Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Day 13: Outing.

I’ve been a naughty, naughty boy. I will never know what I have done to deserve an evening of such unrestrained decadence. But it was a very sweet evening.

We arrived at our posh restaurant, to eat dessert first, at six o’clock. In short order, the alumna who was their pastry chef came out, introduced herself, and answered our preliminary questions. She very kindly had them send us out a bottle of sparkling wine to take the sweet edge off the desserts we were tasting.

We began with the cake, fruit, and custard desserts, such as gingerbread spiced donuts with cranberry compote and vanilla ice cream, plates of warm cookies with hot chocolate, apple strudel with ginger wafers and cinnamon caramel ice cream, blood orange mousse topped with meringue and served with blood orange sorbet, apple sundae (the only one I found to be too sweet). The favorites of this first round were generally the maple crème caramel with pear sorbet, and the mascarpone-yogurt cheesecake with pineapple fritters and cashew-brittle ice cream. Also popular was the plate of four varieties of sorbet: blood orange, pear, concord grape, and quince. The value of a cheese plate on a dessert table became very apparent, as all of us needed something to offset the barrage of sweetness. The cheeses were excellent, and well-chosen. They weren’t too strong, but sharp and salty enough to cleanse and refresh our now beleaguered palates – or at least distract them.

We all sat back, sated completely but oddly relieved that dessert was over. Until they brought out the chocolate desserts. This second round brought chocolate-peanut butter icebox cake with banana ice cream, chocolate-hazelnut napoleons with praline ice cream, molten chocolate-peanut butter cake with chocolate-peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter-chocolate roll, chocolate-peanut butter roll… the parade was too long to recount everything that floated by, but we were all pining for large pieces of salty beef by this point, full though we were.

This was decidedly the heaviest tasting yet, and despite the public setting we did manage to learn quite a bit. The chef was quite congenial and patiently answered all of our questions, even the one I managed to eek out: “Do you, like, totally, love it?” (What a moron!) We noted in particular that although the décor of this extremely upscale restaurant was very sleek and modern – somewhat akin to a large wooden jet fuselage with a honeycomb theme – the desserts themselves were presented in a very down-home style. This isn’t to say that they weren’t plated beautifully; they were. They just weren’t overtly fanciful. We all tasted far more than we ought to have. But hopefully the gain won’t be just weight. I, for one, realized that in just four short weeks, my palate has begun to develop new abilities, not only to taste subtler flavors in things, but also to detect nuances in texture and composition. Maybe all these agonizing tastings are actually doing something more than leaving me with red marks around my waist at night.

Now I’m going to go find some nice, refreshing ham.

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