…and then the next two weeks will be devoted to nothing but local Hawai’i food
This past Tuesday evening I found myself at Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro for the “Chocolate Epiphany Dinner with Francois Payard,” a full night of food and plenty of intoxicating desserts. The event was a collaboration between American Express and Payard, a (literally) sweet bonus for their Platinum card holders. Here’s a little peek at this rather fascinating demo and dinner event.
The evening started with a wine reception featuring little bites along the lines of Foie Gras Brioche and Wild Mushroom Risotto Balls. The Bistro itself was closed for the event, making for an intimate setting as Francois Payard himself, along with Chef Philippe Bertineau, hosted us for the evening. The fun started when guests were ushered upstairs for a demo of sweets. For the next two hours I watched in eagerly as Francois whipped up tart shells filled with chocolate, caramel and hazelnut, and then a flourless chocolate cake which he effortless finished with a shiny spill of dark ganache. From there, he moved onto chocolate creations and brought a woman eager to give confections a hand up to the demo station. He poured dark chocolate onto a frozen marble slab, spread it thin with a spatula, and urged her, “pick it up, pick it up! Make something wonderful!” And so she peeled the near set chocolate from the slab and crumpled it into a haphazard flower. Francois paused, “I need volume. Give me VOLUME!” That of course, was coupled with wildly enthusiastic hand gestures as bowls of chocolate folded into lush whipped cream, and another of chocolate ganache, were passed among the audience.
An hour later we stepped back into the main dining room, with the taste of sweets in our mouths and stomachs eager for savories and the accompanying wine parings. Dinner began with a chilled Crab Salad, Bartlett Pears, and Hazelnuts upon a base of Mâche and Celery Root Rémoulade…
…and moved on to Striped Bass with Fork Crushed Sunchokes, Salsifies and Mushrooms bathing in a Crême Frâiche and Wild Mushroom Broth. Crême frâiche is one of those wonderful ingredients that never fail to work seamlessly in both desserts and savory dishes. It was a wonderful factor here, ushering creamy and luxurious elements to the earthy broth.
While I was most enamored with the desserts to come, my tablemate concluded that the Filet Mignon was his favorite dish of the evening. On the side, Swiss Chard, Cipollini Onions, Carrots and Fingerling Potatoes.
I’ll admit to being borderline full at that point, but there is always, and I emphasize ALWAYS, room for dessert. Especially when you are at Payard. I wrote once about their Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookie – which runs head on head with Jacque Torres’ Mudslide for my favorite chocolate cookie of the moment. Prior to this dinner, I visited Payard numerous times, but never made it into the actual dining room as the wonderments in the pastry case proved too tempting to neglect.
I could not help but smile as the waiter dropped by Dessert #1, the Hot & Cold Piña Colada. This was one of my favorite desserts at the SWEET festival earlier this fall where warm Piña Coladas layered with chilled coconut foam were served in shot glasses. The same dessert was encountered again at a recent City Harvest event, and I shamefully confess to downing far more than my fair share. The contrasting elements between creamy foam and a tangy pineapple based coupled with mango and passionfruit puree is certainly one to love. On the side, a single madeline, buttery and golden.
Piña Coladas were soon followed by an indulgent “Payard Candy Bar” and glasses of Port. That candy bar…goodness…it’s difficult to settle upon which element I lusted after more. The long buttery pour of caramel touched ever so lightly by salt? Or the inner workings of cream, chocolate and a crispy mille feuille base? The loveliest part was how it all gave way so easily in the warmth your mouth, giving and collapsing in this lavish buttery concoction. Hands down, the most memorable dessert of the week.
Dinner went late into the night, as we lingered upon coffee and conversation with those just as fascinated by culinary workings and food in general. But soon the night came to end, as all lovely nights must, and we parted with a plethora of gifts including chocolate truffles and copy of Francois’ latest cookbook, Chocolate Epiphany. Very appropriate.
Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro
1032 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10021