Soufflés Around Town
Summertime is about eating light, and what is lighter than soufflés? The pillowy, delicate dessert, with its temperamental natural to fall, is a perfect way to end a meal in the steamy months. Though it is a sumptuous dessert, its richness is balanced by its light texture. Manhattan is home to a few of the finest, and the most interesting, soufflés. Larousse Gastronomique defines a soufflé as a hot preparation that is served straight from the oven. However, this definition has not stopped chefs from experimenting with every possible permutation. They range from the classic chocolate version to nouveau, cakier adaptations and soufflés with malt foam and coconut toffee. Here’s a look at some newer soufflés to hit the menus, and hopefully your tables, this summer.
CraftSteak: There is something uniquely “Craft-esque” about the CS soufflé. Pastry chef, Erica Leahy, had truly captured the Colicchio spirit of recreating ingredients to showcase their essence. The dark chocolate soufflé that arrives in a crock is neither fluffy like a traditional soufflé nor as weighed down as a molten chocolate cake but falls somewhere in the middle. It didn’t crack the way a soufflé is meant to, but we didn’t mind once our spoons dug into a warm epicenter of chocolaty-ness.
The chocolate pot was accompanied by a perfect amount of banana chip ice cream that tasted exactly of rich mashed bananas. A small pourer of vanilla crème anglaise was also available to be poured over the chocolate or as a puddle in which we could dip each spoonful—our method of choice. Having everything presented so separately allowed for us to taste each component on its own and then to decide which items we wanted to mix together. In the end of course, the three elements of the dessert were best enjoyed on bite after the other.
Hints of cinnamon and espresso add depth and flavor to the dish and made this soufflé one of my favorites. The bowl was a nicer way of enjoying the risen chocolate cake, making it less messy and easy to share. The savory note of crème fraiche toned down the super sweet chocolate; and I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition of hot and cold (soufflé and ice cream). Something about the clandestine atmosphere made the soufflé almost more enticing, as it seemed I was indulging in a dark, secret pleasure.
The Kyotofu version is served as a cupcake with a dollop of white bean icing and a shallow dish of berry compote accompanying it. The dish is as cute as the restaurant and does not fail to deliver the goods. The method for making the cupcake is in a similar style to making a soufflé, and hence, the borrowed moniker. Indeed, though the chocolate is dressed in a cupcake wrapper, it still caves a little like a soufflé. You’d never guess that the rich, spongy cake is made with a soy base because it’s not the point of the dessert. The cupcake is meant to deliver a deep chocolaty-ness and it certainly does. The only complaint I had was that it was too small.
The dessert’s main event proved extremely light and creamy with an inside of light chocolate mousse and bits of espresso. Though it wasn’t traditional in every sense (cold, not hot; solid, not airy or deflatable), it was a favorite.
And, to my delight, a lovely ramekin of perfectly risen chocolate poof came—on the nose—twenty minutes later. A dollop of vanilla gelato melted into the middle of the soufflé almost immediately, which had a sort-of domino affect on the whole dessert causing the chocolate to melt as well.
By the time the chocolate cup was halfway gone, it’d gone from puffy cake to gelato-infused pudding. It was a surprise to find it and a surprise hit! My only critique is that it shouldn’t have come with a fork—a wanted a spoon to slurp of every last bite!
Thursday, July 26, 2007