RICH TABLE: JUST DESSERTS WITH SARAH RICH

As Rich Table has gotten up and running, they have focused on their menu of savory dishes. Sarah and Evan work closely to develop that menu, which changes daily. Almost by default Sarah has been responsible for the baking and the dessert menu. Even though her training and experience have been in savouries on the line, she has also done pastry. So it was natural for her to take on that responsibility. As well, she has taken responsibility for selecting the cheeses for the cheese plate, to be served with grilled levain drizzled with honey. Each evening is a classic presentation of one sheep-, one goat-, one cow-milk choice –  on a recent visit these were Ossauiraty, Onetik Chabrin, and Templais du Fleuron, respectively – as well as hard, soft, and blue.

One of the most popular “bites” at Rich Table has been fennel-scented levain served with cultured butter. Some have wondered why the restaurant charges for this dish when many restaurants provide a “free” bread basket. The answer lies in the preparation of the dish. Sarah and Evan forage for wild fennel pollen. The harvested pollen is used as the key flavoring in the popular bread. Leaven for the bread comes from a years-old culture which Sarah feeds on a daily basis and then readies each night for bread baking. The recipe has been specially developed, and the bread is baked daily; then served warm, soft and fragrant. The butter comes from cream to which a culture is added and allowed to age for several days before it is churned, kneaded, and hand-formed in house. All of this seems like a lot more effort than placing a daily order from Acme Bread.

If you just need a little sweetness at the end of the meal, go for the mixed melon granita. It’s very light as it rests on flavorful bites of melon.

Mixed melon granita

Caramelized olive oil cake with strawberries and miso is delicious and flies in the face of convention. Harold McGee in Keys to Good Cooking says that fats and oils make cakes moist by interrupting the protein-starch structure. In most recipes the fat recommended is butter for flavor or vegetable shortening for lightness. Oil is not commonly used. Interestingly, King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion says that one insurance salesman, Harry Baker, made a good living selling chiffon cakes to Hollywood celebrities until he sold the secret recipe – using vegetable oil – to General Mills in 1947. Since then, there have been many cake recipes developed using vegetable oil including popular carrot cake, applesauce cake, and vegan cakes. However there remains the caution in several popular cookbooks not to use olive oil as the strong flavor will spoil the cake. This caramelized version is evidence that olive oil is wonderful in cake and a perfect foil for roasted strawberries and  miso with cream cheese.

Caramelized olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and cream cheese

Salted chocolate sable with fresh raspberries, sorrel, and chocolate cream is a chocolate lover’s dream come true. The sable is a crisp thin cookie with just enough salt to play off the berries and creamy chocolate cream beneath it.

Salted chocolate sable with raspberries, sorrel, and chocolate cream

Buttermilk panna cotta seems ordinary enough, but the fresh  stone fruit sauce and almond crumble elevate it to a unique offering.

Buttermilk panna cotta with stone fruit and almond crumble

Any one of these desserts is a perfect choice to end your meal. Better yet, share several with your dinner partners.

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