Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Restaurant Review: Afternoon Snack at Au Pied de Cochon

Hi, I'm Cecilia, and I'm a dessert addict.

Yes, no matter how stuffed I am, I'll take a peek at those seductive little menus with the fancy font promising an array of delights, decadence, and extra trips to the gym. Hubby will turn them down, and I'll assuage my guilt with a "Let's split something." He acquiesces because he knows he'll get a bite or two. If he's lucky. No, I don't share well with others.

Last Friday I had an experience that most dessert addicts only dream of: a whole dessert flight at Buckhead's Au Pied de Cochon, located in the Intercontinental Hotel. They've figured out how to help addicts like me satisfy our cravings and not feel guilty with smaller portions of five of their desserts ($3 each). Executive Chef Didier Lailheugue told me that they were to be passed and shared. Yeah, right.

No, I didn't finish all of them, just three. And I started with a Brie and Tomato Tart (I ate half) and glass of wine. Did I mention I was hungry? The Tart, a puff pastry topped with a savory, chunky warm tomato sauce and brie slices, had great texture and flavors, especially with the fresh greens dressed with vinaigrette on top. The wine, the 2008 Chateau de Sancerre (Loire) Sauvignon Blanc, had nice citrus and crispness, and paired well with the tart.

The desserts, with which I drank French press coffee:

Baba au Rhum (pictured front and center in composite photo):
A traditional French dessert, two little sponge cake rounds floating in a pool of – you guessed it! – rum. One holds a small dollop of cream, the other a raspberry. These cakes were very happy, if a little soggy. This could serve as an after-dinner drink and dessert for efficient diners.

"Calvados" Apple Liquor Sorbet:
The alcohol isn't evident in this one, lending flavor rather than kick so it won't lower the freezing point too much. This is probably the lightest of the bunch with apple flavor that's on the sweet side, but well-balanced. Think Gala or Fuji.

Georgia Peach Crème Brulée:
The custard itself is a little eggy. The subtle peach flavor really comes out with the fresh fruit on the top. The burnt sugar topping was perfectly done, crispy without being hard.

Also a traditional French dessert, this is a puff pastry with vanilla ice cream in the middle and chocolate sauce on the top. The pastry held its integrity and didn't get soggy with the ice cream. The chocolate sauce is made in-house with high-quality milk chocolate. How did I know it was high quality? It's not too sweet – no Hershey's here! The whole dessert worked well.

Chocolate Crunch Bar:
My favorite: chocolate mousse over a nutty hazelnut crust, and topped with a chocolate macaroon, chocolate curl, and raspberry sorbet. The crust had great texture and was a little chewy, and the mousse was perfectly soft. The flavors worked well together. As for the picture, well, I heard the words "chocolate" and "mousse," and I forgot to take a picture before I took a bite:

I tasted all of this under the watchful eyes of a couple of meringue piggies:

There was only one when I left.

In addition to Chef Lailheugue, I had the pleasure of meeting Kerem Kendigelen, the food and beverage director for the Hotel Intercontinental. I'd originally gone in thinking I'd sample an appetizer and dessert, but he figured out who I was.* Hence the dessert flight. He also gave me some history on the restaurant itself.

Au Pied de Cochon started in Paris, and the goal was to appeal to the aristocrats and upper class, but also to be accessible. It was one of the first 24-hour restaurants, and the Atlanta location is also always open. The original in Paris has an area in the middle where real pigs run around. No, I don't think that's equivalent to a lobster tank ("I want that one!"). In addition to the regular menu, there's an oyster bar in the evenings. The glass in the chandeliers is from Italy, and the outdoor furniture was shipped from Europe.

Thank you, Kerem, Chef Lailheugue, and fantastic server Terry for taking such good care of me!

*Yeah, apparently I fit the blogger "profile." He gave me some tips on how to remedy that. Thanks, Kerem!

Disclosure: Since I'd been "busted" as a blogger, I didn't have to pay for anything but parking, and only that because I parked in the wrong deck. The restaurant does validate parking in the ICH deck.


Dan said...

Having been to the original (it's a very old school Parisian place), I don't recall the pigs running around in the middle of the restaurant - perhaps that's from a bygone era? However, the onion soup was to die for. Yes, that means I'm savory and Cecilia is sweet...

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Gwen Pratesi