Remember when you were a kid and you vowed that, “When I’m an adult, I’m gonna eat nothing but dessert for dinner”? Well, that’s exactly what my fiance and I did last week. (Plus, there was wine!)
It all happened at Central Market in Fort Worth, where the two of us ‘unwrapped’ our final Christmas gift: a cooking class courtesy of my step-daughter and son-in-law. The demo, entitled The Snap of Citrus in Desserts, was led by award winning cookbook author, pastry chef, and culinary tour leader, David Lebovitz. (Update: You can read David Lebovitz’s blog about these classes here.)
Lebovitz proved to be as engaging in person as he is on the pages of his witty memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, which humorously chronicles his assimilation into French culture after spending most of his adult life in San Francisco. It’s as if David Sedaris had included recipes in Me Talk Pretty Some Day.
Lebovitz began the evening by telling us, “If you’ve never taken a pastry course before, you need to know that it’s kinda like jazz.” (As a musician prone to food metaphors, this reeled me right in.)
Lebovitz went on to explain that cooking well means paying attention to what’s happening with your ingredients in your kitchen, rather than robotically adhering to a recipe. “People have this thing about cooking,” he remarked. “They think it is very strict, and it’s not.”
For instance, people often leave comments on his blog complaining that the cooking times on his recipes are not exact enough. “They tell me I am wrong,” he said, “when it is really up to them to figure out how their particular oven works. Every oven is different.”
Occasionally, blog comments go from frustrated to just plain nasty, but Lebovitz takes it all in stride. “People think they can out-crazy me, but I worked in restaurants for 23 years. After that, nothing bothers me.”
Of course, he forwards the most amusing stuff for all his friends to read. He once received an email from a man who threatened to, “tell everyone at work that you aren’t very nice.”
“What’s he going to do?” Lebovitz told us, “Go to work and say, ‘Hey everyone, there’s this guy on the Internet and he’s not very nice. I just wanted you to know.’”
On the other hand, Lebovitz recently interviewed for a cooking show, and was told that he needed to be meaner. “I didn’t care, though,” Lebovitz said, “I really just wanted the air miles I’d get from a trip to L.A.” Savvy fellow, indeed!
Although he now lives in Paris, Lebovitz was quick to remind us that America has a lot going for it, too. For starters, he loves Central Market, and the fabulous array of quality food it offers all under one roof.
Lebovitz also reports that French plastic wrap is wimpy, and the tin foil so thin you can nearly read through it. He even appreciates Starbucks, saying, “People complain about Starbucks, but I remember when you couldn’t get decent coffee anywhere. Now, the first thing I do when I get off the plane in America is head straight for the nearest one.”
Lebovitz remarked that the first time he visited Texas, the local cheese, fresh produce, and rich food culture here came as a surprise. Plus, when a recipe calls for chile powder, “Only in Texas do they say, ‘What kind of chile powder?’ I love it.”
But it wasn’t all talk. Over the course of two and a half hours, Lebovitz and his team concocted delectable desserts for the sold-out class to enjoy.
The first thing he fed us were Nonfat Gingersnaps with Meyer Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream (see photo if you want to drool). Lebovitz devised the Nonfat Gingersnaps in response to an argument with food writer, Michael Ruhlman, who claims that the best tasting things always contain fat. Meanwhile, Lebovitz believes that, “There is good food in the world with no fat. Wine, for instance.”
I have to agree with Lebovitz. His nonfat gingersnaps were chewy and delicious, and the lemony tang of the ice cream complemented them perfectly.
Next, we ate Warm Individual Spiced Chocolate Cakes (see photo.) I am a sucker for warm chocolate cakes, and these were superb. I especially liked the Caramelized White Chocolate puddle the cakes sat upon – yum!
I should also mention that while I love chocolate, I hate it when it is drowning in sugar. In fact, I often can only handle a bite or two of desserts because I find them too sweet. Lebovitz’s recipes were all heavy on the flavor and light on the sugar, perfectly balanced for my palate.
After that, we enjoyed Goat Cheese Souffles, straight from the oven, which tasted slightly like warm cheesecake. I liked the variety of textures in the souffle, which Lebovitz suggested could also be made as a savory version by omitting the sugar. The souffles were accompanied by Sparkling Wine Jelly which was topped with citrus fruit.
Tangerine Floating Island was the evening’s finale, and while I adored the light-as-air cloud of meringue, I could have eaten a whole bowl of the subtle Creme Anglaise that the ‘island’ was ‘floating’ in. And why not? As Lebovitz said when asked if he minded people playing around with his recipes, “That’s the beauty of being an adult; you can do what you want.”