Hear with your ears, but listen with your mind.
Taste with your tongue, but eat with your eyes.
This bright and airy shop with the double-entendre name – financier is a type of spongy, rich almond cake baked like a gold bar – offers perfect little pastries, coffees, teas and some sandwiches. The more obvious meaning of the name is naturally the New York district on which the flagship store of Financier Patisserie sits. Perch thyself on the sunny front window with a raspberry napoleon and pretend to be in a Parisian café – without the surly waiters.
So what truly unique element can a pastry shop really bring to a saturated Manhattan? Every step I take explodes into a volcano of gourmet food options, ranging from the likes of somewhat snooty cubbyholes that silently scream organic home goodness, or opulent and reflective fixtures in glass and metal windows that squeeze the utility and rent costs through hungry cupcake eaters.
Well, for one, it all starts with love at first sight. Once simply cannot ignore the decadent details, touchably mapped three dimensional cake surfaces that transform an indulgence into a terrain of honey-glistened hazelnut mountains on a grass of chocolate shavings, or constitute of valleys of apricots with honey dripping from every crevice. Passerbys deprived of voyeuristic details need not look further than this opulent display of edible splendor.
Having succumbed to a personal trainer’s nightmare, I have nibbled, licked, inhaled and gobbled through a number of the ever changing and forever growing sweet varieties that Financier has to offer. And naturally, the camera lens has eaten more than I can ever devour! Behold a morsel of these decadent delights.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
While not a fan of flourless items, despite a gluten allergic friend’s marvelous survival on a diet without the bane of life, this one lured me visually. An inverted flower with a center of lipstick red strawberries, circled by ornate chocolate leaf slabs, it was no surprise that even a whiff of the concoction was enough to induce diabetes via fragrant inhalation. Although mildly challenging (and visually heartbreaking) to eat, the flourless aspect was easy to gloss over due to an award winning display that could give any biological flower a run for its sunlight.
Admittedly, I do not go gaga over strawberries. Despite decades of succulent women with Botox injected lips caked in red Chanel kissing the only fruit that could possibly give the snake’s seductive apple any sort of competition, something about the flesh like texture and almost rancid taste does not prickle my tastebuds. And yet, I salivated over the unimaginatively named berry tartlette, and its larger tart counterpart. The same overhyped strawberries blossomed into glossy, sugar syrup waxed objects of fantasy, joined by the deeply colored blueberries this time, all perched daintily on a sugar dough crust, shaped by almond cream. Deception was truly an attractive, profitable and envious forte chez this double entendre.
Fig Fruit Tart
Figs are the so-called exotic food species that are frequently used in the Asian and Middle Eastern subcontinents, popular as flavorings and with delectable qualities in body care items. Besides exuding a sweet sensation, Financier showed that they could also make a terrific fruit tart accessory. In sharp contras to floral fruit tarts decorated with berries for petals, a slice of fig was placed atop a light crust and heavily fruited tart, soaked in glaze to give it a monumental look. The result was a dessert that casted intriguing shadows against the light, and evoked despair when tarnished due to consumption! I found that figs added an interesting character to any mini cake, and were thus used plentifully across the selections.
The Fraisier was a decadent one, much more ornately crafted as a pastry than in the full sized cake version. But never had strawberries pouting with lusty mouths looked so attractive, giving comparative competition to my benchmark for kiss-shaped berries in a sweet’art affair with Black Hound. Strawberries swimming in glaze perched on a perfectly iced vanilla platform stared longingly at voyeurs. Vanilla biscuit and mousseline completed the picture, if one was able to dive beyond the immaculate surface. And rumor of Grand Marnier in the concoction evoked an instant “aaaaah”.
Aptly christened Opera, this exquisite, frill-free looking pastry packed a punch with its strength of coffee that could take Dunkin’ for a run. On finding that it was a coffee soaked cake with a coffee buttercream holding the succulent layers together, I realized why the coffee-averse me had become so hyper after it. Admittedly, the single gold foil topping symbolized exclusivity and royalty, which is why I would probably try it again, albeit on a lazy morning or a day following exhaustion from relentless partying!
Éclair – no new news as to what this is. Not one of my favorites due to experiences of cream brushed mouths and sensations of inhaling airy sugar, but Financier style, it was more of a choux puff shaped like a tube. The pastry filling remained the same, yet true to the patisserie’s core forte, the glaze made it lick-worthy and different from past experiences, oozing strong chocolate and coffee tastes. Not to forget the dark chocolate namesake stamp that melted in the mouth and gave the visual design a symmetric break. A sense of déjà vu alone almost gave this one a miss, especially when so much more eye candy was incessantly flirting with the eyes. But fans will not be disgruntled.
Chocolate Caramel Dome
With a love for all things blue and wintery, its no surprise that I like igloos. Thus, a semi-spherical dome dessert was the perfect accomplice on a tired afternoon. This one was a caramel mousse on a vanilla biscuit, a texture and scented combination that would have turned me off had it not been for cocoa dust and chocolate cream, alongside a melt-in-your-mouth embellishment of fine chocolate. For that sensation alone, this deserved a lick and a consequent gobble.
Almond Cake with Jelly
Ever seen a balloon that you instinctively wanted to pop? Or the last bubble on a carpet of bubble wrap that you yearned to squander? That was my impression on seeing a perfect layer of bright yellow Italian muscat jelly atop an almond cake with apricot Bavarian cream. Not the most lethal combination of ingredients, nor one that appeals to me due to lack of indulgent cocoa, but it once again showed how good looks sometimes overpower other elements in areas other than corporate. And it was indeed gratifying to rip and lick the jelly off the belly of cake! The cake also demonstrated how scarcity and simplicity could pack quite the punch; for after all, one did have to rescue a drowning pecan, whose gratifying crunch was elevated by the fact that there was only one on the entire cake.
Seldom have I come across a cake that has enough nuts to give it a truly gratifying crunch. But the Majolaine did the trick. While I am always attracted to desserts that embrace chocolate as a critical player in the mix, the combination of almonds is always crave inducing. While the chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream were at most refined versions of what one may have tasted in competitive gourmet desserts, the solid layer of toasted almonds swaying on almond meringue provided the much needed taste break, and drew visual applause.
Raspberry White Chocolate Mousse
I grimace at white chocolate. And I know there are several beings like me. But what about when it is concealed in a punchy red glaze of raspberry mousse? If I was a vampire, my fangs would salivate at the look of this cake that would reduce the reds of Berlin to sepia mode. Swooping curls of white chocolate, outlining raspberries that looked like ski dancers poised to glide across a smooth, glistening platform. A bite into it simultaneously reminded me why I did not enjoy the taste of white chocolate, yet the almond biscuit base was crunchy, a redeeming factor in an otherwise overly sweet cake. I had to agree that it was the inviting display that had seduced me into taking a bite. Such was the power of well dressed food!
Chocolate Praline Cake
Glazes seemed to be Financier’s forte, as propped right next to the red mirror was a chocolate glazed praline cake. As I inhaled my vampire fangs and returned to my addictive chocolate self, I poured my eyes over the meticulously designed ganache and praline mousse cake. How I wish it had a little more crunch to it, as I am not a lover of all things mousse-y as they lack the toughness that gives a dental workout. But the grandeur of this cake with its royal looking white chocolate swirls (thankfully just inked over the glaze) was still a winner.
While I tend to shy away from lemony desserts, despite the ability to suck lemon juice from a freshly sliced fruit of the heat, I found a need to take a break from a chocolate overkill. As such, I was pleasantly surprised to find the lemon tartlette quite gratifying. The sugar dough crust was crispy, sugary like its namesake, and akin to a sugar cookie, topped with flavorful lemon curd, and embellished with alternating blackberries and raspberries. Looking as magnificent as a tiara, the lemon peels gave it a zesty freshness. The juxtaposed sweet and tangy taste was another theme that recurred across many lemon based visuals, including the dome shaped mousse, which beautifully blended the reds of raspberries with the yellows of lemon.
And there was a plethora of other options to choose from, which overwhelmed and grounded me to the spot, spellbound by a visual lightning of sweetlings playing peekaboo in a desire to be consumed. From honey covered hazelnuts to inflated sized macaroons, multi textured dense looking chunky cookies to jewel-like designs of berries and frosting, it was all there to overwhelm and de-finance thy pockets (on that note, it remained surprisingly well priced for the magnitude of what is offered!). The mini sample sized portions catered to those either seeking guilt free and sin free indulgence sans a sweat inducing post-munch workout, or those indecisive to pick from a wider array of sweet tooth partners. I fell in between, sometimes cringing with the thought of my trainer and bodily calorie counter, and at other times itching to taste a bit of everything before choosing the one, or two, or quite a few, to walk away with. Ah, bliss.
There is of course a savory line to appeal to those who, unlike me, prefer curiously identical looking salt granules to crystallized sugar ones. Perhaps its just in the balance.
Although comparisons to a benchmarked visual treat of Black Hound, reviewed earlier, are inevitable, Financier stands on its own, breaking shakles that chains, no matter how big or small, lose their charm after the number of locations grow beyond one.
As for me, I simply love double entendres.