The Most Accomplished Chefs, Their Most Delicious Desserts
Sweet pickings from those in the know.
The County’s Top Desserts
According to Some of the County’s Top Chefs
By Marge Perry Featuring photography by Phil Mansfield
Who could be fussier or more persnickety about food than highly touted chefs? That’s why we decided to ask them—the pickiest, choosiest, most particular and discriminating eaters, Westchester County’s most valued chefs—to name their favorite desserts. We figure if these chefs like ‘em, they’ve got to be good!
Just as you’d ask a doctor for the name of a surgeon, a vet where to buy a puppy or a fashion designer where to shop, it makes sense to ask the professionals to tell us where to go for the very best dessert.
We called more than 20 executive chefs, pastry chefs and restaurateurs as a “jury of peers” to tell us all about—in sugar coma-inducing detail—their single most favorite dessert.
Interestingly, none claimed to be dessert fanatics or chocoholics. Most like dessert, but the majority of chefs seem to have trouble leaving room for it after a meal. It’s not surprising, therefore, that many of the desserts chosen were not over-the-top, heavy, or achingly rich or sweet. They were, nonetheless, all spectacular.
Black raspberry Ice Cream
Longford’s Own-made ice cream
Rye and larchmont
“Even on the coldest day in winter,” says Jay Muse from Pâtisserie Lulu, “I’d have to say my favorite dessert would be Longford’s black raspberry ice cream.” This vote is no small matter, coming from a pastry chef who is surrounded by exquisite desserts all day, every day. “It’s got a high butterfat content. But when I think of all the fancy desserts around here, I would still choose Longford’s. It just always makes you feel good to eat it. It’s just always right.” We couldn’t agree more.
La Tulipe Desserts
“Whenever I visit my mom, I bring her an Opera Cake from La Tulipe,” says Phil McGrath, chef and owner of Iron Horse Grill in Pleasantville. If he brings it to his mom, it must be good! The classic Opera Cake is made of three thin layers of almond cake, each soaked in coffee syrup, a layer of espresso-flavored buttercream, one layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache and a topping of shiny chocolate glaze. Traditionally, the cake is decorated with the bakery’s name written in glaze in one corner and finished with pieces of shimmering gold leaf (La Tulipe uses 23-carat edible gold leaf). Very rich. McGrath says La Tulipe reminds him of the famous Parisian pastry shop, Fauchon.
Mille-feuille of Tahitian Vanilla
with a Candied Walnut Parfait
Xaviar’s in piermont
Call it a conspiracy if you like, but Peter Xaviar Kelly of Xaviar’s and Didier Berloiz, pastry chef at La Panetière, voted for each other’s riffs on the Napoleon. Both chefs swear they had no knowledge of the other’s vote. No matter, we agree that both desserts are worthy of a Top Ten list. Pictured here is Kelly’s whimsical, creamy and luscious version. Crisp layers of caramelized pastry are sandwiched between vanilla crème brûlée custard that’s been “brûléed”—topped with lightly burned sugar—before it’s assembled. But it doesn’t stop there—the layered dessert is accompanied by an Armagnac-laced frozen candied walnut parfait. If that doesn’t do it for you, perhaps the caramel spring garnish or the finish of a couple of dots of dulce de leche and whole candied walnuts on the plate will.
Bedford Village Pastry
“This pastry cream is delicate, not dense, and the pastry itself is very light—a fork breaks right through the middle.” Like so many of us, Rafael Palomino, chef and owner of Sonora and Pacifico, finds homey comfort in dessert. “Bedford Village Pastry’s Napoleon reminds me of the one I had back home when I was growing up. In Colombia we had something very similar, but the one back home had dulce de leche in the pastry cream.” Palomino says the dulce de leche made the Colombian pastry cream a little heavier, and he especially likes the lightness of the cream at Bedford Village Pastry. “Many places in the U.S. use gelatin in their pastry creams, which give it a texture I don’t like. In Bedford, they don’t, and you can tell right away.” Michael Rossignol, executive chef of Bedford Village Pastry, explains the secrets to his success: “For the delicate and flaky texture, I use a pure butter puff pastry dough. I think my take on the Napoleon is special because I use a homemade custard.” Palomino is surely passing his love of Napoleons on to his children; on Saturdays, before heading to the kitchen, he and his family stop at Bedford Village Pastry for chocolate croissants and these Napoleons.
Passion Fruit Baked Alaska
Chez Claude chef and owner Claude Moreau may not be as passionate about the topic of desserts as he is about savory food, but he does love the “refreshing” passion fruit baked Alaska served at Le Château. “It’s very different from all the other desserts,” says Moreau with his authoritative sounding French accent. “It is classic, but you don’t find it around here.” Remy Deyglan, pastry chef at Le Château, elaborates on his interpretation of the classic dessert: “The baked Alaska is something very traditional, so I decided to make it a little bit different and special. I thought of passion fruit, both lemon and lime, would be a good idea for that.” Moreau says the light dessert is especially well suited for summer, thanks to the ethereal meringue and passion fruit sorbet filling, and that it gets his vote because he especially likes light desserts.
Patrick Kelly, chef at Blue in White Plains, likes his desserts light and fluffy because, he says, “I like to indulge in the first, second and third courses. By the time I get to dessert, I need something a little lighter.” But he says that Chef Graziella DiFeo’s tiramisu is a “beautiful way to end a meal. The Galliano mascarpone cream is as light as a fluffy marshmallow, so I can always find room.”
Kelly waxes poetic about the balance of ingredients and DiFeo’s light hand. “It all works together so perfectly—the lady fingers, espresso and fresh mascarpone cheese she uses in the cream.” We’re not sure how “light” this dessert is, but we are sure we’ll leave room for it, too.
Grand Marnier Soufflé
Soufflés were at the top of the list for several chefs we interviewed. Restaurateur John Crabtree, of Crabtree’s Kittle House, explains the appeal this way: “The whole idea of a soufflé starts with having to order it in advance. It builds up the anticipation and the drama. You aren’t getting something that has been sitting in the refrigerator. The chef makes this specifically for you. It’s a special-occasion dessert.” The Grand Marnier soufflé made by pastry chef Didier Berloiz at La Panetière, says Crabtree, is “very well balanced—neither overly sweet or too eggy.” And, adds this wine aficionado, “It isn’t overly Grand-Marniered either, so you can still enjoy a nice dessert wine with it.” Crabtree considers the soufflé a benchmark dessert, one by which, along with crème brûlée (which, surprisingly, was not chosen by any of the chefs), the skill and talent of a pastry kitchen can be judged.