Let’s All Eat Our Feelings While Mourning the “Dark Age of Dessert”

Plus, Twitter reacts to critic Adam Platt's dyspeptic rant on the downfall of pastry.

  • Salted caramel tart at Marlow & Sons. Photo:
  • The Paris New York at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Photo: Liz Barclay
  • Grapefruit givre at Boulud Sud. Photo: CBS Local
  • Poppyseed bread and butter pudding at Annisa. Photo: Liz Barclay
  • Doug's Pecan Pie Sundae at Buttermilk Channel. Photo: Buttermilk Channel
  • Lemon-meringue eclair at Lafayette. Photo: Chris Schonberger
  • Maple syrup pie at Leftbank. Photo: Sarah LaFleur
  • George V at Francois Payard Bakery. Photo:
  • Chocolate mousse at Buvette. Photo:
  • Ice-cream cake at Parm. Photo: CBS Local

Click through the gallery above for some delicious sweets to gorge on while crying about the death of dessert as we know it.

New York Magazine restaurant critic Adam Platt set food-nerd Twitter on fire this morning with his incendiary essay entitled “Why This Is the Dark Age of Dessert.” His main thesis? Pastry is a dying art in New York as more and more restaurants seem to think of sweets as an afterthought—so much so that they might not even employ a proper pastry chef anymore. Platt writes:

[T]he ancient pageantry of rolling dessert carts and 15-minute soufflés was replaced, long ago, by a bland procession of overpriced chocolate sundaes and stale, prefabricated layer cakes…. Too often, these days, restaurant meals end with pre-made puddings (or panna cottas, watery rice puddings, and the ever-durable chocolate pot du crème) and scoop after scoop of of antically flavored ice cream (olive oil, sea salt, etc.). Instead of delicate wisps of, say, îles flottantes, we critics debate the latest gourmet version of carrot cake, or an endless, mind-numbing procession of fried beignets, churros, and gourmet doughnut holes, all of which taste fine, thank you, but also pretty much the same.

He goes on to say that “the old lions who used to dominate the pastry field are mostly gone”—by which he means people like Jacques Torres, Michael Laiskonis, Johnny Iuzzini—have moved on, and that restaurants are more interested in “whisking out to diners as quickly as possible” with pre-fab sweets.

There’s no denying that there are a few too many goat’s-milk panna cottas and fancied-up Rice Krispies treats on menus these days, but we also have too many fried chickens, pork buns, and haute burgers. The apparent dumbing down of dessert seems to have more to do with the stranglehold of comfort food—as well the tight economics of New York restaurants—than any lack of talent or ambition in the field.

Platt concedes this point toward the end of his dessert diatribe when he writes, “The great gourmet-dessert apocalypse has also coincided with the rise of a generation of no-frills cooks (and eaters), who prefer a midnight tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to a well-fashioned éclair any day.” Still, there seems to be some willful trolling at work in this broadside against the pastry arts.

But let’s look on the bright side—just as the TimeGods of Food” debacle generated some useful debate about gender politics in food, Platt’s carping will likely get people talking about what is actually working in the pastry world today, and what could use improvement.

Clearly, Grub Street knew what it was cooking up since it has already dropped a roundup of big-name chefs sharing their opinions on the state of pastry. And, needless to say, Twitter has a few things to add as well—here are some of the most interesting opinions we’ve seen so far:


Andrew Carmellini, whose restaurants are known for their talented pastry chefs, offers some tasty looking counterarguments for Plattypants to consider:

 

 

 


Kierin Baldwin, pastry chef at the Dutch, offers a view from the trenches and suggests a bit of missplaced nostalgia at play:

 


Pete Wells, Michael Laiskonis, and others are focusing on some more nuanced aspects of the debate, like creativity and the economics of running a pastry program:

 

 

 

 


Lucky Peach editor Peter Meehan reminds us to keep some perspective before getting too upset:

 

[via Grub Street]

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