Q: What’s the best way to prepare oneself for eating a whole bunch of cheese and kimchi?
A: Eat pastry and drink espresso first!
I know you all got that one right. Here’s how I coped with my imminently blown mind in the cheese and kimchi pairing class last week.
First stop: Mille-Feuille, a recently-opened bakery in the Village. Refers to this French pastry. Note the connection to the napoleon, and its long and storied history (via La Varenne and Carême). It means “one thousand leaves”. That’s my kinda pastry.
A sleek yet welcoming little shop, they had many traditional French pastries and they all looked charming. I opted for a praline version of their namesake and a single rose macaron.
There was an attention to detail here that was impressive. The man at the counter took a plate from the freezer “to keep the pastry cool” and served it delicately from a little box to keep its shape. He wiped the plate and presented it to me. I like that sort of thing.
It was a delicious contrast of textures to the highest degree. Fluffy, thick, whipped mousse/custard and the crispiest, flakiest pastry in crinkly layers just begging to be broken with a fork (or a finger). The delicacy of its composition gave no clue to the fullness of its flavour – you can see the concentration of those little black flecks, and the vanilla flavour and aroma was just as prominent, with strong carmelised notes from both the custard and the pastry. Yet, because of the temperature at which it was served, it was saved from becoming a sticky, cloying mess and instead was elevated to a place of perfect refreshability. The epitome of rich and light.
And fun to eat.
Next up: rose macaron.
Well, it was definitely colourful. And it kept its bite beautifully – no crumbling or falling apart. It was also particularly fat, perhaps that’s why. It kept its ratios perfectly as I took little munches. Quite a treat.
It had a faint aroma, though a long flavour, eventually rose after layers of buttercream and almond (and sugar). I would have been fine trading in some colouring for some more rose water, but hey, different strokes. It was a treat and I was happy.
Next to the local watering hole, Third Rail Coffee. Purportedly one of the best around. A nice little place on Sullivan st. with single origins, separate grinders, good music and a couple benches outside. I was set.
This was an exceptional and challenging cup. It took me a while to get and I still don’t think I really have it. The first time around I got yellow raspberry and kiwifruit, bright on the nose, a delightfully light body with just a hint of viscosity, like grapeseed oil or an afternoon liqueur, and yellow chard, asparagus, and bitter root on the finish. Pretty remarkable. A very nice summer espresso. I wonder what it would be like chilled. Guess I’ll have to go back.
I took my time and enjoyed the sun. I became transfixed by the patterns in my empty cup, and how one could read them in a way, not to divine my fate, but at least to tell how I had drunk it, how fast I made it through the foam, how I tilted the cup, things like that. I meditated on that for a long time.
Foam layers like the fossil record.
Time moves on. It was time to eat cheese and kimchi.