Recently ICE hosted Dessert Professional’s annual awards ceremony, honoring the ten best pastry chefs in America. The Blind Baker covered this event in three parts last year, so yep, as Yvo’s not a huge fan of sweets and had another event to attend, she could only stop by for a short time, so I picked up the slack and made the huge sacrifice to eat my way through their confections.
With some time before the ten winners were introduced, we were able to wander through the kitchens as the chefs and their teams set up for the onslaught. Here, Yoni Morales’ team begins the process of plating their mojito, which you’ll see again shortly.
Incidentally, I noted that many of the plates, disposable and otherwise, used this night by the chefs can be bought for home use (or restaurant use, of course) at restaurantware.com. So if you have a little dessert or appetizer you want to serve to lots of people at your next party, they made these chefs’ desserts look great, so why not yours?
Sylvain Leroy created a whole suite of sweets for the press, and had laid them out in preparation for the masses.
As the kitchens were getting overcrowded and chefs were scurrying about with last-minute prep, I took a few moments to check out the chocolate room, sponsored by Guittard. Guittard brought along several chocolates, from white and milk to several dark chocolates of varying provenance and intensity. Wines were offered as complements to the flavors of the chocolates, but really, it’s hard to top drinking wine and eating chocolate regardless of the suggested pairings!
Back to the rooms, and one of the more eye-catching creations and displays, Francisco Migoya’s Black Forest Pop.
Ooooh, you say that’s mousse, cake and cherry? I want it! But I’ll wait till later.
Lipstick on a Pig, from Tariq Hanna, kind of deconstructed your typical peanut butter and jelly sandwich, into a rich peanut butter, strawberry macaron, marshmallow, and macaron lid. I loved the presentation both per-plate and as a spiral pattern of sample dishes.
Shortly, we were herded into the presentation room, where each of the ten chefs were announced and applauded. Hall of Fame honoree Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-founder and owner of the French Pastry School at City Colleges of Chicago said a few words (here flanked by Top Tenner Antonio Bachour, Executive Pastry Chef at Quattro at Trump Soho in New York) about his experiences and hopes for the craft, before we were invited to enjoy all the desserts presented from the top chefs.
Back I wandered to check out Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez, Pastry Chef at PRINT at the Ink Hotel in New York (and the lone female in the honored group). Aside from the woodsy theme, no wood was used in these pretty plates.
This. The fudge was too rich for my blood, but the light chocolate… I believe it was more of a flan than a mousse, but quite a dense little number. As it was early, I polished off the entire thing.
One of my favorite plates of the evening (also from Heather) was also one of the simplest. Chocolate bread, a schmear of ricotta, and honey, sweet but not too sweet, just meltingly good, a trio of fresh, perfect ingredients.
Ron Paprocki, Executive Pastry Chef at Gordon Ramsay at The London in New York, came up with another highlight of the evening: a Valrhona caramel-chocolate mousse, with chocolate sable, milk jam, and on the side, quark ice cream. I never heard of “quark” outside of a physics lecture hall, but rest assured its lemony flavor paired beautifully with the rest of the chocolate. The base was a bit too dense for the plastic spoon, but there was so much chocolate, including crumbly bits everywhere, that it didn’t matter.
You can’t go wrong with strawberries in several forms, especially in season. The puree on top of this dessert was just perfectly rich.
Obligatory closeups of more of Sylvain Leroy’s creations. I had to draw the line somewhere, so I only tried about half of the treats laid out here. The blueberry-themed one was a definite hit with the crowds, certainly.
I want to say this was a Yoni Morales creation. Essentially a capuccino, caramel cake, very tiramisulike, with a white chocolate panel on the outside, this delivered. Deceptively rich, with a great balance between the coffee flavors and the sweetness of the caramel and white chocolate.
This is a mojito from Yoni. The little pile of ice was made with rum (or at least the flavors of rum), and the pineapple, citrus, tropical fruits galore in so many different textures, just tasted wonderful and refreshing. I was a big fan of this. Too bad he works as an Executive Pastry Chef at the Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corp. and not around New York.
Jerome Landrieu, Pastry Chef/Director at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy in Chicago, came up with these little crunchy chocolate cones. How lovely! But inside…
Passion fruit! This was another favorite, and I couldn’t help but eat two, they were so deliciously sweet without being overbearing, with a nice crunch to balance.
Jean-Francois Suteau, from the Beverly Hills Hotel, created a ton of visually-striking but rather large desserts; I opted for smaller, chewier bites like the marshmallow (which also seemed to be in the Lipstick on a Pig) and these dark-chocolate discs with what seemed to be toffee splinters. Very cool, simple treats.
Remember the Black Forest Pops? Inside they were pretty cool, too, with a marshmallowy white sugary goo as a sort of frosting to the cake and its cherry layer. These were waaay too big, but I still managed to polish off one without going into sugar shock.
I decided to return to the Guittard room with a Lipstick on a Pig. After partaking of a decent lambrusco and a decent riesling, I figured I’d also have a decent port, Warre’s Otima 10 Year. Not to be — the stuff was overly boozy, even though it was only 40 proof, and just terrible. The dish cut the alcohol fumes reasonably well, and I enjoyed the components of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a different setup.
Macarons! I sorta like macarons, so I parked here for a little bit. The cherry were really rich – I can’t recall having one of these, or the tasty orange macaron, before, but I was impressed with how well the fruits were represented.
I finished my grazing with a bang, saving one of the most involved desserts for last. Antonio Bachour’s other creation? It starts with a rich, wonderful panna cotta (you can see the vanilla bean dotting the top), and is complemented by peach sorbet, morello cherry and peach “pearls” — those gel orbs, chewy and packed with flavor — and a thin sheet of sugar (the flower is real, and not tasty). This was a perfect cap to the evening. Or so I thought, until I was directed to…
The Godiva room, which it seemed most people had forgotten to visit. Truffles of many types were laid out, and while yeah, it’s Godiva, and these weren’t the ice-cream truffles, there were lots of interesting flavors, and we were encouraged to take a few home. So the mint chocolate, rocky road, a good old-fashioned chocolate truffle, and a couple others were packed into a little Godiva container and headed to my apartment.
I’m happy to have had the opportunity to attend the event this year. ICE and Dessert Professional impressed me with how the crowds were handled, and while it was a bit cramped, they did everything they could to accommodate the number of guests. I was more than happy to have the chefs prove to me why they were selected for the honor, and though I probably overindulged, I can honestly say there were no clunkers in the lot. Many thanks to all, and hope to see you again next year!
Please note that though I attended this event courtesy of Dessert Professional and their PR, I was under no obligation to post about this, positively or negatively, nor did I receive monetary compensation to do so. This is my opinion, you are free to take from it as you will.