By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Oh, to sit in on one of those brainstorming pow-wows where restaurants and bars hatch fantastically batty, press-worthy innovations: "Check it out: How 'bout if we serve all our food-in the pitch black darkness?" Or "Hey, $10,000 martini: Why the hell not?" And now: "Can there be a dessert that's so alcoholic, you'd have to ask for ID in order to serve it?"
That was a bit of the reasoning behind "Flights of Fancy," the new 80-proof dessert at the Commodore Grill & Lounge. Anyone who's a Bananas-Foster fan knows that combining liqueur with dessert is one indisputably fine marriage. Executive Chef Anthony Arbeeny takes this one step further, lacing his petit-four-sized squares of marble pound cake and strawberries with a quarter shot of Navan, the new vanilla-flavored cognac from Grand Marnier. "Originally I thought, Why not? Sometimes more is better," explains Arbeeny. "A higher alcohol content differs from what you traditionally see in desserts, and it holds up better against the different flavors." And because the $12 dessert is so spiked with 80-proof liqueur, Commodore asks for ID before taking an order.
Watching Arbeeny assemble Flights of Fancy is pretty amusing, not unlike watching some kooky science experiment that inexplicably involves pound cakeusing a syringe, he and his staff painstakingly inject into the center of each strawberry and cake square the Navan (what Arbeeny describes as "center soaking" it). This allows the liqueur to seep into the rest of the cake or berry slowly, from the inside out. "The dessert is surprisingly smooth," says Arbeeny. "The Navan combines so naturally with the strawberries and pound cake you can't differentiate the elements in each bite." Though it's called a "flight" because the cake and strawberries are served on a tiny-tiered dessert tray, accompanied by a itty-bitty pot of dipping chocolate, don't count on it to have the same effect as a flight of tequila. "The dessert has about a quarter shot [roughly 0.375 ounces], and generally two one-ounce shots would get you intoxicated."
Damn. So much for killing two birds with one stone.