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West Coast Pastry Chefs


Xanthippe
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Shaw--clearly the desserts were the weakest link on my trips West as well, it's where I was wondering if Stone might be trying to go if I gave him the opening. You'd think if any elite West coast restaurant would have an imaginative, creative, interesting dessert program it would be at a high end East Coast restaurant with a NY tested French chef like Laurent Gras who just happened to be cooking in SF, wouldn't you? Someone who was competing with the likes of a Cello or Atelier, no? You're gonna get me in hot water but yes, it seems few on the West Coast, especially in the food media, realize how underserved and/or poor their dessert programs are as a rule compared to elite restaurants in Chicago or New York. It might stem from viewing Nancy Silverton as a great pastry chef rather than the baker she is or Alice Waters and this business of impeccable fruits presented very simply with little hint of the interest, finesse or refinement that's capable of being achieved in desserts. I'm not sure, I don't get West enough to see if the situation has improved.

While I don't claim to be anything other than a culinary non-professional with a relatively sophisticated and discerning palate, I have frequently enjoyed the dessert creations of Allyson Mansfield, the full-time pastry chef at Bistro Elan in Palo Alto, California. The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine featured Ms. Mansfield in an article several months ago in which she was described as a "pastry goddess;" this is the link to that write-up: Passionate About Pastry

At Bistro Elan, the West Coast pastry chef dearth is nowhere in evidence -- or so my humble taste buds will attest!

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I feel fortunate here in Southern California. We have Sona, a relatively new restaurant on La Cienega. David and Michelle Myers husband and wife team founded this incredible special place. David gets most of the credit. Michelle doesn't perform until the desert course and by then one gets too full. Michelle has wonderfull culinary talent you have to try to believe. For example English sticky toffee, bananas, butterscotch sauce and malted ice cream. The combination is deliciously velvety and sweet without being too sweet. You can taste each individual flavor and yet they also combine beautifully together. The heirloom chocolate pain perdu with milk jam ice cream in a maple emulsion, you don't want to swallow. You just want to keep rolling it around in your mouth. You should plan a dinner there making sure you leave enough room to enjoy sharing many desert courses, tasting and passing them so each person tastes each desert. Michelle is an incredible pastry chef with a lot of her training if Paris France. : :biggrin:

" Food and Wine Fanatic"

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Michelle has wonderfull culinary talent you have to try to believe. For example English sticky toffee, bananas, butterscotch sauce and malted ice cream. The combination is deliciously velvety and sweet without being too sweet. You can taste each individual flavor and yet they also combine beautifully together.

Oh my gosh! You just described my dream dessert (sans the bananas but so what). While the rest of the world savors chocolate, some of us prefer toffee and butterscotch. Or am I alone in this preference? I better find an excuse to get to Sona before that dessert is gone! :laugh:

Lobster.

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Here's a link that works for the Mansfield piece:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...10/CM137798.DTL

It's very difficult to know what's actually in a dessert just from reading the description. In particular, the level of sweetness, the textures, the sophistication of technique, and the presence of unnamed ingredients that could completely change the dish, are hard to intuit. However, having read the descriptions in the Mansfield piece and of the desserts at Sona, I'm no closer to being convinced that the California pastry chef community is doing much. I mean, based on descriptions alone, most of these desserts sound pretty basic.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I am sorry that my descriptions are not enticing enough. I mean that kindly. I do find it difficult to describe the feelings that I experience when eating, in this case at Sona. That is why I am still in the carpet business. I am going back to Sona tonight and I will try to bring more detail about the deserts so that one will almost taste them without being there.

" Food and Wine Fanatic"

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I am sorry that my descriptions are not enticing enough. I mean that kindly. I do find it difficult to describe the feelings that I experience when eating, in this case at Sona. That is why I am still in the carpet business. I am going back to Sona tonight and I will try to bring more detail about the deserts so that one will almost taste them without being there.

Desserts tend to be very difficult to describe in words, similar to the problem of describing music effectively. The artist (musician or pastry) can shape a unique outcome by varying a note (ingredient) or timing. The recipient's own framework may materially alter the intended message, too.

In the case of a pastry artist, if each guest has retained a flavor from a prior food or wine two people sharing the same dessert will take away different experiences.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Here's a link that works for the Mansfield piece:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?...10/CM137798.DTL

It's very difficult to know what's actually in a dessert just from reading the description. In particular, the level of sweetness, the textures, the sophistication of technique, and the presence of unnamed ingredients that could completely change the dish, are hard to intuit. However, having read the descriptions in the Mansfield piece and of the desserts at Sona, I'm no closer to being convinced that the California pastry chef community is doing much. I mean, based on descriptions alone, most of these desserts sound pretty basic.

Oops, sorry about the unusable link! Don't know what happened . . .

That said, it appears I must expand my horizons. So I ask for your professional opinion, Fat Guy: At what restaurants do you consider the pastry chefs to be truly innovative? Where would one go (let's limit the list to the United States) to experience desserts that are anything but "pretty basic"??

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However, having read the descriptions in the Mansfield piece and of the desserts at Sona, I'm no closer to being convinced that the California pastry chef community is doing much. I mean, based on descriptions alone, most of these desserts sound pretty basic.

Dessert is for tourists.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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However, having read the descriptions in the Mansfield piece and of the desserts at Sona, I'm no closer to being convinced that the California pastry chef community is doing much. I mean, based on descriptions alone, most of these desserts sound pretty basic.

Dessert is for tourists.

You ought to see my t-shirt and shot glass collections . . .

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You know what might be really fun to try? A tasting dinner 8-10 courses all deserts. Maybe different degrees of sweetness. That may be the only way to raise the level of the awareness of deserts in the westcoast restaurants. It may require a stomach pump or for one to become bolemic. ( spelling?) Wadja think?

" Food and Wine Fanatic"

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You know what might be really fun to try? A tasting dinner 8-10 courses all deserts. Maybe different degrees of sweetness. That may be the only way to raise the level of the awareness of deserts in the westcoast restaurants. It may require a stomach pump or for one to become bolemic. ( spelling?) Wadja think?

carpet bagger,

In Barcelona, there is a restaurant called Espai Sucre that is dedicated entirely to desserts.

Amanda Hesser's full review is here:

Sucrehttp://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/17/dining/17DESS.html

To give you a feel for the restaurant, this is a summary of her courses:

1. Black tea sorbet, scented with lemon and cardamom, on top of which were cardamom and lemon creams, dice of passion fruit and pineapple on top of which was poured Darjeeling tea.

2. Julienne of green apple, cubes of spiced milk, baby arugula, "flecks of peppery caramel, dabs of lemon curd and lime kefir with a single line of toffee."

3. Manchego cheese topped by a tart shell and a pineapple sorbet

4. Apricot pit cake with marscapone and coffee cream. Over this was poured sweet milk infused with lemon and cinnamon.

5. "A flourless chocolate cake lay in a pool of Lapsang souchong sauce with plump currants. They were all hidden under a blanket of yogurt. The yogurt came across as salty, the tea smoky, with the potency of something like sautéed mushrooms. But then there was a chocolate cake and a hint of coffee. Sweetness was fleeting."

The idea behind the restaurant is to treat desserts as a meal with a natural progression. "Like a savory meal, Mr. Butrón's desserts have a deliberate progression. 'The first two almost aren't desserts," he said. 'They are more ideas of a dessert.' 'You start,' he added, 'with things that are light, acidic, spicy, very refreshing. For cleaning the palate. Like the soup.' Then the flavors become heavier, more tightly constructed, just as they do when you begin a meal with a frisée salad and move on to cassoulet."

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Lizziee, it is so wonderful having someone of your knowledge and experiences to share with fellow egullets. Especially this one. I will try to put something like that together, probably with Michelle at Sona.

" Food and Wine Fanatic"

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Lizziee I may have done wrong but my post is under heading of wine because I raised the question of which Burgundy to drink. The report is separated because I began with the report on the wines first, then the post on dinner.

" Food and Wine Fanatic"

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