If we are what we eat,
I am saccharine sweet.
With yet another cameo on New York City Food and Wine Festival (NYCWFF), this seasons’s dessert party was hosted by cake maker extraordinaire, Duff Goldman. So while one expected several iterations of cake, themed for fall and Halloween alike, the sheer variety and creativity of the pastry chefs was unparalleled.
Possibly the only thing portable from the venue were the cakes in a jar. Each petite mason jar contained a rum raisin cake with rich vanilla buttercream frosting. While fairly ordinary on flavor, the textures were impeccably correct – soft, rich, buttery and easy to hoard!
Despite not having many vegetarian options, Michelin Star Ai Fiori’s opulent setting in the Langham never disappoints me for a luscious soirée with a plateful of desserts. The impeccable table setting included a white painted pumpkin serving the only savory bite of the evening: a bowl of popcorn. But naturally my eyes darted towards the black and white spiders crawling towards the dark chocolate devil’s food cake whoopee pie with pumpkin cream and visibly salt granules. They were moist, flavorful and decadent, without being saccharine or indulgent.
With another Food Network chef contender in the list, the tabletop décor was another stroke of magic. With a glass skull vial encasing colored popcorn, it literally rattled the brain to see the vials of shard like sharply colored desserts up front. While still on the yogurt and custard texture route, this one had sharp and sour tastes of green apple, offset with the sweet crunch of caramel popcorn, cut with tart black currant compote and topped with green apple saccharine cotton candy. To say that it was a playground of flavors in my mouth would be an understatement.
Upholding a legacy of Italian culinary arts, these “Vampire Bites” were seductive to look at, with bright red and almost gold like morsels that invited a bite. While not normally a fan of the super food yogurt, this one came with red currant coulis, red currant gelato and golden elderflower chips. The combination was a tart and texturally complete one: spongy, creamy and crackly all at once.
The epic Gotham never ceases to amaze. With a sunny disposition for a dessert, the flavors of vanilla parfait, passion fruit coulis, mango sauce and coconut were a burst of citrusy freshness from the heavier and richer fall flavors. Which acted as a succulent palette cleanser, especially with bits of passion fruit adding to the crunch. Plus, it was gluten free!
With a name that literally spells out fun (and whimsy!) in Hindi, the bright orange sequence wowed me over. These were fall spice choux pastries, a combination of the East and French West. The usually silky and vanilla choux pastry was elevated to a level of deeper flavor, with a spiced pastry cream where one could detect luscious notes of nutmeg, cinnamon and other fall spices.
Fresh from beachy Miami, the ladies of LA Sweetz brought the Bloody Cupcake, which tasted unexpectedly distinct from its appearance. What appeared like a chocolate blackout cupcake was actually a raspberry cordial soaked dark chocolate cake with raspberry puree and dark chocolate fudge buttercream. Sans sweetness, thankfully, the richness of the dark chocolate was decadent, and basically made up for my lack of appetite for a raspberry pairing. Overall, a delicious bite!
Fresh with Southern inspiration, the softness of the banana pudding with pumpkin was a hearty take on a classic. While I prefer indulgent and crisper notes to my desert, the fall flavors here were definitely homemade.
Having gauged the quirky talent of ice cream flavors (a personal lifelong quest of mine, too) by Odd Fellows at the Dominique Ansel Party, I knew they were capable of whimsy, which is clearly the feeling of my fulfilling life. The visual was a vertically elevated one, with a tower of cotton candy hovering over caramelized apple pie ice cream with candied pecans and salted caramel. While slightly sweeter than my palette’s desire, it was divinely indulgent, with a double caramel flavor hitting all the right taste buds.
Aptly titled “Welcome to Hell”, the whimsy of Big Gay Ice Cream was aptly converted to devilish mischief with a red velvet, chocolate and vanilla Neapolitan, topped with chocolate and cinnamon red hots! A cloying memory of childhood where I had burnt many a lip on overeating. However, with a bloody mess-like conception, the ice cream tasted of classical flavors (red velvet after all, is just dyed chocolate), with a hint of highly spicy and rigidly hard cinnamon fire. Yum. What I could have done with less off was the unicorn zombie, complete with cake intestines and jam blood.
The whimsical girls of the Dessertist had a host of treats interlaced with glittering skulls and coy crows. My favorite was the devil’s food cake pops, shaped like blood curdling screaming monsters in a pool of fake blood. They tasted fairly ordinary, especially compared to the highly flavorful pumpkin bark, with a sharp, cinnamon and nutmeg infused flavor. I found the sugar cookies to also be fairly ordinary, mildly crumbly, almost like they were dissolving into the chocolate cake dirt gummy worm whiskey shots. Which were fairly strong, the whiskey soaking the layers moistly and drunkenly. The sponge cake and vodka version was equally successful, especially with cinnamon apple playing tag.
Tombstone sugar cookies as spoons? As a potential waste eliminator tactic, the inventive tombstones in chocolate pudding and cake crumble were a fun concept. While not a fan of the pudding texture in isolation, it became a moist sauce of sorts when gobbled with the sugar cookies and crumble. Which was a gobble, indeed. The silver skull on the confetti splattered ring cake, however, was a bit kitsch for the otherwise well decorated tabletop.
While there were citrus cocktails, caramel beer by Modelo, and even prosecco, these were mere palette cleansers and digestifs to help chow through the luscious evening with desserts, and only desserts.
With a consequential sugar high, I swooned with the gold architecture and interiors of the Prince George Ballroom, a perfect venue for love and indulgence.