Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Ooh! This ice cream's on fire!"

I was in Minneapolis, MN last week for work, and coincidentally it was Minneapolis Restaurant Week. I went down to Oceanaire Seafood Room (1300 Nicollet Avenue), which is considered one of the best restaurants in Minneapolis to try their $30 prix fixe.

I was eating alone and had great oysters, Australian barramunda, and a panna cotta. All were stellar. While I was finishing my panna cotta, I struck up a conversation with a neighboring table, and somehow ended up migrating there permanently.

Our server was extremely friendly the entire night, and he said that since he rarely sees strangers start up conversations, he gave us a bottle of white wine and told us to prepare for another special surprise on the house.

The surprise was a Bombe Alaska, a.k.a. Baked Alaska Flambé. A Baked Alaska is a dessert made of ice cream (ours was chocolate) on top of a slice of sponge cake (chocolate again), covered in meringue. The entire dessert is then briefly placed in the oven to harden the meringue without melting the chocolate.

A Bombe Alaska is a Baked Alaska that is then lit on fire via alcohol (e.g. rum or cognac) that is poured over the dessert. He referred to our dessert as simply "Flambé" (French for "flamed"), which is a cooking technique in which alcohol is added to create a burst of flames (lots of things can be flambéed). I had to figure out the exact name of this dessert so I could recommend a place in NYC. You can get it at Sardi's Restaurant @ 234 W 44th Street in New York. They have a Baked Alaska (on fire) every day, $22.

The anatomy of a Baked Alaska

The dessert is absolutely stunning visually, and it is incredible that the ice cream remains cold after being lit on fire. The meringue acts as an insulator and protects the ice cream from the heat.

Our flambé was not only a show-stopper visually, it was also incredibly delicious. I am a huge fan of meringue in general (I tried to make it at home, so far without success) and the ice cream was yummy. I managed to eat a good portion of the flambé even after finishing my panna cotta. Actually, I couldn't stop eating it - it was that good. The Baked Alaska Flambé was one of the best desserts I've ever had: (10 out of 10).

Lesson learned at Oceanaire: talk to strangers - you might get a flaming surprise (although it might not always be the good kind)

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