Thursday, July 26, 2012

Friday is National Creme Brulee Day

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Creme brulee has become so popular, you can almost find it everywhere...except Applebees.
  • Creme brulee has become so popular, you can almost find it everywhere...except Applebee's.

For years, egg custard — that creamy old-school dessert standby — was a staple on American restaurant menus and buffets (the old Putsch's Cafeteria had a great version), but it sort of became unfashionable when the "loving hands at home" style of desserts (tapioca pudding, layer cakes, prune whip) fell out of favor. But a more elegant spin on the same custard concept, creme brulee, was taking over.

Why? Charles d'Ablaing, the executive chef at Chaz on the Plaza, says, "It's a dessert that you can't go wrong with. People love it, it's not complicated to make, and America has always had a love affair with pudding."

Creme brulee — the recipe dates back to at least the 17th century — is technically a baked custard, but it's that wonderful soft consistency, like a rich pudding, that counts.

Pastry chef Blair Cobbett (who is now back at You Say Tomato before moving to Oregon later this year) thinks the simplicity of creme brulee makes it alluring to restaurant owners: "It's a very simple dessert to make," she says. "If a restaurateur can't have a pastry chef on staff, it's something that can be made in-house, and everyone likes it. It's silky, refreshing, attractive...and French!"

Pascal Larcher makes the creme brulee for Aixois Bistro in Brookside.
  • Pascal Larcher makes the creme brulee for Aixois Bistro in Brookside.
Creme brulee remains one of the best-selling desserts at Aixois, the Brookside bistro where Toulon-born chef Pascal Larcher bakes the custard nearly every day. The secret of great creme brulee, Larcher says, is fresh vanilla bean. "You can't use vanilla extract; it's not the same."

Although Larcher has experimented with different flavors of the dessert — coffee, chocolate and cinnamon, for example — most customers prefer the traditional recipe of eggs, cream, sugar and vanilla bean. "That's the famous one," he says.

Traditional vanilla creme brulee is the only kind made in the kitchen at Chaz on the Plaza, Charles d'Ablaing says. "If the recipe tastes somewhat familiar, d'Ablaing was inspired by the "best creme brulee I ever tasted in Kansas City."

"It was what we served at the old Fedora Cafe & Bar," d'Ablaing says, referring to the nearly forgotten Gallic bistro that once dominated the culinary community on the Country Club Plaza. "That's what we aspire to serve here."

What local restaurant do you, Fat City readers, think serves the best creme brulee in Kansas City?

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