by Kate Heyhoe
To love chocolate... is to love Marcel Desaulniers. Despite his very French name, this very American chef hangs his toque in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, at his long-standing and acclaimed Trellis restaurant. But most readers know him as the author of Death by Chocolate, the luscious book named after the equally luscious dessert he's fashioned out of chocolate and mocha mousses, cocoa meringue, chocolate brownie, chocolate ganache and mocha rum sauce. Not just a little decadent, each heavenly slice contains 1,354 calories. But after all, you only live once.
In this era of "dining by denial," I take comfort in finding cooks that refuse to give in to nonfat cheeses and watery milk—who rejoice in all the wicked manifestations of butterfat: whole milk, real butter, rich cheeses, and dense, velvety, pure, almost spreadably-thick, heavy cream. I'm the truest advocate of moderation and maintaining a healthy diet, but I'm also extremely hedonistic and a champion of pleasure. Once in a while it pays to go a little crazy, to indulge in secret passions, and to slowly savor the flavor of one's favorite food. Without a few high points in life, you're just idling along on a flat, boring plane.
No one sings those high points better than Marcel. He's suspiciously slender, sporting a figure which belies the rhapsody he enjoys with each bite of chocolate. But his ever cheerful demeanor and generous spirit reflect what I've long known to be true: a happily fed person is a happy person. Marcel's secret is to eat not a whole dessert. Rather, he starts with a single mouthful of a sinfully rich treat, thoroughly enjoying every bite, letting the flavor penetrate deeply into the tastebuds, triggering the pleasure sensors with just one or two small but very satisfying bites.
Now, a namby-pamby type of dessert just can't do this to you. It's impossible to gain true swooning satisfaction from a low-fat carob bar or nonfat chocolate pudding. But try just one of Marcel's extraordinarily perfect and intensely powerful creations and you'll see how easy it is to have your cake and eat it too, so to speak.
Yet Marcel's talent is not confined to making everything from sugar and spice. In his book Salad Days: Main Course Salads for a First Class Meal, he throws party after party of full-flavored menus featuring greens, beans, grains, and fruits. He marries such irresistible combinations as tart green apples, sharp cheddar cheese, and crunchy hazelnuts in a sherry wine dressing on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce—classic flavors, textures and colors. Or, try his black bean cakes with tropical fruits and honey-lime dressing. Marcel's salads are mouth-watering meals substantial enough to satisfy—but light enough to still leave room for a decadent dessert, shared or not.
If you're working on a special meal for your loved one, for Valentine's or any day, I suggest you make it a Marcel Menu—pick out one of his main course salads and follow it up with a divine indulgence from Death by Chocolate Cookies, a sequel to Death by Chocolate with simpler recipes that can be whipped together quickly for dessert or boxed as gifts from the heart. Whichever selections you make, I guarantee it will be a meal both you and your sweetheart will love.
from our archives
Salad Days, by Marcel Desaulniers
Death by Chocolate Cookies, by Marcel Desaulniers
Also by Marcel Desaulniers:
Join me for a new look at old friends every weekend in February.
02/06/99—Nick Malgieri, author of Chocolate
02/13/99—Marcel Desaulniers, author of Death by Chocolate
02/20/99—Barbara Tropp, author of the Modern Art of Chinese Cooking and the founder of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs
02/27/99—Martin Yan, Yan Can Cook TV host and author.
Copyright © 1999, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created February 1999
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