It’s often said that in New York, when it comes to food, you can get anything. And when Courtney Feemster, 27, paid her first visit with friends during college, she found that to be true. But, there was one thing she couldn’t find: good Southern-style pralines.
For anyone who hasn’t had one before, a Southern-style praline is a cookie-size confection made on the stove from cream, sugar and pecans. When done right, it’s “similar to fudge in texture and creaminess.”
“I thought it was unfair that New Yorkers were getting deprived of praline goodness, and I knew I needed to make things right in the world,” says Feemster.
Upon graduating from college, Feemster moved to New York to pursue a career as a digital colorist. It was her dream job; she had studied computer graphics and studio art in school. Still, while she had made friends easily, she yearned for a hobby that would help pass weekends without requiring her to spend money she didn’t have.
Feemster turned to her mom who lived in New Orleans for advice on making pralines. “My mom was predisposed to be an overly superstitious person,” she says, “so when she taught me to make pralines, the one rule she insisted I follow was to stir the pot in one direction only or else you will ruin the pralines.”
Feemster stirs the pot any way she likes. (Sorry, Mom.)
Still, her mom’s recipe formed the basis for the pralines that she began making for friends and co-workers. “My mom got the final word on what recipe I should use,” says Feemster. Her mom liked to use evaporated milk; Feemster preferred goat’s milk. Eventually, they reached a compromise and decided upon evaporated goat’s milk for the final recipe. Feemster’s pralines also feature another twist on tradition: they’re bite-size and come in many different flavors, like lavender and lemon zest.
Soon enough, Feemster’s pralines generated a fair amount of buzz, and people begged her to make more, offering to pay for them. At that point, she knew that starting her own business making pralines could become a reality. “Strangers would tell me they were better than the pralines they’ve bought in the South,” she says.
Feemster got her big break when Fare Trade NYC, an alliance of food producers, chose her for their “Live Your Dream” entrepreneurship program and promised to take her from concept to store shelves in 14 weeks. And, in December 2013, a successful round of fund-raising on Kickstarter helped raise more than $6,000, money she put toward renting a commercial kitchen, purchasing materials and getting her Love Sweet Love Pralines website up.
Love Sweet Love Pralines will begin selling nationwide via its website on February 1 and will be teaching a praline-making demo at our Save Room for Dessert event at the Brooklyn Brewery on February 5. Tickets are only $5 and free for our print subscribers.