Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pretentions and panna cotta

Wild Hibiscus Panna Cotta


We had come to the end of a perfect meal. For a very long time I had held off on patronizing this establishment because it was touted as this that and the other and I had heard that it was very expensive to boot. I got the impression that it was one of those very formal places where I would be made to feel uncomfortable. You know the kind of place where you are embarrassed to ask your snobby waiter about an item on the menu because you don't want to be made to feel like a complete philistine.

As luck would have it, I was the recipient of a coupon for this restaurant. Not at all sure of the atmosphere and deciding that I needed an ally, I invited along my boldest friend.  Lorraine epitomizes the word scathing. Where I might get all tongue-tied in the face of uppity service, Lorraine was born ready to slay dragons. Where I am timorous;  Lorraine is emboldened. Thus, we presented myself at the reception area, armed with Lorraine who with cutting stare and dripping derision was ready to slay any would-be pretentious waiters. 

panna cotta

We were very warmly received and quickly disarmed. There wasn't a hint of snootiness to be detected anywhere, not even when we made it known by way of our coupon that we could not afford the eat there. The maître d' did an exceptional job of making us feel like we completely belonged.

For me the highlight of that evening was the most humble item on the menu. It rather looked like the poor relation amongst the splendour of the other epicurean delicacies on offer. Until that evening I had never before heard of panna cotta which is a simple, Italian dessert of simmered cream.

"What is it? I asked the waiter.
"You know I'm not really sure. Let me find out and get back to you."

After this exchange the chef comes out. He introduces himself but I don't remember his name because honestly the moment he started speaking, I stopped breathing. It sounds like he is singing as he explains the dessert to me in his gorgeous Italian accent. He assures me that it is easy to prepare. He even gives me instructions (which I don't hear) for making it at home. Thank goodness Lorraine was paying attention. On that occasion the panna cotta was served with a blueberry fruit coulis. It was was like silk on the tongue, scented with vanilla and barely there sweet.

Panna cotta

I love panna cotta. It's not a pretentious dessert. It is straightforward and uncomplicated yet elegant in it's simplicity. The pairings with various fruit and spices are limited only by one's imagination.

Click here for the panna cotta recipe and here for the wild hibiscus in syrup.


Photobucket

30 comments:

  1. I love your style of writing, especially in this post.

    The panna cotta looks beautiful. I love the decoration on top. I've yet to try panna cotta, and I may never ever try it because I don't like desserts with that sort of texture. Maybe one day I will get out of my comfort zone and do it. For the meantime, I will just stare and marvel at your creation and your lovely photo. :)

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  2. What a wonderful experience, and I cannot wait to try the panna cotta with wild hibiscus experience. Sounds simply grand!

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  3. This is a great post. Nothing to be intimidated of especially if the waiter did not know what panna cotta was!!
    I make panna cotta a lot; it's really easy. I like to put some coulis on the bottom of the dish so that we all have to dig into the panna cotta to get it! My children love it!
    The best thing is that you can make them with non-dairy beverages such as almond milk or rice milk to slightly change the taste.

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  4. Thank you for this post! I have always wanted to try Panna cotta but it is one of those things that quickly leaves my mind when it's not right in front of me! This looks amazing!

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  5. Memória-Thanks for the encouragement. Still a bit shy and searching for my voice but getting braver:-)

    OysterCulture-This was my experiment as I thought to incorporate local flavours. It was lovely but the next time I will include bits of fruit. I can't wait until mango season rolls around. I plan to thicken up that sauce a bit and drizzle it over fresh mango slices.

    kala-loo - Nice to have you drop by. There is an unusual fruit in your neck of the woods that would go so well with this....look out for that post coming soon:-)

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  6. Really like the idea of the hibiscus syrup. we discovered the hibiscus last year and it makes so many delicious things. I have only done drinks so far. another idea to use it and in a better way.

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  7. love the use of the hibiscus...having the champagne as well would have been over the top good!

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  8. I really love panna cotta--such a cool, creamy dessert. Those hibiscus are fun too. I have a partial jar in the fridge and I love the idea of garnishing with them. ;-)

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  9. Definitely unpretentious, but completely gorgeous and wonderful :)

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  10. Awesome pictures and story :D. It would be new to me too... never tasted it before and now I'm really curious about Panna cotta. Thanks

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  11. i don't know lorraine personally, but i'd imagine she'd be the perfect dining companion. :)
    what a gorgeous panna cotta, a treat i've neither made myself nor tasted. your description and pictures of it are lovely!

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  12. What a great post! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Panna cotta. It is so light on the tongue and "barely there sweet"! What a great way to describe it! I need a friend like Lorraine, too, because I am like you! I hate snooty service!

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  13. What a fantastic story - you have such a great way of bringing us all along! Great pics too. I had never thought to try panna cotta because of my dairy issues, but maybe I will try it with other milks as a gaelle suggested! Yum!!!

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  14. I confess. I had no idea what this desert was until most recently. It's not really a Trini thing....but which Trini doesn't like condensed milk (in this case- condensed cream)? Not as sweet as the sweetened condensed milk in the tin so it takes its flavour mostly from the garnish / sauce. Delicate and delish. Your pictures make me want to dive in!

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  15. Dee,
    Yoghurt panna cotta is just as awesome if you can tolerate it. Oh and you have access to wonderful berries, lucky you:-)

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  16. Donna-Very good description of it.

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  17. That is gorgeous! Romance on a plate, don't you think?

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  18. Haha when I read the name Lorraine I laughed! Ahh panna cottas are divine and yours looks gorgeous with the two colours! :D

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  19. Thank you very much. You see they love this kind of candy and this is leu eat fruit! Bravo for that sublime dessert and we want more! A bientôt!

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  20. Unprentious it is, panna cotta is still my favourite dessert!

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  21. I'm glad the restaurant didn't turn out to be pretentious after all, though I'm sure your friend would have set them right immediately. Love the look and sound of this delicious dessert. That middle photo is stunning!

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  22. Ooo.. I love your panna cotta version! Looks so divine!

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  23. That panna cotta looks like it came out of a 5-star place! Love that flower! It looks like it is made out of blown glass!
    Glad your experience was a good one; i think in this economy even places like that are struggling and cannot afford to be snooty.

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  24. This is hibuscus heaven!A beautiful cloud of panna cotta of pure love!

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  25. I love the way you told this story. And panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts, yours looks absolutely gorgeous!

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  26. Panna Cotta is my all time favourite. I once had a green tea panna cotta with chocolate sauce at the end of an indian feast and i still think of it regularly. I've never been able to replicate it.

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  27. I love pannacottas. In fact I have a matcha and white chocolate recipe I put together that I'm itching to make....maybe when we return from Belgium and Easter break, I'll give it a try. It is actually quite easy to make and I have a low-fat recipe made with yoghurt! Happy Easter again. Love the photos!

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  28. These look so scrumptious I just want to eat them.

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  29. un bien joli blog, bravo !!!

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