Tag Archives: dessert

Desserts, Disasterously Easten

sugar panoramic eggsPicture a frozen lake midwinter, freshly fallen snow clinging to its banks as brightly colored skaters twirl about, carving figure 8s in the ice, while a protective line of evergreens takes up the background mountain range.

It all comes crashing apart as a gigantic tongue descends from the sky, slobbering over the scene and crashing onto the crowd. In one saliva-laden, fell swoop, the landscape is obliterated.

I look at the crumbled remains of the sugar egg on my mother’s dining room carpet, and think about Humpty Dumpty. There’s no putting this delicate creation back together, either. Now the paper figure skaters look unimpressive, lying among the crumbs of sugar on the area rug under the formal long dining table. Read More…

Interview with the Colville Street Patisserie Owners

Cain and ChristensenTiffany Cain and David Christensen represent a new generation of restaurant owners in Walla Walla. I’ve been curious about the people behind the newer eateries in downtown, so I decided to ask a few of them to give interviews about their lives as business owners, gourmands, and as part of a revitalized, local food community here. Taking over the Colville Street Patisserie in 2008, Cain and Christensen quietly began updating the items in the shop, giving the windows a new look, and making the place their own. David previously was the pastry chef at Whitehouse Crawford and Tiffany was the owner of The Weinhard Cafe east of town, in Dayton. I sat down with them last week to talk about their adventures in cooking, or more precisely, baking. French style.

EM: Talk about how you found your way into the kitchen.

DC: I started cooking just to feed myself. I’ve had a lot of fast food jobs, since I was 14. Diners, French fry stands, other places. Then I moved to Walla Walla. Cooking was something I turned out to enjoy. My mom cooked a lot when we were kids. It was all pretty good. She definitely made an effort to teach each of us how to do it.

TC: It was really a calculated move for me. I don’t like offices. I first started out baking. My mom was really strict with our diets, so I really was excited about making desserts! So that’s how I learned to cook. I just really love being around food.

EM: Tell us the difference between a patisserie and a bakery.

DC: A patisserie is a pastry shop. The emphasis is more on dessert, whether it be cookies, tarts, baked goods that aren’t breads. They definitely have a French technique, but my spin is that there’s no point in just replication.

EM: What is your typical baking day like?

TC: The sobbing starts.

DC: I try to get here at 4:30. Start the ovens, start with things that aren’t yeasted, like the macaroons, the paris brist, then the things like croissants go in around 7. By the afternoon we’re making ice creams and doing assembly for things like the individual tarts, mousse, and other fillings.

Fruit tartsEM: I kind of want to know how much butter you go through.

DC: You want to know?

EM: Yes.

DC: It’s 24–30 pounds of butter for the croissants, and 30–50 pounds for everything else.

EM: Where do you go for inspiration?

DC: Part of it is just having a fairly good understanding of what the classics are and how I can duplicate the spirit of it with a twist. Like the chocolate filled congolais. That’s not how it is classically made.

TC: It makes sense, though. Mounds bar.

EM: Maybe you could put an almond in the middle, too.

TC: He was able to do things like this when he was a sous chef at Whitehouse Crawford.

EM: Tell us what you’re going to bring to the case this summer that we haven’t seen before.

DC: More big, fruity desserts. Crunchy, more crumbly pastry shells. More melon, some other fruits.We’ve also been thinking about a fancy but low-brow s’mores idea, with homemade marshmallows and the macaroon cookie. And we use the blow torch, like for the crème brulée.

EM: Oh?

TC: We had some lemon marshmallows left over one day and we heated them with the blow torch, melting the outside but leaving the middle solid. And we tried them and said, oh wow, that’s good!

EM: What flavors or ingredients are you most excited about using?

DC: This time of year I’m really excited about strawberries. I’m really tired of using apples all winter. Welcome Table Farm has an early berry coming out soon. So does Klicker’s. Actually they have strawberries all summer long.

TC: I think we’re also excited to be making all of the gelato out of local milk from Pure Eire.

DC: They’re the only grass fed raw and fresh pasteurized milk producer around here.

TC: We can’t use the raw milk for the gelato. It’s flash pasteurized. And it’s really good.

EM: I see people bring their goods into the shop. Talk about the environment here for food producers, growers, and restauranteurs.

TC: It’s really changed in the time I’ve been here, about 15 years. The farmer’s market downtown was really small. Now there are lots of young couples in their 30s who own little farms. That’s really changed in the last 5 years here. You don’t have to look hard for them because it’s obvious they’re here. So 15 years ago people moved here or moved back. Back then there was My Grandmother’s Garden, that’s always been here, and they had herbs and other produce. Now there are a lot of places to go, and a nice camaraderie of owners here.

EM: What would you tell others who are interested in doing what you do?

TC: Idiots! No, no. If you want fame but not fortune, do it.

DC: Go find a place you like, bug them until they let you work, for free if you have to. You don’t have to go to culinary school to get started.

TC: Yes, find out if you like it before you make an investment.

DC: It’s good to familiarize yourself with how kitchens and restaurants work.

TC: I’m always a fan of the shortcut.

EM: As long as there’s chocolate inside.

TC: Yes!

The Colville Street Patisserie is located at the corner of Alder and Colville Streets. For hours, check their Web site.

Cake and conversation

Susanne and I attended a potluck for members of her department at the College. We were tasked with providing the desserts, which indicated a few things, namely:

1. They must have known subconsciously to give this course to us, the cake-makers. We had not yet provided any confections to them.

2. They thought something like dessert was the easiest course to pass off, because most people just put oil and eggs into a bowl with mass market cake mix. Thus, they were trying to go easy on us.

3. They figured we’d all be too drunk after drinking Walla Walla wine to care if the dessert was passable or not.

Truthfully, Susanne volunteered us for dessert. But in her defense, she waited to see what others picked first, so somehow the desserts portion of the meal hung around during the selection process. Who would have expected that Dessert would be like the fat kid who doesn’t get called for kickball and is left standing there at the end pushing up his glasses looking miserable? But enough about me.

We showed up with an apple caramel cheesecake and a chocolate budino. I did not get a picture of the chocolate budino, unfortunately. I did, however, capture the cheesecake.


Caramel apple cheesecake

Caramel apple cheesecake

The potluck was nice, consisting of a cold quinoa salad, mixed greens, the standard but perennial favorite of cheese and crackers. There was also a vegetable enchilada casserole, Greek stew, shrimp pad thai, and a “hot dish,” which is verbiage for a Minnesotan casserole, which officially made it A Potluck from Around the World. They did indeed enjoy our offerings, and I think we achieved our goal of cementing a reputation for well cooked and baked delicacies. I know there’s a lot of “cementing” in front of us, but we’ve only just begun — we’re only 6 weeks into living here. There are a lot of good meals ahead of us.

Today Susanne and I went to our new favorite Colville Street Patisserie, and there we met two older ladies from town who struck up an interesting conversation about Social Security and disability. There’s something about a smaller town, perhaps, that lends itself to more intimate talk, for it is such that we discovered one of them receives an SSA disability check. Her friend said she’d remember my name because she lives in Everett, Washington. I suppose I have to get over there at some point and take a hokey picture next to the sign. When the woman from town said she got her first check three weeks after filing an application, I knew she must have a terminal condition. She was smiling, she was enjoying an eclair, and she said she was going to be happy for every day she has left. She’s taken in 37 foster children over the last 20 years, and we got into quite the discussion about how our country handles social services. It was an interesting mix of old-style conservatism (read: pull yourself up by your bootstraps) and an affection for children and their interests that smacked of veteran social worker. She clearly still wanted to make a difference, life by life. She certainly left an effect on me.

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