Paris Brest from Balsan, at The Elysian Hotel (photo by Steve Dolinsky)
If Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong only knew how good things were over at the new Elysian Hotel. First of all, the Gold Coast hotel has two restaurants: Ria, the more upscale sibling (think caviar and foie), as well as Balsan, a more casual room just down the hall. Both restaurants share pastry chef Alissa Wallers, who has resurrected a famous French treat that has its roots in a 19th century race. Long before the Paris Brest was a pastry, it was a famous bicycle race. In‚ 1891, the route ran from Paris to Brest and then back to Paris again. It was the precursor to the Tour de France. As a way of honoring this event, the Paris Brest was created in the shape of a bicycle tire. What Armstrong does with bikes, Wallers achieves with cream and sugar; she has simply created one of the best desserts in town: incredibly rich (thanks to praline paste, toasted hazelnuts and delicate pâte à choux) pastry that is impossibly crisp on the outside, yet oh-so-forgiving within. It's truly amazing that a dough consisting of butter, flour, water and eggs can produce a pastry that is so delicate, light and airy. The praline paste and hazelnut nougatine are embedded within a thick, middle layer of heavy cream, and the sensation of biting into this creation is what I would imagine one feels when smoking crack - it's so god damned good I literally couldn't stop eating it.