Friday, February 02, 2007

Variations on a Theme

If you chose answer # 2 you're correct. Meals during my recent visit to New York took on a curious pattern where I would have sweets before dinner. Unlike at home, where a sweet might be a cookie or a chocolate, my New York pre-dinner ritual consisted of a sit-down meal of sweets. Where did this wonderful pattern develop? Chikalicious.

Though we had to wait nearly thirty minutes for our table at this tiny dessert bar, the minutes passed quickly as we watched Chika and her assistant assemble the decidedly composed desserts. We ordered the three course prix fixe dessert menu and were first "amused" by a brown sugar panna cotta with cranberry relish that was caramelized, creamy, tangy greatness. I'm not usually a panna cotta aficionado, but this one wowed my taste buds. On the heels of this, a delicate grapefruit brulee featuring grapefruit segments topped by a torched cointreau sabayon (and grapefruit sorbet for good measure). My companion's morsel of bread pudding with clementine sorbet provided a rich contrast to the grapefruit selection. To finish, a plate of petit fours where I was pleasantly surprised to fall in love with a homemade marshmallow coated in toasted coconut. That's not to say the meyer lemon mini tart wasn't great. How I got away with dessert and so little chocolate sort of shocks me. More shocking still, was that Amy and I left our dessert party hungry. Happily, Veselka was mere blocks away and off we went to dinner, where the wait was unusually short and the perogi delicious as always.

The next pair was Lady M and Cafe Sabarsky. On this visit I opted for the banana mille feuille which was as delectable as the other slices at our table - the traditional mille crepes featuring a crunchy caramelized top, the chestnut mille crepes, and the checkerboard cake whose precision we were all loath to destroy with our forks. But we did. Every. Single. Bite. And it was good. We followed teatime with a sumptuous dinner at Cafe Sabarsky. A favorite of M and M, we feasted on goulash and spaetzle and a bean salad that took me by surprise because I was thinking black-eyed and instead got green beans (a definite improvement). And then dessert, because it's not enough to have dessert before dinner. Chocolate overload.

Finally, a true teatime at Payard. Three tiers of bite-sized delights, starting with sandwiches. My favorite was made on pretzel bread. Everything was exquisitely assembled and though the sandwiches were savory, the next two tiers were not. Quite possibly the best madeleine I've ever sampled. Crisp on the outside, cakey within and just a hint of lemon. And then scones that were two bites apiece. Clotted cream and jam just made them better. Until now, the portions were quite reasonable for two people, but we still had over a dozen petit fours remaining. Yes, we ate them all.


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