Dessert First

Dessert in Honor of Julia Child at Petite Maison Birthday Dinner

This past Wednesday marked what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, and several restaurants in town (and many more throughout the country) served dinner in her honor inspired from the countless French recipes she brought to home cooks in America. The three-course prix fixe dinner at Petite Maison not only offered some delicious food at an unbeatable price, but also gave us a chance to taste three desserts in one sitting -- always a good excuse to visit a restaurant.

Two of the three miniature desserts offered are on Petite Maison's regular dinner menu: soufflé de Grand Marnier and Nutella crème brûlée. The third selection was what could have been one large bite's worth of crêpes suzette, although I managed to savor my portion in small pieces. At least the flavor was big; I scraped every bit of sauce from the plate because it was that good, tasting mostly of butter with a touch of caramel and the perfect balance of brightness from the orange. (Julia's recipe calls for orange-infused butter.)

Many would say that any dessert with Nutella -- or any food with Nutella, period -- is bound to be amazing. And somehow the magic ingredient makes Petite Maison's crème brûlée taste exactly like rich brownie batter, a fantastical feat for sure. However, not all good things can come in small packages, and that's certainly true for this dessert. The sugar on the top wasn't fully cooked, resulting in a lack of crispiness plus a grainy texture throughout every bite. While the flavor was spot on and the custard was well made, overall the finishing touches just weren't right. It's also difficult for custard to feel sumptuous and creamy when the serving size is only a half centimeter thick.

Since the crêpes suzette disappeared rather quickly and the crème brûlée was super thin, the focus of this dessert course was the soufflé. And rightfully so. After bringing our final course to the table, the server carefully imprinted a cross in the top of the soufflé to pour vanilla crème anglaise inside. The soufflé has an extremely delicate flavor and texture, soft and fragrant. The natural flavor of the eggs, sometimes too strong, melded really nicely with the vanilla and orange liqueur. Best of all, the timing on pulling these mini soufflés out of the oven was exactly right, creating a fluffy exterior and creamy center, which is only enhanced by the crème angalise.

Sad that you missed this special dinner? Although the incredible soufflé won't be included, another limited time three-course dinner is coming up that will be priced at only $38. Celebrate Petite Maison's third anniversary from Tuesday, August 21 to Sunday, August 26, with multiple choices for appetizer and entrée followed by a slice of "It's My Party and I'll Bake What I Want To" birthday cake. And if that's not enough, why not finished it off with an order of soufflé de Grand Marnier from the regular menu, large enough to split between two, but definitely good enough to make you forget the concept of sharing.

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Dominique Chatterjee