Thursday, December 31, 2009
Thank You, Mr. Dupal
I imagine that there are people who don't like butter. I am not sure I have met any, and I doubt that you will find many here at Ceci-cela. I love writing about a place like this - there is no worry that I will disappoint you. Along with other places like Cones, the Doughnut Plant, Eileen's Cheesecake, Raffetto's, and Il Laboratorio del Gelato, this place uses only the finest ingredients and is run by a hands-on, uncompromising artisan, Chef Laurent Dupal.
Ceci-cela is only a couple of blocks from my office - we began patronizing this pastry shop long ago, and it quickly became our regular place to get our cakes for birthday celebrations in our company.
Ceci-cela was started in 1991 by master chef Laurent Dupal, now partnered with longtime friend and celebrated restaurateur Georges Forgeois. Dupal is, as would be expected, a well-trained and experienced French chef - read about him here.
The shop is located at 55 Spring Street in NoLita (North of Little Italy). The secret of the survival of the character of neighborhoods like this is the smaller tenement buildings, which permit limited retail space and prohibit larger stores or retail chains. (although rents do escalate and there are changing tenancies)
The exterior of this patisserie is quaint but unassuming. Inside it is a tiny narrow place with a Parisian ambiance. Congestion is common as regular patrons jockey for position in line. There is a cafe area in the rear for those wanting to eat on the premises. The bakery also does a wholesale business.
Everything I have had here is superb. You will find a full gamut of French pastries, cakes and tarts: éclairs, Napoleons, crème brulée, tartes, chocolate truffles, all manner of croissant, brioche, danishes, and their classic tuiles. From the New York Times:
TRADITIONALLY, the tuile, the French almond cookie, is a curved concoction of butter, sugar, flour and almonds that is named after the rounded roof tiles found throughout France. The cookie bakes flat, and as it comes out of the oven, warm and pliable, it is wrapped around a rolling pin to give it the shape. But the tuile from Ceci-Cela is different.
''I make them flat,'' said Laurent Dupal, the chef and co-owner of the patisserie at 55 Spring Street, ''because they are very, very fragile.''
In the world of pastry making, fragility is often a sign of excellence.
The Ceci-Cela tuile is so buttery, and so delicate, that the moment you put it into your mouth, and touch it with your tongue, it begins to crumble into crisp, buttery, almond-flavored morsels. A near-perfect cookie, it can stand alone and be eaten by itself, one after another, until a half-pound box is suddenly empty, or used as an accompaniment to a simple summer dessert of fresh strawberries, mangoes or Asian pear.
The secret of its evanescence is to use ''as little flour as possible,'' Mr. Dupal said, adding, ''The way we make them is to whip the butter and the sugar and make them very light. After that we incorporate the egg whites, one by one, and then a little bit of flour, and finally the minced almonds.''
Our office favorite is the Paradise Cake - a lady finger and vanilla genoise cake with fresh tropical fruit mix. See the menu here.
I know after you sample their delectables, I will look like an expert in discovering the best kept secrets of New York City. However, let's give credit where it is due. Thank you, Mr. Dupal :)