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CREME BRULEE QUEST

By
Mark Glass - Click to Enlarge
Mark Glass

Mark Glass is a journalist trapped in a lawyer's body, balancing his practice with
writing and broadcasting on travel, entertainment and professional sports.  

San Francisco is beloved by many, for reasons as diverse as the array its attractions, and the global composition of its visitors. Besides the obvious aesthetic, climatic and recreational allure of this favored destination, I discovered another "perk" years ago. Hayes Street Grill's crème brulee hooked me on this ultimate dessert indulgence. Wherever I go, if it's on the menu, I'll order it, in the hopes of matching or topping Hayes Street's. After dozens of tastings on four continents, they're still batting 1.000 - no losses, no ties.

Mmmmm, The stark contrast of creamy chilled custard, beneath a crisp shell of caramelized sugar, served in a short, round ceramic dish. Some establishments cover theirs with fruit; others mix flavors ranging from mocha to pumpkin, right into the custard. For this vanillaholic purist, gimmicks of that nature are, at best, a distraction; more accurately, a sacrilege. Garnishing a crème brulee is like plunking ice cubes into your glass of Napa Valley's finest merlot.

Recently I flew to a large family reunion weekend in the City by the Bay. Relatives flocked from all over the US for the occasion. One cousin was hosting, and the rest of us will do anything for a couple of free meals, including put up with each other. Actually, they're a wonderful collection of characters I'd choose to hang out with, even if we weren't related. But let's keep that as our little secret.

On Sunday evening - our last night in California - a group decided on a Japanese place for dinner. I agreed, but only on the condition that we hasten thereafter to Hayes Street, so all could join me in one of these unparalleled dessert experiences. I was eager to introduce my loved ones to this discovery.

When dinner ended, and we were all allowed to resume contact with our shoes, six of us piled into my rental car, with five more to follow when they could hail a taxi. My posse reached this personal mecca around 8:30. As we entered, there were hardly any customers at the tables, and a group of employees sitting around the bar. I didn't know they closed early on Sundays, because I'd always gone there at the beginning of each visit, to kick off the trip on a high note. Alas, this time we were too late. Six crestfallen Midwesterners shuffled dejectedly from the premises.

We stood on the sidewalk in front for a few minutes, awaiting the cabful of cousins who were to share our disappointment. The restaurant door opened, and one young woman came out, bearing a single crème brulee, and six dainty spoons. There was just one left in the kitchen, she said, and it was her pleasure to give me this chance to show the rest that I knew my stuff when I hype a dessert, as I'd done throughout the weekend.

Needless to say, my credibility was, if anything, enhanced by the responses of these initiates. I am slightly ashamed to admit that we polished it off before the other five arrived. One dessert - even a great one - can only stretch so far.

Several trips around the hemisphere, and numerous crème brulees later, Hayes Street is still the champ. But I may have to question my objectivity. Each new competitor not only has to live up to the dessert, but the fond memory of Deja the dessert chef, who so graciously fed some needy pilgrims on that balmy San Francisco evening.

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Email:  lotekguy@swbell.net (Mark Glass)

Mark Glass is a Mark Glass is a freelance writer and broadcaster, based in St. Louis, covering travel, entertainment and professional sports for his readers and listeners. Mark was travel editor for "St. Louis Connoisseur", and now have that role for "Life in the Midwest", based in Indianapolis. For the last fifteen years, he's written and broadcast features on travel, entertainment and sports, while maintaining his law practice in the St. Louis area. (More about this writer.)

 

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