Monday, November 1, 2010

New York, Part II: Bouchon Bakery and Nougatine

After a brunch event on Saturday, I hopped in a taxi and headed to Columbus Circle.  I had some time to kill before my 1:45pm Nougatine reservation, so I decided to do some more culinary questing.  Fortunately, the Time Warner Center is home to Bouchon Bakery on the third floor.

I was incredibly tempted by quite a few items in the display case, but in the end showed some restraint and picked up only two cookies: a chocolate macaron and a TKO bat (Thomas Keller Oreo, i.e. a gourmet Oreo where the filling is white chocolate ganache), along with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

I enjoyed both, though the macaron was definitely my favorite.  A good macaron is the perfect combination of gentle crunch vs. creamy interior and nutty richness vs. fruit/chocolate/other flavor :-).  Luckily, I snagged a table overlooking the four-story atrium, and sitting there with cookies and tea was a nice way to spend an hour or two.

Then, I headed around the circle to the Trump Hotel and Tower, home of Jean-Georges.  Nougatine is essentially the more low-key (and somewhat less expensive) atrium and bar area for Jean-Georges itself.  In a surprising twist of digital-world fate, one of my high school friends (now working in New York) saw my "Central Park was gorgeous!" Facebook update on Thursday and posted a comment.  A few messages and texts later, and we had established that she was able to join me for dessert!

We had a comfortable table right next to the window.  Service was surprisingly slow; it took us quite a few minutes to get menus, and when we asked for the dessert menu, our server disappeared for a while before returning.  My friend and I were also amused when another server came over with a bread basket and tongs and was about to serve us, but was pulled back by our server (who practically leaped to stop her - fancy restaurant fail!).

Even so, our desserts were still pretty great.  Above is the mango-papaya-lime vacherin with citrus meringue, which was a sorbet-like frozen layer with a meringue cap, dusted with coconut and lime and accompanied by a fruit compote.  The citrus meringue (the white wave on the left) was a fun and flavorful garnish.

Our other dessert was the chocolate-hazelnut fondant with espresso streusel, ginger, and black currant sorbet.  Definitely a winner - chocolate, hazelnuts, and ginger is really a winning combination, and when treated as well as this was...heavenly.  The creamy fondant - essentially pot de creme - was studded with toasted hazelnut halves, and the black currant sorbet was fortunately intense enough to balance the chocolate; it and the austere streusel certainly cleansed the palate between bites.

All in all, a lovely dessert experience, marred only by less-than-prompt service.  At $11.80 per person (including tax and tip), this was still a nice mini-splurge and great chance to catch up.