NOT all food memories are transporting or transcendent like the kind that the villainous food critic Ego encountered at his first taste of the Thomas Keller-inspired ratatouille by Remy the rat. Some are just so vague and distant you search hard for that first encounter only to find nothing, just the hopelessness of a time passed and a record all but lost at sea.
Crème brûlée is one such memory.
For a long time now, this simple, elegant custard dessert has held a special place in my heart. It’s one of several I would name if you were to ask me what my favorite desserts are.
Did I first have it in Paris, at Le Marais, in the fall of 1994 during my very first trip to France, or was it at this chic French restaurant at the Hyatt called Hugo’s? No, maybe it wasn’t Le Marais, but Le Quartier Latin, I don’t remember. Then, the memory would get a little messy — could it be that it wasn’t even crème brûlée I had at that bistro, but Tarte Tatin? All I remembered clearly of that soirée was the fromage du chevre, the weird bug-like back note and plastic taste of goat’s cheese from that deadly morsel I had picked from the plate of my dining companion, Richard, a long-ago friend with whom I’ve lost touch.
Such annoying quandaries of a foggy brain could well have been avoided if I had kept a journal. It’s a habit I still don’t keep, alas, which is not to say that my memory is poor or sluggish . . .
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