Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
The language of a pastry chef is one of cream, butter, chocolate and spun sugars so delicate that the merest breath can result in catastrophe.
Which may explain why, despite their rich tongue and lavish wares, pastry kitchens are often zen-like sanctuaries behind clouds of white flour, hot ovens and whirring stand mixers. Let the chef de cuisine and saucier chest-beat and take their public bows. This unique kitchen breed does their talking directly to your sweet tooth.
Lauded patisserie Nicole Plue is no exception. Chef Douglas Keane’s most recent draft to the varsity lineup at Healdsburg’s Cyrus, she quickly and efficiently presents a series of Michelin-worthy desserts every bit the equal to his artful, multi-layered dishes. No pictures of her, thanks. Just the desserts.
Plue’s list of ingredients and techniques is mind-blowing, though she rattles them off like the week’s grocery list. They’re inspired by a “magical” coeur a la creme (a creamy dessert), incorporating Fontainebleau (an ultra luxe sort of whipped cream), goat yogurt creme fraiche, rhubarb lime granita and fried farina fritters. There are pecan-caramelized milk chocolate covered cornflakes, a honeycomb parfait with milk chocolate mousse sprayed on top of a peanut butter milk chocolate bar and popcorn tuile (whisper-delicate cookies). I just nod my head like I know what she’s talking about, type like mad on my iPhone about and promise myself to Google it all later.
Despite the gold-plated ingredients, she describes her desserts as, “deceptively simple,” and “a party in your mouth”. This first lineup, she says, represent some of her “best of’s”.
Most recently from Yountville’s storied Redd and an ex-staffer at Julia’s Kitchen at Napa’s COPIA, Plue is a dessert darling. She’s been feted by Bon Apetit and the James Beard Foundation, worked in Martha Stewart’s kitchens and several notable New York restaurants. (You can read a 2005 interview I did with her while she was at COPIA here). But she won’t tell you any of that. Instead, makes sure the desserts are doing the talking for her.
Licking our fingers, the spoons and plates all we can say is: Loud and clear.
Cyrus, 29 North Street, Healdsburg, (707) 433-3311. Website