Every year between Christmas and New Year's, I visit Le Bernardin, sit at the bar, and enjoy the three-course City Harvest Lunch Menu. For 45 ($5 goes to the charity) you get three real courses with items plucked right from the tasting menus, not just some pared-down Restaurant Week versions. Often I'll order an extra dessert just to see what kinds of things they're working on. I've never been disappointed in the past and I wasn't during this visit either.
Executive Pastry Chef Laurie Jon Moran has been at the helm of Le Bernardin for almost two years now and he seems to be taking a few more risks with his desserts. His Pistachio-Passion Fruit ($22 a la carte) is a fine dining dessert with some advanced techniques, but it has a whimsical side, too.
The central component of this dessert is a glossy pistachio mousse in the shape of a mushroom crown with a subtly earthy, nutty flavor. Moran shows off his technicals skills by somehow incorporating a sealed pocket of molten passion fruit gelee inside the mousse. The tart passion fruit is a great compliment to the sweet mousse.
The mousse sits on top of a cakey pistachio financier separated by a delicate pistachio sugar tuile. When you take in the soft mousse and a bit of crackily tuile together, the textures are like a spoonful of good crème brûlée. A lightly sweetened quenelle of pistachio ice cream and a garnish of tangy candied Meyer lemon peel strips round out the plate.
About the author: Native New Yorker Niko Triantafillou is the founder of DessertBuzz.com his photographs of desserts and pastry chefs have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Dessert Professional Magazine. He is an unabashed foodie nerdling. Follow him on Twitter at @DessertBuzz.