I'm willing to bet any American who's tasted Nutella can tell you all about the first time he or she encountered the addictive product. Most of us didn't grow up on the sweet hazelnut spread as so many of my European friends did -- including a girlfriend from England who received at least two Nutella "butties" (Nutella and butter sandwiches on white bread) a week in her lunchbox -- making that first taste as a teenager or adult that much more memorable.
My own first taste of Nutella was in Austria at age 14, where I was convinced that the creamy brown spread was actually chocolate -- albeit the best chocolate I'd ever had. I had no idea roasted hazelnuts mimicked the flavor of chocolate so closely, but quickly learned to discern its differences in the slightly gritty texture and warmly nutty scent.
To this day, I still can't pass up Nutella or hazelnut-flavored anything, let alone Nutella paired with what I see as its natural counterpart: bananas. Peanut butter has jelly; peaches have cream; Nutella has bananas.
Fat Bao, the subject of this week's cafe review, offers a dessert bao filled with Nutella and sliced bananas. Lightly dusted with confectioner's sugar, it's very nearly my favorite thing on the short menu (edged out by the simple Memphis-style pork belly bao with coleslaw). Here are a few more Nutella-and-banana favorites around town:
Nutella and banana crepes
Here in Houston, at least, crepes are the most popular way to cram Nutella and bananas into a portable eating device. I love the Nutella and banana crepes at the following spots:
Nutella and banana French toast
This extravagant creation is only found at Saint Genevieve these days (Max's Wine Dive once offered its own version at brunch), where the brioche French toast is topped with Nutella, sliced bananas and whipped cream for $10.
Nutella and banana Belgian waffle
My favorite combo at Wafles & Dinges in New York City is also my favorite here in Houston at The Waffle Bus. Its two food trucks both offer a Nutella and banana-topped waffle with a side of sweet cream for $6.
Nutella and banana sandwich
Speaking of food trucks, Monster PB&J offers this combination among its line-up of various nut butters and fruit spreads. Depending on the size -- junior, classic or monster -- your sandwich will cost $3, $5 or $7.
Nutella and banana scone
Did you even know there was a second Tiny Boxwood's location, which is somewhat incongruously called Tiny's no. 5? It's on Rice Boulevard in West U and offers a banana and Nutella scone at breakfast, which washes down wonderfully with a morning macchiato.
Nutella and banana frozen yogurt
The New York-based Tasti D-Lite chain doesn't offer this as a pre-made combo, but you can mix it up yourself. Pull some Nutella-flavored frozen yogurt into a cup, have it topped with fresh slices of banana, et voila.
Nutella and banana French toast sandwich
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We saved the best for last: The Nutty Frenchman at Breakfast Burritos Anonymous, where two pieces of French toast contain flambéed bananas, roasted walnuts, butter pecan syrup and Nutella -- all of it covered with a final unnecessary flourish of confectioner's sugar. Believe it or not, this beautiful and delicious monstrosity is only $6.