Thursday, 23 August 2007
If you have a food allergy or intolerance, dessert is often the one course you have to do without at restaurants. While everyone else tucks into a panoply of chocolate-based treats generously drizzled with cream, you are left with either sorbet or a fruit salad. However good the sorbet is, it's still just frozen water and fruit pulp. The raspberry sorbet I ate this month at MOMA's restaurant in New York was sublime but I couldn't help noticing the slices of chocolate fondant cake oozing seductively at the next table. I might have felt virtuous as the neighbouring diners added a bit more lard to their already considerable proportions but I also felt envious. This dairy and gluten-free lark might be my insurance against obesity but I still want chocolate cake from time to time.
Sometimes it seems that I might have my cake and eat it. Running my eye down a menu I catch sight of the flourless chocolate cake, teasing me from the dessert section. For a brief moment I hope for a slice of something evil from the sweet trolley but no, it's a false hope. The cake is free from flour but it has enough butter in it to kill a small horse. The only place I have seen flourless nirvana and been able to eat it is Orphyse Chaussette in Brussels. If you have to sell your mother's kidney to get there, then do it. She's got two and you need cake. And this cake is no ordinary slice of Mr Kipling's. It's a moelleux which roughly translates as molten orgasm. The chef cooks it to order and it arrives at the table still gently swollen from the oven's heat. It's at once light and spongy and moist and dense. How he manages to whip that out of ground almonds, eggs and chocolate, I don't know. The rest of the menu is equally easy on the intolerant's alimentary canal. Drawn from his Southern French roots, the food mainly uses olive oil instead of butter. And he can drop the butter on request with no accompanying drop in the taste as a started of purple artichoke hearts in a basil emulsion will attest. This is a man who drives across the French border to Paris to get the best meat. He sources his ingredients from a select list of farmers who in turn handpick their produce. All this and no dairy or gluten. Eat at Orphyse Chaussette and for once you will not feel like a food leper.
Orphyse Chaussette, 5 rue Charles Hanssensstraat, Brussels + 32 2 502 75 81
Cafe in MOMA, New York