Is there anything better than watching pastry pros at work? Well, yes, there is, and that’s eating their creations. Frank Vollkommer’s Pistachio Financier with Vanilla Parfait, Lemon Custard and Rosemary Infused Wild Blueberry Compote was.to.die.for. (For those scratching their heads, a financier is a small tea cake typically made with almond flour, though obviously Volkommer used pistachio flour in his.) The dense yet light cake was redolent of pure pistachio flavor. The vanilla bean-speckled parfait added a lovely creamy, rich component that was the perfect foil to the tangy lemon custard, while the blueberry compote was superbly supported by the subtle pine-y hint of rosemary and had the perfect balance of sweet vs. tart. Gorgeous composition and easily my favorite dessert of the evening. (Sorry for the crappy pictures; my camera died of sugar shock and I had to rely on my phone-cam to take the photos in this post)
Vollkommer’s shop, The Chocolate Mill Pastry Shop and Café, offered some extra tasties to the mix: bon bons! My favor is so easily bought!
As if I didn’t feel cheap enough… Look! There’s MORE!
Steve Evetts’ creation is another one that lives near the top of my favorites list. His Hazelnut Passion Fruit Sorbet with Green Tea Corazon was also a riot in texture, but in a good way. See those little tubes? Those are lipstick tubes filled with passion fruit sorbet. I thought it was really clever (though not very nice for the environment) and fun. And see the stuff on the spoon that looks like seeds? Those are chocolate-covered…POP ROCKS! It was so much fun to eat and each component was a wonderful textural contrast to the next one.
Look at the green tea speckles in the marshmallow ball and the edible silver leaf! And at the heart (corazón) was more passion fruit! Get it? Heart and passion? Surrounding the heart of passion was chocolate hazelnut mousse and the whole thing rested on a chocolate crispy base (it tasted sort of like a Nestle Crunch bar, only WAY better). The sugar “sculpture” on top? Also tasted like passion fruit! I really loved the whimsy in this dessert; it was cleverly and wittily executed.
In Part I, I mentioned meeting Michelle Tampakis. What I didn’t mention was that her dessert was a Gluten-Free Trio of Carrot Cake, Chocolate Concord Cake, and White Forest Cake, perfect for those who can’t tolerate gluten! The unfortunate thing is that this was my least favorite of all I’d tasted that evening. And lest anyone accuse me of being prejudicial, I had no idea it was gluten-free until I got home and looked more closely at the handout.
I really enjoyed the chocolate concord cake (far left in the picture); there was a subtle saltiness to it that was pleasantly surprising, but then I got to the sharp gingery bottom and promptly fell out of love. In the center of the trio was the carrot cake- it looked like red velvet cake, which was what I was expecting (remember, I hadn’t properly read the handout). It didn’t taste anything like carrot to me, but maybe my taste buds were still reeling from the hit of ginger from the chocolate concord cake. I did like that it was sturdy yet tender. Great texture.
I was a little scared to try the sushi-like member of this trio, but I’m glad I did: there were no unpleasant surprises in it, just a lovely dark chocolate shell with creamy filling that, like the chocolate concord cake, was ever-so-slightly salty. I ate this a little too quickly to figure out if the orange stuff on top was really salmon roe. I didn’t think so, but one never knows. Overall, I feel Tampakis’ dessert was just a little too esoteric for my taste.
Last up was Christopher Boos’ Milk Chocolate Jasmine Tea Tart: Baskin-Robbins Cranberry Sorbet with Soaked Cherries and Dunkin’ Dark Roast Coffee Cream:
The chocolate crust had a lovely jasmine scent that beautifully set off the cranberry sorbet inside. I was disappointed by the difficulty I had in cutting into the crust; I nearly broke my spoon and had to use my fingers to break off a piece. Those little red “rabbit ears” were chewy sweet-tart cranberry fruit leather, while the mason jar contained silky coffee-speckled pot de crème, my favorite part of the dish.
There were so many people at the awards, I didn’t get to try Kimberly Bugler’s Strawberry Upside Down Cake with Kalamansi Silk, Basil Ice Cream, and Vanilla-Roasted Strawberries, Robert Truitt’s Rhubarb Bavarois, Sorrel Cucumber Granité and Pistachio Sablé, or Yannis Janssens’ Fôret Noire: Manjari, Kirsch Chantilly and Griottines (below). Judging by the looks of bliss on everyone’s faces, I assume I missed out on utter fabulousness.
Fôret Noire: Manjari, Kirsch Chantilly and Griottines
As I walked out of the Institute of Culinary Education, I was greeted by bearers of barbecue-y goodness from Outback Steakhouse. Okay, so Outback is not exactly the epitome of good barbecue, but I was way too smoothed out on sugar to care:
And what’s a party without a goody bag?
If I’m ever in Glen Falls, NY, I’m going to make it my mission to visit the Chocolate Mill Pastry Shop and Café to taste more of Frank Vollkommer’s pastries. And luckily, Steve Evetts’ desserts are only a subway ride away at the New York Marriott Marquis.