Crème Brulee S&M: Pleasure and Punishment
The other day I was having dinner at the Brasserie Tambour, on the Rue de Montmartre. After a garlic themed dinner highlighted by snails and entrecote in garlic sauce with garlic potatoes, I decided to move on to something a little less...garlicky.
The dessert menu offered the usual selection of desserts: moelleux au chocolat, profiteroles, several cheeses for those lacking a sweet tooth, and crème brulee. The couple sitting next to me had both ordered the crème brulee, and it looked rather lavish indeed (not to mention rather huge); so I asked them if they thought it was particularly noteworthy. 'Superbe,' they both replied. 'Incroyable.' (Pardon all the French spelling mistakes) So I decided to trust their superior French palettes and give it a go. Although I love this dessert, it is not something I generally tend to order. I always seem to get swayed by the chocolaty moelleux or the puff pastry profiteroles (You can taste my undying love for puff pastry in the 'baguettes and chouquettes' post)
The best part of eating this dessert is cracking the top layer of burnt sugar. Using the back of your spoon, you tap the sugary crust until it cracks, finally letting your spoon reach the creamy goodness underneath. As I was finishing this mammoth crème brulee, I observed that not only was it incredibly pleasurable, but it was also quite painful, since my stomach had decided to expand quite rapidly and painfully while I was finishing it. (Enough to need to unbutton) 'It's culinary S&M,' my friend remarked.. 'Pleasure and pain.' And yet so worth it.
A side note, on Snails
As I mentioned, at this particular dinner I had snails. Although I am not yet at the point where I can eat an entire plate of 8 to 16 snails by myself, my good friends did oblige my taste buds by letting me pinch a few. This is the second day in a row that they've let me take a significant bite out of their portion of snails, and for that, I am grateful. However this second day in a row that I ate snails is also the second time that I've ever tried them, the first time being the night before.
Something about the smell of snails now seems to have become permanently associated with Parisian bistros and brasseries. Only since I first tried this garlicky, garden-tasting delicacy, did I realize that this was the amazing smell that I almost always found myself wondering where it could be found on the menu. And just to break some myths: no, they are not rubbery (unless they are overcooked, which is quite unlikely to happen in Paris). They are not slimy or gooey or gross. They are little bits of garlicky, herby, buttery goodness, and honestly, they taste like a garden. In the same way that people eat sea urchins because the taste is reminiscent of the sea, the same can be said for snails tasting like a grassy spring garden.
I highly urge you to try them, and then take a large chunk of baguette and dip it in all that garlicky, snaily butter left at the bottom of your plate. 'Superbe'.