Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Killed by Dessert, Part 2

Hopefully a break over the weekend was sufficient time to recover from all that dessert.  I only had about 20 minutes before embarking on the second half of the 12 course dessert feast so imagine how I felt.  Here's part 1 in case you need a refresher on where we left off.

After six desserts, we got our sixth savory course (the one that we thought was missing from the cocktail hour).

Spaghetti pomodoro
Brooks Headley
Paired with Budweiser (in an 8 ounce can)

Spaghetti pomodoro - when made well - is one of my favorite dishes.  So I was really excited for this course, especially because it was coming from Brooks Headley, the pastry chef at Del Posto, and also because I needed something savory after six courses of dessert.   Not to mention the whimsical presentation and beverage pairing, making this course a somewhat highbrow version of a late night drunken meal.  (Someone told me about that, I have never made spaghetti at 2 am after an evening of  drinks.  No, not me, never.)

Because this is such a simple dish, the few ingredients that go into it have to be amazing and the whole thing needs to be cooked perfectly.  Brooks told us of the provenance of the cheese and tomatoes (the latter of which were grown in the foothills of Mt. Etna) and probably of the spaghetti and basil but I was too comatose to remember, which got me even more excited about sinking my teeth into what sounded like a wonderful rendition of this dish.

Unfortunately, I was totally let down.  Not only was the whole thing oversalted to the point of being inedible, but the pasta was also massively undercooked.  It's one thing to leave a bit of a bite on the pasta, but it's another thing entirely when it's crunchy - which is what this was.  I chomped on two bites of it to wash the sugar out of my mouth and sadly pushed my takeout container away from me to signal that I was definitely done with it.  I may or may not have had some of that Budweiser.

Up next was Christina Tosi's second dessert.

"I Was Too Picky of a Kid to Ever Understand PB&J"
Crockpot cake, warm pickled strawberry jam, peanut butter halvah, sweet cream ice cream
Christina Tosi
Paired with Kracher Beerenauslese, 2008

I was a little bit afraid of this one given my previous experiences with Christina Tosi's desserts, but having been bolstered by beer and a bracingly salty dish, I was ready.  The sweet cream ice cream was good - a little sweeter than I would've liked for a sweet cream ice cream, but not deadly sweet as expected.  Unfortunately, everything else on the plate was.  The jam was inedibly sweet - I didn't taste anything pickly/acidic in it, just straight sugar - and the cake was also of the same ilk.  The halvah, while sweet, wasn't as egregiously so as the cake and jam and would've worked well with a less sweet dessert, as the texture was great.  I had a bite of the halvah and two of the ice cream and moved on.

Back to Bill Corbett.  I was really impressed by his two previous offerings and was eagerly awaiting his final dessert.
"Peaks and Valleys"
Milk chocolate mousse, tarragon meringue, hazelnut praline
Bill Corbett
Paired with Warre's Otima 10 Year Tawny Port

I'm generally not a fan of milk chocolate and was therefore skeptical of this course, but it ended up being wonderful and one of the few that I finished.  The combination of tarragon and milk chocolate was one I've never seen before; this won't be the last time I do because I am totally using this flavor combination in something - anything - in the near future.  There's something gentle yet unexpected about the combination - the slight licorice and floral flavor of the tarragon contrasting the earthy yet light milk chocolate - and I loved it.  The ethereal texture of the mousse and meringue tied in perfectly with flavors and the hazelnut praline was a fitting foil.  In case you couldn't tell, I loved this one.

Our next course was another one from Brooks Headley.

Melanzane E Cioccolato, Tableside
Eggplant crostata, sheep's milk ricotta straciatella ice cream, chocolate sauce
Brooks Headley
Paired with Warre's Otima 10 Year Tawny Port

Hey, wait, I've seen this before.  It's on the menu at Del Posto (I've eaten there a few times) and was also that restaurant's offering at Choice Eats last year.  So I was disappointed to see it yet again, especially in this forum.  (On that note, I just noticed that the butterscotch semifreddo is also on the Del Posto menu and, although I've never ordered it, I'm annoyed nonetheless that both of Brooks' desserts were taken straight from his regular repertoire at Del Posto.)

I did appreciate that the crostata was cheekily served out of pizza takeout boxes and that the freshly spun ice cream was straciatella-ized before our eyes, but those factors couldn't overcome the fact that the eggplant was really greasy - the last thing we needed at this point in the evening - and that I had already eaten this dessert twice previously.  The ice cream, though, was great - sheep's milk ricotta is generally delicious - so I ate a few bites of that and left the oily eggplant crostata to languish on the plate.

Are you still with me?  It's a lot of sugar.  I know.  But we're almost at the end.  Stay with me.

We got our next beverage before the dessert and it was much needed, albeit a tad difficult to drink.

 Knob Creek Bourbon and Coffee Ice Cube with Bergamot Peel

I'm a big fan of well-made cocktails, and spherical ice cubes, especially in classic drinks like the Old Fashioned, are all the rage these days, as they melt slowly, thereby keeping your drink at the proper strength (i.e., not diluted).  So I appreciated the coffee ice cube in this dram of bourbon, and that instead of an orange peel, the drink was accented with bergamot peel - a twist on the Old Fashioned, if you will.  The problem was that the coffee ice cube was massive and kept hitting my nose when I tried to drink the bourbon, and it was melting so slowly - which is what spherical ice cubes are good for - that it wasn't infusing the bourbon as quickly as I had hoped.  Regardless, this was a good one, and a great pairing for the next two desserts.

Coffee Eclair
Francisco Migoya
Paired with bourbon and coffee ice cube

Isn't this gorgeous?  I will admit that I spazzed out a tiny bit the second I saw this coming out.  I've been reading Francisco Migoya's blog for quite some time now, and, as a result, I know that he's spent a long time (FIVE YEARS!) perfecting his pate a choux and also spent a good amount of time getting down the glazing technique for said eclairs.  So needless to say I was pretty freaking excited to get my hands on this coffee eclair.  Thankfully I was magically presented with a paper bag in which to place this gorgeous eclair so that I could eat it the next day when I could properly enjoy it.  And enjoy I did.  It was hands down the best eclair I've ever eaten.

It's a good thing my coffee-bergamot old fashioned was still surviving in my glass because it was a great partner for this final dessert from Lincoln Carson.

"The Beginning of the End, aka the Old Fashioned"
Orange, Toffee, Smoked Vanilla, Praline, Bourbon
Lincoln Carson
Paired with bourbon and coffee ice cube

I'm no stranger to Old Fashioned flavored desserts, so the sight of this one perked up my eyes and sugar-soaked taste buds.  In retrospect, perhaps I should've cracked the sugar capsule thing on top and let it release its contents all over the dessert, but I greedily shoved it in my mouth and chomped down, only to be greeted with a surge of bourbon.  Like Gushers candy, but with a burning filling.  Thankfully the spoonful of orange-vanilla toffee made the burning go away.  I liked this dessert, but I found the toffee flavor overwhelming and it made the whole thing taste NOT like an Old Fashioned.  If it were called something else I think I would have liked it more!

And here it is, our final dessert.  Fittingly, one of the best - and most beautiful - of the night.

Caramel coffee parfait, pistachio, orange
Michael Laiskonis
Paired with Lamill Colombian Coffee prepared in a French Press

You would think that after everything I ate that I wouldn't be able to touch this, right?  Well, you're wrong.  This was so perfect in every possible way that not only did I devour mine, but I wanted to eat the one that the woman next to me didn't touch (because she had left a few courses earlier).  I was forbidden from doing so and in retrospect wish I had just said "F-- it" and eaten the second one because when am I ever going to eat another dessert made by Michael Laiskonis, much less one that is perfect?

There's my dessert in the front and in the background is the one
I should've eaten but didn't, taunting me with its perfection.

The coffee parfait was made with cinnamon, which I generally hate, but was employed in just the right amount here.  I was amazed that I liked something with cinnamon, but when it's made by the best, it's not all that surprising.  The accoutrements - pistachio, orange, vanilla something, and coffee crumble - were pitch perfect in providing complementary and contrasting flavors and textures to the parfait.  So, so, so good.

I appreciated that the coffee (which was excellent) was served in classic deli paper cups, which apparently were "sourced" from the deli across the street from Le Bernardin.  I ended up pouring the hot coffee over my coffee ice cube to make a room temperature bourbon-tinged cup of coffee, which was just about as good as you would expect it to be, but I drank it anyway.

Table full of goodies for us to take home

And that's not all.  Each of us was given a pound of the coffee served with our final course - an excellent Colombian bean provided by Lamill Coffee - as well as a little bag filled with mignardises made by entirely and personally by Francisco Migoya (or, more accurately, his students at CIA).  Because, you know, we didn't have enough desserts that night.

Clockwise from left to right: Butternut squash macaron, goat cheese and acacia honey macaron,
black currant jam, dried bergamot peel, chocolate-rum cannele, 
pecan praline chocolate bar, candied gingergold apple and 
caramelized white chocolate confection, palet d'or

The macarons were probably the best I've had, or at least on par with those that I got at Point G in Montreal last spring.  Everything else was really good, but not quite as noteworthy as those macarons.

Obviously I'm laying off sugar for a while.  But, oh, was it worth it.  When will I ever again be treated to a feast prepared by so many amazing pastry chefs and presented in such a setting?  Probably never, although if it ever does happen again, sign me up.  I'm ready to be killed by dessert one more time.

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