Is there anything better than dessert for dinner? I didn’t think so. That’s why I jumped at the invite to attend a dessert tasting event hosted by Ohh La La Patisserie, making sure to come on as empty of a stomach as possible. Chef Sebastian invited several local food writers and bloggers to taste-test proposed items for his new menu. All 5 desserts were paired with tea from the host venue, The Tea Factory. It was actually an excellent idea. The cold teas were especially refreshing given the high sugar content of the food we were eating.
We started off with what was probably my least favourite course of the evening, an olive oil cake with white chocolate ganache, mascarpone espuma and coffee pearls. Although I could have eaten the ganache on its own with a spoon, the rest of the components didn’t really strike a chord with me. I liked the idea of topping the cake with an espuma or foam, but the texture was a bit off and the tang of the mascarpone was not as apparent as I would have liked. The coffee pearls were little balls of gel, set by agar agar, a fun idea in theory but they were a little too firm and didn’t really add anything to the dish. Overall, it was an underwhelming first course. Luckily, it meant that things could only get better.
The second course was Sebastian’s take on apple pie, with layers of crust, caramelized apples, almond financier and finished with a vanilla Bavarian cream. As was the theme of the evening, he used molecular techniques to create a maple sphere, again set with agar agar. I much preferred the little dome of sugary, maple goodness to the aforementioned coffee pearls. Other than the caramelized apples themselves, nothing in the pie was overly sweet, so combining just a sliver of the maple sphere on your fork with all of the other ingredients really brought you back to your childhood eating grandma’s apple pie with vanilla ice cream. In fact I would take the impeccably smooth texture of the vanilla Bavarian cream over regular ice cream any day. The dessert was paired with an apple pie tea, which was probably my favourite drink of the evening. It was the strangest sensation to drink something that tasted and smelled exactly like apple pie, minus the sweetness, but at the same time, what pairs better with apple pie than apple pie?
The third course paid homage to Sebastian’s Argentinian roots and was filled with tropical flavours. From the outside, it looked like a simply passion fruit mousse draped in glistening strawberry glaze, but the centre held plenty of surprises. Banana cream, lady finger and a hazelnut sable were all enveloped in the silky mousse. My only critique of this one is that I thought the strawberry flavour slightly overwhelmed the subtlety of the passion fruit, although it was the perfect pairing with the banana. I also wonder if the sable would have been more effective if made with macadamia nuts, which are slightly more tropical than hazelnuts (I always think hazelnuts and chocolate so it threw me off a bit). All in all though, I would definitely order one of these at Ohh La La.
My favourite course was the fourth one, mainly because it was chocolate galore. Chocolate sponge cake, chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache are three things that make me one happy girl. The most interesting element of this dessert however was the caramel tagliatelle, a dessert take on “pasta.” Essentially he used agar agar and a few other chemicals to set salted caramel into a firm but pliable sheet, which he then sliced into “noodles.” Sure they were a bit on the slimy side, but I did not find the texture off-putting and the salt was the perfect foil to all of the other sweet components. Just look at that cross-section of chocolate heaven.
I could have finished things off with a second helping of the chocolate course but we moved on to a light, Greek yogurt mousse instead. It definitely was not the most photogenic of the bunch but there were some interesting flavours and textures at play. Underneath the mousse sat a Matcha (green tea) dacquoise cake and on top that’s not spinach, it is a Matcha “wrap”, essentially a green tea flavoured jelly skin (there was a purplish blackberry one as well). Similar to the caramel tagliatelle, the wraps had a certain slime factor to them, but it was a unique way to provide texture to the foaminess of the mousse. Maybe if they were sliced in a chiffonade it would be easier to incorporate tiny pieces into each bite, rather than committing to an entire mouthful of Matcha or blackberry gel. Either way, I applaud Chef Sebastian’s creativity and courage to test out different techniques on us as his critics, to see if they would fly with actual customers. The thing with molecular gastronomy is that used effectively, I do believe it can enhance a dish above and beyond its natural state. However, oftentimes it is used without purpose, simply to add a modern technique in an attempt to be inventive and original, without actually enhancing the ingredients themselves. You don’t know until you try. That being said, after all of the feedback, hopefully you will see some of Sebastian’s latest creations in the showcase at Ohh La La Patisserie in the very near future! Just make sure you get there early before I go hoard all of the chocolate ones for myself.