Prior to the interview, we were treated to nearly 2 hours of some of the finest, most inventive desserts New York City has to offer. Think part Wd-50, part Union Square Cafe. Tzoc followed the servers out and gave us detailed descriptions of the dishes and answered our questions. We also got a visit from DavidBurke who explained why creative desserts are an important part of his restaurants.
The photos and descriptions are presented in the order they were delivered to the table
Gustavo Tzoc: This is a spicy melon martini melon salad, melon and Szechuan peppercorn sorbet and Oregon Riesling consommé.
DessertBuzz: You can really taste the pepper with the melon.
GT: Yes, it’s a nice light start. [The tasting is] going to be a little bit heavy on chocolate because right now I really like to work with chocolate and I’m really a chocoholic myself.
DB: I think this is going to be fun.
GT: I did small desserts so don’t worry, I know you don’t want to get too full but you’ll still have a little bit of flavor [in every course]. This one is a coffee toffee opera which is actually called “Opera in the Park” because of the little bench, which, please destroy it! A lot of people don’t like to but please do so. That’s part of the job. The cocoa nib ice cream is one of my favorites.
DB: Did you have to take a week long class at Art Center to learn how to do that chocolate bench sculpture?
GT: No, you pretty much have to wing it. Because David used to have, 10 years ago, a little bench and the Brooklyn Bridge and then no other pastry chef wanted to do the chocolate bench–rightly so I discovered!–but then I’m like “alright why not!” and then you just have to play around and see how it comes out and that’s the final product.
DB: It’s got the little rivets and everything.
GT: That’s my favorite part. This one is a fondant chocolate cake, which is a little molten cake that has Nutella ice cream which I just made and is amazing (laughs) and frangelico foam which is a liqueur from hazelnuts so please enjoy.
DB: How do you make a foam out of alcohol?
GT: It’s just heavy cream, milk, the liqueur, a little bit of sugar, gelatin, you make it into the little log and then you let it cool and then you scoop it into a little siphon , you put nitrogen cartridge in… And then you shake it very well and then you just pour it out!
DB: The Nutella ice cream is, you’re right, really flavorful.
GT: The little secret of that is it’s pretty much par-mixed at the end of the day so it’s not like it’s cooked with it [the Nutella]. The pure Nutella is mixed in and then I add it to the base and let it rest for a day.
GT: This one is called “Oz”.
Mrs. DessertBuzz: Right, it has the yellow brick road.
GT: This is a little fun that I can have in this kind of restaurant. This one is called Oz because it’s a ruby grapefruit bar like ruby slippers and it’s an emerald Thai basil ice cream with a little bit of mango and raspberry and raspberry cherry sauce and the little greens are a little bit of cilantro. It’s trying to grab between sweet and savory and a lot of the spices. For me I’m coming from the savory side too, I didn’t graduate [from culinary school]pastry, I graduated in savory, so in a way I am using those ingredients to get the savory and just bringing it into the sweet side. That’s how it should be, bring everything to the sweet side! So just a little rest before the next chocolate.
DB: What’s the layer on top of the grapefruit?
GT: Crème Fraiche that has been made with a little bit of sugar and cream and we just layer it,freeze it and then cut it. That’s how it looks so perfect.
While Tzoc is off preparing the next course David BurkeTownhouse Chef De Cuisine Sylvain Delpique walks briskly past our table like he’s got an omelet on the stove at that very moment.
Chef Delpique: What do you think so far?
DB: Wonderful, [your savory] appetizers were wonderful!
CD: [still walking] That’s it?
DB When I start “savory buzz” you will be my first call!
DC: [Now nearly out of the room, laughs] “OK”
GT: This one is “The cube” which actually is a chocolate caramel mousse with a little flourless chocolate cake underneath and then a swish of chocolate sauce and rice krispies feuilletine (well, my version of rice krispies). On the side are the actual cocoa nibs which are the shells of the cocoa bean where you get chocolate and it’s a little bit bitter so it helps to bring all the sweetness together.
GT:This is today’s special, the Sam Adams special. I got a little beer from them, it’s got choco-block, which is a really rich chocolate cake made with cocoa powder and then I braise Bing cherries in the beer and a little bit of butter and a little bit of raspberry sauce. This one is chocolate frosting and Sam Adams double bock ice cream.
Before the last course arrived, owner David Burke stopped by the table to find out how many desserts we were having. He told us a little bit about his beginnings in cuisine, which were on the pastry side. He explained that people who come to his restaurants often remember his iconic desserts like his chocolate bench or his lollipop cheesecake tree. He is not a huge fan of long tasting menus but might experiment with some smaller 3-course dessert tastings. Finally, he told us that Tzoc indeed works 7 days a week and “never complains”. He said that Tzoc gets a lot of freedom to try new things and an assistant to help out with the line.
GT: This is a little petit fours plate–a little bit of red velvet cake with cherry, chocolate cake [with] a different kind of batter, and chocolate bars that resemble the wood part of the stove. This is white chocolate banana with a little bit of sauce in the bottom and this is a little bit of passion truffles.
DB: I saw these stoves at the party I think you served sticky buns loaded onto them?
GT: Those take so much time, sticky buns. Bakery and pastry is such a different thing. [Being] a baker is not the same thing as being a pastry chef. I give so much props to bakers. It takes so much patience and so much love for it. My assistant, Isabel Daniels, is actually a bread baker which is one of the reasons I hired her because she brings so many things I actually haven’t learned from bread, which is such a big thing, and those little things, they take the whole day so I learn a lot from her.
After a foie gras starter, 2 small savory courses, 6 dessert courses and some petit fours, the Dessertbuzz team headed out. I wondered if I ever would experience a cascade of desserts of this quality again. One can only hope.
David Burke Townhouse is located at 133 East 61st
Phone: (212) 813-2121
Owner: David Burke
Chef De Cuisine: Sylvain Delpique
Executive Pastry Chef: Gustavo Tzoc