Stuffy, fussy, and difficult to make are all things that come to mind when soufflé is mentioned. However, the puffy dessert is not much more difficult to make than a bowl of Jell-O. Seriously.
Long a menu stalwart at haute French restaurants, the soufflé (basically whipped egg whites folded into flavored egg yolks) has quite the stigma. Perhaps it’s because it’s usually made to order, requiring the diner to put in a request at the beginning of the meal or cool their heels at the end (which shouldn’t be an issue if you love dessert wines like I do). Maybe it’s the pomp and circumstance, the table-side sprinkle of powdered sugar and pouring of the crème anglaise, or perhaps it’s just the image of white-haired, pearl-wearing ladies picking at their ramekins. Either way, with a fine-dining resurgence right around the corner, the soufflé is poised for a comeback. In both savory and sweet versions.
So where can you get your spoon on a light-as-air dish? More places than you can imagine.
For a textbook version, head to Tribeca’s Capsouto Freres, where there isn’t just one or two but a whole soufflé bar. There are three sweet varieties (chocolate, raspberry, and hazelnut) as well as a handful of savory options laced with cheese, bacon, mushroom, herbs, etc.
An exemplary dessert specimen can be had post-burger at Minetta Tavern or for a few bucks less at CAMAJE, a tiny, better-than-necessary wine bar a stone’s throw away on MacDougal Street. It’s an unexpected spot, but Nolita’s Bread puts out a zucchini soufflé oozing fontina cheese. And, of course, uptown venues like the Carlyle and a slurry or French bistros-brasseries (Jacques and Gaston) specialize in the sweet.
It’s suspected that this is only the tipping point in the soufflé game. With the past few years devoted to bargain dining, there’s bound to be an upturn soon. And with that, a return to finnicky desserts.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 13, 2012