Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day Twenty-Three: Crème Brulée, Mon Vieil Ami

Mon dieu. Shield your eyes. Keep the children back.

The unthinkable has indeed come to pass. I have had my first terrible Parisian dessert.

Let me start by saying Mon Vieil Ami is a lovely restaurant. The service was courteous, and while they have two seatings (and we - yeah, the two couples with kids under 5 - were in the first) they did not by any means make us feel rushed. They place a strong emphasis on vegetables, ensuring they are always high quality and in season. My pâté en croûte was perfectly seasoned, my skate with roasted winter vegetables delicious. The decor is lovely, the ambiance relaxing, but... my dessert was awful.

Let's begin with my acute embarrasment in even having to post this photo (notice for the first time I am pasting it further down in the post, to give you time to prepare yourself emotionally for the visual). I wish I could blame my Canon Elph, which due to perpetual "goldeneye" and poor focus I daily long to chuck out a bus window or slide under some doggie's tush. But really, the fault is mine. I don't know what I was thinking, ordering creme brulée with pamplemousse sorbet and sliced pamplemousse (grapefruit). I wish I could chalk it up to a booze-infused mis-order (we've all had those), but we were without warning pressed to order our desserts at the beginning of the meal, before the wine had really started flowing. I also acknowledge that creme brulée is not a pastry, but the alternative was tarte au chocolat, which as you know I made, ate and posted yesterday, so... several minutes of panicked menu scanning later, I heard a voice somewhat like mine, but more like Jennifer Tilly's, ordering the creme brulee with pamplemousse, and the rest is, as they say, "dis"tory.

So no - you do not need to adjust your televisions, the brulée did arrive with this slightly greenish tint, topped with what looks unsettlingly like the specimens we saw suspended in formaldehyde at the Musee d'Histoire Naturelle earlier today and malheuresement, the problems didn't stop there. This is when I step up and take some responsibility (see, look what logging hours of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew has done for my psyche) for my own choices. What was I thinking ordering a vanilla custard with such a strong, acidic citrus fruit? They just do not go together. Or at least, this brulée and this grapefruit did not. On the contrary, they were about as believable a pair as Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen. The sweet, vanille custard only made the pamplemousse taste more sour (even the sorbet!) and vice versa. And compounding the symbiosis (or lack thereof) issues was the distinctly yolky taste to the dish - the kiss of death for any brulée, because it means the eggs had scrambled during preparation.

I'm such a nice Midwestern girl at heart that it pains me to post a negative review about anyone - all I can say is, MVA caught a break when my husband smartly passed over this dish in favor of the (excellent, lovely) roasted pears with Chantilly cream and caramel beurre salé. Hubby is an unapologetic brulée snob and would have sent it back in a heartbeat. Instead, he mocked my kryptonite-colored bastard cousin of a brulée along with everyone else at the table.

I hold Antoine Westermann in high regard (our meal last year at Drouant is in our top five, no question) but this old friend needs a new creme brulee recipe. To quote Simon Cowell, "It just didn't work for me. Sorry."

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