The best chocolate dessert I have ever eaten was a kind of chocolate fondue served at the old Alain Ducasse restaurant in New York's Essex House hotel. The melted chocolate was thick, dark and almost piercingly bitter, relieved only by the caramelized sugar glaze on the crunchy cubes of brioche that were scattered over the top.
It was a dessert almost totally divorced from the traditional idea of chocolate as a vehicle for sugar, for dairy, for warm feelings of goodwill, stripping away everything but the alkaline taste of the hot, punishing tropical sun. The dessert, I wrote at the time, seemed designed to make children cry.
Like many food people of my acquaintance, I am relatively indifferent to chocolate, perhaps through sheer overexposure, perhaps because the longing for good, even great chocolate is so easily satisfied. Blenheim apricots and Persian mulberries are at their peak for only a few days a year, but that 3-kilo slab of Valhrona Manjari in the pantry is eternal. Perfect pistachios appear only once every couple of years, but it is easy enough to buy any manner of Tcho.
The technology of chocolate, the careful curing, conching and tempering of the cacao bean may have taken centuries to master, but you can buy the good stuff now yourself, and even the best pastry chefs in the world can do little to improve on the bar of Lindt 90% you picked up on your last trip to Vons.
So as I sit down to write a Chocolate Day salute to my favorite chocolate desserts in Los Angeles – the goat milk gelato with cacao nibs at Bulgarini; the chocolate chip rye cookies at Sycamore Kitchen; the multidimensional Rock, Pebble, Chocolate dessert at Spago; the chocolate budino tart at Bestia; the mignardises at Providence; the deconstructed pan con chocolat at Bazaar -- I feel a little like that guy on Yelp who begins his post "I’m not really a chocolate-lover, but … ."
I may be overmatched here. I’m the guy in the corner, ordering the apple crisp instead.
Perhaps all those years of Death by Chocolate have finally taken their toll.
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