I first had Clafoutis at dinner in a chef's home in a village in Dordogne, France when I was 17. Since it's a rustic French dessert, it doesn't get much better than that. It had a cakey custardy texture that I'd never experienced before (and was a little put off by at first), and the dark red cherries were surprisingly tart. I ate a big piece slowly to wrap my head around what the strange new food was, and in the end, it became the most memorable part of that meal. We also had squab and several bottles of wine, so that's saying something.
It's not easy to find good clafoutis in the US, and the few times I've tried it since my first taste in France, I've been very disappointed. One in particular was really eggy, almost like a quiche with fruit. When I saw that Amuse Bouche listed Clafoutis on its online menu, I knew I had to drive across town just to check it out. After all, chefs and owners Kierstin and Snir Mor both attended the esteemed École Grégoire-Ferrandi in Paris. Heck, even the New York Times has written about Surprise's gem of a French restaurant.
My anticipation came to a screeching halt when our server listed the desserts, describing Clafoutis as "a butter cake with fruit filling." Bummer. Although Amuse Bouche is a quality French restaurant (and catering business), the dessert called Clafoutis is actually Clafoutis-inspired. It's a good thing that I can enjoy eating any dessert that's well made, because this was a pretty big letdown.
The "Clafoutis" Cake is really simple and delicious. It is a surprisingly light dessert, even when served with ice cream, and it's perfect for the afternoon or for warm weather. Whereas traditional clafoutis is pancake-like, this riff is a tasty butter cake, giving it a completely different texture but a similar flavor compared to the real thing.
Rather than cherries, this departure featured a ripe red raspberry flavor. The sauce in particular packed lots of fruity flavor. The best part about this dish is that none of the components are sickeningly sweet, and they all present simple, classic flavors without being heavy. This includes the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, which had a smooth, thick texture and clean flavor. With the cake served warm, the pair provided a nice temperature contrast.
Despite the initial disappointment, the "Clafoutis" Cake is a satisfying albeit not spectacular dessert. And luckily, the other desserts on the menu, including Crème Caramel and Bread Pudding, can't be misrepresented in the same way as the Clafoutis.
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