Crème de la Crème of 2010
25 December 2010
So, it’s 9:45 on Christmas night, and I can honestly say that I am fed up with eating, at last. Seriously. Camembert, Smoked Gouda, Iberico, Manchego, Quince Paste, crudite, crackers, sourdough rolls, ginger and walnut loaf, Menage a Trois, ham, turkey, cabbage salad, herb salad, tart cranberries, farfalla primavera… and then the desserts. Four cakes, a gingerbread loaf, homemade fudge, snowballs, shortbread, a molasses cookie with cracked black pepper in it, oatmeal cookies, white chocolate covered pretzels… My mom went all-out for days and is now nestled in her bed with the beginning of a winter flu, the poor love. As I am writing this, the last stirring creature, my Dad, has just crept by, fingers gesturing “goodnight,” after having wrapped white bundt cake with peppermint drizzle and cinnamon coffee cakes in plastic to the stylings of the Vince Guaraldi Trio on repeat.
Yes, another year of eating is wrapping itself up. A long year of wine and cheese, prosciutto vs. Serrano, Lebanese vs. Italian olive oil, Australian vs. California Syrah, chocolate, pears, melon, salmon, game hen, and, and, and… Looking back at my culinary year, I am baffled by the array of tasting I have received, reviewed, and revered. I have grazed a wide range from vegan to tartare, and been hard-pressed to refuse another glass of a good Primitivo. But the one culinary experience in 2010 that reigns as the VERY BEST of 2010: Salted Crème Caramel at London’s newest Bistro, Cassis.
Let’s start with the delicate glass mug through which one can see the distinct and equally deliberate layers that compose the Crème Caramel. This is sheer eloquence, literally, as the clear view invites you to dive as a swan, spoon poised for descent through the tepid surface of translucent caramel and into the depths of vanilla-bean-spotted crème. A wise taster knows that layers are meant to dance together, so a swooping spoon is of the utmost. In this case, the creamy caramel basin bears buried treasure, sea salt pieces woven just generously enough along the floor of a calm, creamy body.
The sequence of flavors follow a distinct story line, a chain of foreplay fodder for the culinarily erotic: Singed flavor from the clear caramel at the surface is smoothed by the deep cream with bean texture, only to be enraptured by thick caramel crème, and finished with a salty ribbon with a hint of crystal crunch for punctuation.
Cold shower needed indeed.
It is this sort of excellence that lingers in my sense memory, one filed subconsciously in the memory box, whose mere mention makes me salivate from even 10,000 miles away on Christmas night, at year’s-end inventory. It has been a blessed year of flavors and their respective relationships. After all, taste is one of the most powerful of the senses, a relationship of love and nurture, and always of sensuality.
Here’s to another year of tastes and textures.