Sweets, Petits Fours and Mignardises
American pastry chefs have come into their own. All the restaurants we reviewed identified them on their menus for good reason. Their work was often as satisfying and inventive as the chef de cuisine's.
No longer content simply to set a wedge of chocolate torte on raspberry puree and custard cream, pastry chefs have been busy inventing personalized desserts, such as Spago Beverly Hills' dense Devil's Fiend Chocolate Pudding Cake, a sort of upscale devil's food cake, served with Sumatran coffee ice cream just this side of bitter. At The Mansion on Turtle Creek, crispy gingerbread cookies sandwiched pumpkin ice cream seasoned like pumpkin pie. At Pacific's Edge, a free-form Meyer lemon tapioca tart got a topping of huckleberry compote in a creation that used traditional American dessert ideas with surpassing delicacy.
These pastry chefs are also flexing their gastronomic muscles with mignardises and petits fours, those tiny bites designed to accompany coffee and after-dinner drinks. At The French Laundry, for example, petits fours included bite-sized round banana cream pies, triangles of lemon meringue and circles of pecan pie. Daniel offered a basket of madeleines still warm from the oven. Tru's Gale Gand evoked an American childhood with her witty and flavorful interpretations of Tootsie Rolls and Almond Joys. She also served a tiny root beer float with house-made root beer.