Happy New Year! I can wish that to people all week, right? I hope so, because I’m not ready for the holidays to be over (I’m in celebration mode until January 6th – having grown up in Europe, I feel that Christmastime doesn’t come to a proper close until the Epiphany).
My new year started off with a delicious, chocolatey bang. I decided to make the most of my last holiday evening on Monday, and went out to dinner with a friend to NoRTH, a “modern Italian cuisine” restaurant. So-called “Italian” restaurants aren’t what I typically spring for on this side of the Atlantic, having experienced the real stuff for the greater part of my life – it’s not that I avoid the cuisine altogether, it’s that I’d rather eat something I haven’t yet tried – but the menu here looked original enough to warrant a visit, and I’d heard say that their dessert menu was something to marvel at.
I was not disappointed. After a satisfying pasta entrée, I did a bit of marveling of my own at the descriptions of standard favorites with some truly decadent twists: panna cotta, bread pudding, tiramisù, Nutella… and that’s where I stopped reading. Nutella, you say? I don’t care if it’s on a deep fried field mouse, I’ll take it.
Fortunately it wasn’t a deep fried field mouse but a chocolate hazelnut cake with raspberry coulis, chocolate sauce, fresh berries, vanilla gelato and toasted hazelnuts that I got. The first thing that struck me about the dish, as I sampled the various garnishes, was how each flavor, while working fantastically with the others, also really popped when tasted alone. The hazelnuts did not feel like generic canned nuts, they were distinctly hazelnuts. The raspberries were extremely fresh, especially for this time of year. The vanilla in the gelato truly bloomed; this was no “filler” scoop of ice cream to simply provide variance in texture or beef up volume. Ironically the cake was, of all things, the aroma that least distinguished itself – a fairly normal, bittersweet chocolate confection with not much in the way of a discernible hazelnut aspect. I’m also not entirely sure what the term “mousse” is doing in the title, because there was nothing mousse-like about it. But the cake was wonderfully dense, and it was tasty, and when eaten in conjunction with the rest of the items on the plate magical things happened to my palate, so let those be mere observations and under no circumstances complaints.
If my year goes anything like this dessert, I think 2012 will be a very good time indeed.