Friday, February 26, 2010

Day Sixteen: Paris-Brest, Joël Robuchon

Silence in the Peanut Gallery.

I know -- hee hee, ho ho, "Paris Bre(a)st." My husband could not stop giggling like a ten-year-old at a Michelin-starred restaurant. We decided this week to finally celebrate Jeff's new job in the UK with a special dinner at Atelier Joël Robuchon, the no-reservations, bar-seating-only gastronomic destination in the Seventh. This was the one restuarant I refused to leave Paris without experiencing. And boy, was I right to stick to my guns! The service was incredible, every waiter cuter than the last, and the food inspired.

Here's the skinny -- whenever Jeff and I go to a chef's-menu type of place, Jeff, with the more discriminating palate, refuses to go with the tide and selects his own menu. I, on the other hand, can consistently be counted on to go whole-hog. And, irony of ironies, after seven courses that included chestnut soup, soft-shell crab, sauteed foie gras, eggs poached in truffle oil, caviar, sole, and foie-gras-stuffed quail, my two desserts did NOT include a pastry!

I therefore had no choice but to beg said discriminating husband to order the Paris Brest. I did feel fairly confident he would enjoy the dessert - not just because he's a brest man, but because he loves choux pastry and nutella, and because he's the guy who ran, breakneck-speed, to catch the end of the Tour de France and this pastry was inspired by (and named after) a famous bicycle race between Paris and the town of Brest.

I offered Jeff bites of my Parfum des Iles (cream of passionfruit and banana, with rum granité and coconut milk ice cream) and my "Pomme," a carmelized apple with a breton biscuit and a green apple sorbet. But he passed, waiting for his brest - which he then did kindly let me sample. Perfectly flaky choux pastry - in a ring shape said to be fashioned after a bicycle tire - filled with praline (hazelnut-flavored) creme. What made this particular Paris-brest memorable was the cube of lemon curd-gelatin in the center. Lemon and hazelnut don't necessarily make sense together on paper, but when tasted together they are as natural a pair as George and Gracie. The tartness of the lemon perfectly sets off the rich creaminess of the praline cream, each flavor intensifying the other.

This is what makes chef Joël Robuchon a genius. Not the foie gras, not the caviar, not the perfectly cooked lamb (though they were all sublime). It's lemon and crème prali. The best of the Brest.

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