Monday, November 28, 2011

Dessert Critique

By Alexa Magarian

Dessert is the culminating point of a meal-it really does make or break an entire experience of dining out. Imagine finishing a mediocre meal: you may throw down your napkin, ask for the check, and run home to vent on Yelp. Or, you reluctantly order dessert and soon find yourself with a smile on your face, sitting in front of a beautiful presentation of something sweet, something perfect to end your day.

In my Pastry Level 2 course we are close to finishing the first unit of plated desserts. We had covered a range of plating techniques, crème brulees, and ice creams, and know that a well-plated dessert always has some kind of sauce and a decorative cookie, like a tuille. My personal favorite was the banana macadamia nut financier. For a recent class assignment, our chef instructor asked us to visit a restaurant of our choice, order a dessert, and critique it.

I went to a popular Japanese dessert bar. The dining area was small and cozy, seating about 30. You can even catch a glimpse of the pastry kitchen in action through a large glass window. Sharing with customers how the food is created always makes the restaurant feel more inviting and intimate.

Tired of ordering something I already know, I picked the most unusual-sounding item from the seasonal menu: pear and cranberry hibiscus agar, yude azuki, matcha shiratama, and kuromitsu ice cream.

The Autumn Anmitsu came in a simple bowl filled with ice cream covered in a red bean paste. The pear and hibiscus agar, in the shapes of tiny cubes, sat along the edge of the ice cream. What initially caught my eye was something small and bright green nestled under the ice cream and agar, which I later learned was a green tea dumpling. A caramel decoration (which we learned to make in class just days before) topped off the dessert. The ice cream had a sort of grainy texture and earthy flavor. Everything else was just very chewy and gelatinous. I personally dislike that kind of texture, especially in desserts, but it’s still important to try something in order to understand it and appreciate how it is incorporated in a unique dish like this. It certainly was not the most mouth-watering dessert I’ve ever had. The presentation was not very enticing for me. But what definitely worked was the color combination: light caramel, maroon, and bright green, colors that certainly highlight autumn, just in a new and unusual way. I can certainly appreciate the unique ingredients and the thought that went into pairing them together. I would love to try this restaurant again, especially for dinner, and perhaps a different dessert.

Alexa Magarian is a student in the Classic Pastry Arts program. Originally from Boston, she hopes to combine her background in public relations and writing with her love for cooking and baking. Her greatest joy in life is spending time with her family around the kitchen table, eating dinner together. When she is not tempering chocolate and creating desserts in class, she enjoys traveling for inspiration, and meeting people who are just as passionate about food as she is.

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