Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Remembrance of Valentine's Past


Marcel Proust dips a madeleine in a cup of tea and cranks out the world's longest novel. I see madeleines and think Valentine's Day 1996.


At the time, I had been "dating" my now-husband Dave for about six weeks. I say "dating" because we lived in different states and during those six weeks we had seen each other exactly once, our relationship built less on dinner and a movie and more on phone calls and letters (ah, those quaint pre-email days; 1996 sounds like Victorian England). He had traveled to Chicago in January and for Valentine's I reciprocated with a visit to Ohio. And I have no idea why, but I thought that baking him a batch of madeleines would be the perfect way to convey that he was The One. I guess they delivered the message successfully because by the next Valentine's Day, we were engaged.

I don't think I've made madeleines since--in the pastry canon, they're about a gazillion notches below anything with chocolate--but sweets have factored into most of our Valentine's celebrations, whether it's a candy jar filled with conversation hearts or a red velvet cupcake. This year we kicked things up a notch: Fritz Pastry announced a pop-up dinner that would feature five to six dessert courses. Seriously? Dessert for dinner. Why has no one thought of this before (besides me)?

Because man can not live on lemon granita alone, the meal started off with fennel soup and a salad sandwich, followed by a vegetable ragout encased in phyllo. (A fellow diner provides far better photos than I was able to snap.) Having duly consumed our recommended daily allowance of vitamins and fiber, the granita cleansed our palates of all that wholesomeness and it was time to get our sugar buzz on.

Two fruit courses followed, which I would never order in a restaurant because, hello, boring, but I relaxed when I saw that we would be finishing with two chocolate desserts. I have to hand it to the folks at Fritz, this menu was extremely well planned. The emphasis was on flavor and texture as opposed to rich and heavy. Don't get me wrong, I like my rich and heavy as much as the next gal, but not for five courses. Gastro distress was not high on my Valentine's wish list.

Fruit One was a dreamsicle vacherin--orange sorbet, vanilla ice cream, vanilla meringue, whipped cream, candied orange zest and clementine. It reminded me of the dreamsicle ice cream we had at a roadside stand in Rochester, or possibly Syracuse, New York, on our way to the Adirondacks. One of the best soft ice cream cones I've ever eaten, and I've eaten plenty. If you're ever in Rochester, or possibly Syracuse, you totally have to find this place. You should also check out this spot in Wisconsin that serves pretty much an entire pint per cone. Or this joint in Wyoming, where they sell locally-made hard-serve that comes in flavors like cabernet. Overheard: "You'll find this in all the five-star restaurants in Wyoming." Customer: "How many five-star restaurants could there be in Wyoming?" Ben & Jerry's factory and scoop shop in Stowe, Vermont, is a no-brainer. (The tour of the factory is a total dud but, bonus, free samples!) If this sounds like we've criss-crossed the U.S. eating ice cream, we have. That includes Zion National Park, where we were enjoying a cone while the sun set over the glittering canyon walls when a pack of wild turkeys descended and chased us off the grounds. You don't get that at Dairy Queen.

Fruit Two featured a refreshing pineapple sorbet--it's not like you can't get fruit in Chicago in February but pineapple kind of disappears after August--and tapioca. I can't say I was super-psyched about mushy pudding to start with, and when our waiter delivered the detailed description, I remembered why I usually avoid fixed menus. Because the chef will always include something you hate. If there's one thing I've learned about Dave, it's that he despises coconut. If there's one thing he's learned about me, it's that I abhor cilantro. Chef Fritz, not being married to either of us, had no clue, and put both in the tapioca. Imagine your hairstylist shaving your head and dying your scalp blue--it was that level of disaster. Except that it wasn't. Honestly, I couldn't taste any cilantro and Dave couldn't detect any coconut. Perhaps this was the new molecular cuisine everyone's been raving about and the ingredients were present in sub-atomic levels. Fritz should do us all a favor and pass this technique along to every Mexican restaurant as part of a "save salsa from cilantro" campaign.

Next came Chocolate One, a black forest chocolate cherry crepe souffle, all sweetness and light. We were starting to feel positively European, what with the meal already clocking in at well over an hour and not including gigantic portions of meat and potatoes. We've only actually been outside the States twice, once to Ireland and once to Canada, which normally I wouldn't count as a foreign country except that we went to Quebec. The Quebecois are serious about not being American or Canadian. They're French, goddammit. To prove it, they say things like "bon jour" instead of "hello." We became so adept at this greeting, people started mistaking us for locals. "Bon jour" we said to our waiter at a creperie in Quebec City. "Voulez vous, couscous," he responded, or something like that. "English?" we begged, panicked. "Ah, your bon jour was so good, I thought you spoke French," he replied. Lesson: When in Rome, do not do as the Romans do unless you're prepared to speak French.

Chocolate Two was a chocolate semi freddo (ice cream-esque??) with chocolate creme anglais and chocolate covered chocolate cerieal. You could try this at home with Cocoa Puffs, Edy's chocolate mousse slow-churn style and Hershey's syrup. In fact, I think I might.

The grand finale, "mignardises," re-imagined the four preceding courses in bite-sized portions. (Think mini raspberry macaron with chocolate filling as a version of the black forest crepe.) The meal itself proved something of a mignardises, taking us through all the years we've spent together, all the memories we've shared, how much our lives have become intertwined. I think about all of the places we've been, all the things we've done and, yes, all the ice cream that we've eaten, and I can't imagine any of it without Dave.

As the server handed us our bill, she put the cherry on top of our sweetheart's dinner. Fritz' parting gift to all its Valentine's diners: a bag of madeleines.

4 Comments:

Blogger Silviu said...

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11:14 AM

 
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Blogger Unknown said...

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水着
ワンピース
チュニック
レディースバッグ
水着通販
水着販売
アウター
ジャケット
ブレザー
パーカー
コート
スプリングコート
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ダウンジャケット
レザージャケット
ブルゾン
ジャンパー
ルームウェア

R4 Card
R4
R4i
R4 SDHC
R4i SDHC
R4 cards
R4i ds
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R4i 3ds
R4i gold
Acekard 2i
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Thanks for your great post.I like this very much, please write more about these,wait for your update.

12:01 AM

 

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