Patrick Fahy's tangerine chiboust with cheese ice cream (photo by Steve Dolinsky)
Dessert isn't necessarily a requirement. Sure, you can reward yourself if you've been particularly good during the meal; maybe you just had the soup as a starter and a small pasta, instead of the braised pork belly with the side of roasted Brussels sprouts and crumbled chorizo for your meal. In that case, a final splurge would be in order.
I had done a story with Blackbird's new pastry chef - Patrick Fahy - a few months ago. The subject was satsuma citrus, and he was showing me how he uses it in five or six different ways for a mid-meal intermezzo. I could tell instantly that his time at The French Laundry was going to be a gift to diners here. So after lunch at Blackbird yesterday, I made sure to leave some room after my wood-grilled sturgeon with violet mustard spaetzle. The dessert menu is enticing, to say the least:‚ hazelnut dacquoise (meringue) with espresso, crispy chicory caramel and apricot kernel sherbet? How about azuki baba with rhubarb, St. Germain (the hottest elderflower liqueur in town right now), mint and forbidden rice sherbet? Frankly, the sound of a‚ tangerine chiboust (pastry cream) with campari, pineapple, semolina and Zingerman cheese ice cream seemed to reach out and grab me by the lapels, as if to say, "c'mon, how are you possibly going to resist this one?" Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to lean toward desserts containing and featuring fruit. I know chocolate is the popular kid in class, but c'mon, haven't we seen enough bombs, molten cakes and truffles already? I also gravitate toward final chapters in a meal that simply leave me refreshed, not burdened; pleased and satiated, not overwhelmed with sugar and butter (especially cocoa butter). So as my fork slid easily into the chiboust, the aroma almost hit me before I took the first soft, supple bite. Semolina was there to provide a little crunch, and thin sheets of campari-tinged pineapple lifted the dessert to pure, citrusy bliss. The cheese ice cream - formed into a perfect quenelle - didn't overpower, and was more icy than creamy (how is that possible?) Rarely have I had such clean flavors, balanced so well and served in the proper proportion.
Dessert at Blackbird has officially gone from a pleasant-sounding option, to a mandatory event.