Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bubbly, Bon Bons

Cheers to champagne… truffles.

In the 1950’s classic, The Seven Year Itch, Marilyn Monroe’s character is a big fan of champagne and potato chips. It’s a charming combination when proposed by a breathy Marilyn (“It’s just a wonderful party!”). But there are other bubbly pairings that fare better. Champagne and chocolate, for example.

If you’re heaving a sigh of delicious agreement, go directly to the Swiss chocolatier that houses the Cristal of champagne truffles: Teuscher. The Upper East Side gem, which is nearing its 30th anniversary, is smaller than many a closet in the swish neighborhood. Yet the space is a larger-than-life fantasy, dripping with vibrant color, draped in floral garland, and wrapped up like a pretty present that you want to tear into. Gifts like these rarely disappoint.

Along with pralines, marzipan and other assorted chocolates in the display case are Teuscher’s world-famous champagne truffles. Each dark chocolate conical shell, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, conceals perfectly creamy dark chocolate (made of cream, butter and cocoa), which, in turn, envelops the tell-tale caramel-colored champagne center. When you bite into one (for these should be relished with two, if not three, bites), the flavor of champagne is so strong that the only thing seemingly missing is the fizz. They’re delicate, decadent and perfect for the most special of occasions — like, say, today.

673 Madison Avenue (entrance on 61st Street)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


How do you say “wow” in Japanese?

As dessert bars become nearly as common as corner pubs in Manhattan, they have to distinguish themselves somehow. It appears the three partners of Kyotofu, the latest dessert destination, have done just that. Not only does the Hell’s Kitchen gem specialize in Japanese desserts, but they use soy as the base of most of their exquisite creations.

The rotating menu is short and sweet, making the most of fresh and seasonal ingredients like lychee and mochi. Sansho-pepper cheesecake ($10), for example, is made with homemade tofu, with hints of candied ginger leaving a tangy aftertaste. Black sesame sweet tofu with hoji-cha tea syrup ($8) hits just the right note of sweetness. And bite-sized cookies use okara, a form of soybean, to create moistness and texture that would make Martha proud. Each dessert is artfully composed, making it both a pity to destroy and irresistible to sample.

The proof of Kyotofu’s superiority isn’t just in the (soy-based) pudding. It’s also in the flatware and teapots, the white leather banquets and cherry-stained floors, the backlit walls and retro music. In other words, Kyotofu takes design almost as seriously as dessert. So even though they’re adding takeout items to the menu, do yourself a favor and make it a ritual to dine in-house.

705 Ninth Avenue