use the hot sauce for your base heat, but bring in the other flavors naturally. So long, BBQ-flavored hot sauce.


Morning in America

April 15, 2016
By:Sarah Baird, Serious Eats

We asked some of our favorite food writers across the country, as well as some members of the Serious Eats staff, to tell us about their favorite go-to breakfasts—those early-morning meals they crave each and every day; the ones they’ll drive across town for; the ones they treat out-of-towners to whenever they come to visit. From build-your-own biscuits in the Big Easy to a great Turkish breakfast in Beantown, here are nine dishes that fill their plates and awaken their palates.

New Orleans: The Build-Your-Own Biscuit at Willa Jean

I believe a good breakfast spot should give you a feeling of complete optimism—a conviction that the next 12 hours of your waking life will contain nothing but happiness. Sure, it’s a tall order, but in New Orleans, Willa Jean does just that, and not only because they serve you a literally tall order—a stack of sticky buns—as soon as you are seated. The passion project of New Orleans pastry queens Kelly Fields and Lisa White, Willa Jean restaurant (named for Fields's grandmother) lets diners glide through that liminal period between “just barely awake" and “fully functioning human" with Southern-inspired poise. The space itself is a light-drenched natural alarm clock, but the food invites you to linger for a spell, hit the snooze button, and take your time: After all, a dish like crawfish gravy with slow-poached eggs cannot be rushed.

More than anything here, though, it’s the permutations of biscuit dishes that I find myself returning to over and over again. To be sure, the biscuit itself is a stand-alone dream: an overstuffed throw pillow of buttery, flaky, perfect puff. But then there’s the “build your own" option, which speaks to my Kentucky-bred, Louisiana-living heart with add-ons like pimento cheese, fried chicken (with Tabasco butter!), and sausage gravy. It’s enough to make a person want to eat an entire mountain of biscuits just to try them all. With a Willa Jean biscuit in my mouth, it’s hard to believe whatever the day has in store could be anything but glorious.


Where To Drink Coffee In New Orleans Right Now

April 2016
By: Nora McGunnigle and Gwendolyn Knapp, Eater Nola

Coffee is a New Orleans tradition— not only is it drunk in large quantities, but coffee beans flowed the ports here, more than any other city in the country, at one point.

Recently, a bunch of what's known as "third wave" coffee shops have popped up around town, showcasing small batch roasted beans, passionate knowledge, and flawless coffee making technique.

Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee actually came down to New Orleans to assist pastry chef Kelly Fields in building the coffee program at this hot new bakery and cafe in the South Market District. There's a legit house blend and coffee cocktail menu too. Milk is sourced locally from Mauthe's Progress Milk Barn.


GoNOLA Tops: Grilled Cheese, Please

April 10, 2016
By: Emily Smith, Go Nola

The concept of a grilled cheese sandwich might seem simple, but the elements that make up the best require a little forethought. Start with some hearty bread that will crisp nicely, quality cheese, and real butter. The rest is open for variation.

Many New Orleans restaurants and bars are crafting some seriously fancy grilled cheese sandwiches at various price points. Pair with a glass of wine or beer, creamy tomato soup, or just relish in the nostalgia of this unmistakable comfort food. It’s like that saying, “When life hands you lemons, have a grilled cheese,” or something like that…

Willa Jean
Leave it up to the pastry chef masterminds Kelly Fields and Lisa White to create an ultra decadent version with gooey, melted pimento cheese on buttered bread served with a cup of seasonal soup (right now it’s cauliflower and crab). Available on the lunch menu for $15.