Sunday, January 27, 2008

eat and mess

The British couple sit at the wine bar at the restaurant. They eat antipasti and pasta dishes, while their young son devours a plain cheese pizza. They own a local French bakery and prepared foods shop that serves up tasty fare. One of their shops is right below our restaurant in the space we used to have. They call it Allechante. We think this translates into Go Sing which sounds so whimsical that we’ve decided not to ask in case we learn the definition or inspiration is different and changes our understanding. When we decided to move upstairs in our building, they moved in at street level and opened a second store. We are glad to have them as neighbors.

They decide to finish their meal with a classic Italian dessert that we serve in a variety of ways. This night, we have vanilla merengue with fresh whipped cream and bitter cacao. In the summer, we serve lavender merengues with the cream and fresh berries. Nicki and Steven tell us that in England, it is also a traditional dessert served with berries called Eton mess. We think what a perfect name for such a delicious and spontaneous treat.

A pantry should always be well-stocked with merengues. Made from just eggwhite and sugar, they have a long shelf-life, and they make an impressive impromptu dessert for unexpected guests, or a decadent midnight snack.

Vanilla Merengue
cup of egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Beat the eggwhites. While beating whites, slowly add the granulated sugar in a steady stream. Add vanilla when the whites begin to increase in volume in the bowl. Beat until the whites form stiff peaks. By hand, mix in the confectioner's sugar using a rubber spatula or your hand. Don't incorporate it completely. You want to be able to see bits of the confectioner's sugar through the merengue. They help keep the merengue dry. (If you overbeat the confectioner's sugar, it liquifies, which causes trouble.) Spoon out onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake for thirty minutes until set. Turn off the oven. Leave in the oven overnight.

For our version of eat-and-mess (that's what we like to call it now), dollop whipped cream in the center of a plate. Break and crumble merengue over whipped cream and stick broken pieces into the cream. Sprinkle with fresh berries. In the winter, when berries are scarce, sprinkle bitter cacao over top, or stud with candied chestnuts.


Vermonsters said...

Allechante does sell so much delicious, albeit pricey, food.

As a sandwich lover I do feel, however, that they are on the wrong track their sandwich menu. It's not that I don't appreciate the "two pieces of fresh bread with simple but high quality ingredients between them" approach, I just think they don't have the math right. Their too-hearty breads overwhelm the usually too-mildly flavored or comparatively minuscule contents. Many of the breads are actually painful to bite into and chew, even to the point of damaging mouth tissue with shard, hard edges. Overall not a pleasant experience for the price.

Their take-home entrees, on the other hand, can be quite scrumptious.

Maggie said...

I thought it was Eton Mess... Nigella makes it too.,,FOOD_9936_112741,00.html

Deirdre and Caleb said...

Maggie--You are very right that it is Eton mess. I understood it phonetically. I've corrected it in the blog, though I still like eat-and-mess as a title. Thanks for the correction--