Thursday, January 29, 1998
If falling in love with someone can be scientifically explained as really just a matter of experiencing a frenzied pheromonal fit, then why can''t people fall in love with dessert? If those of us who walk upright are really not much different than Japanese beetles and female gypsy moths-going around spraying each other with baby-come-and-get-me juice that might on some lucky occasion hit the bull''s eye-it stands to reason that certain noses are really just sitting ducks.
Just like the thing about chocolate. Work your way through a box of truffles and your body thinks it''s fallen in love, a physiological example of life imitating art if there ever was one. Until you try to get into your tightest pants, anyway. Why shouldn''t the same thing be true when certain folks get a whiff of peanut butter? Or marshmallow creme? Or how about marzipan?
As in the case of a disgruntled Dane I heard about who had become so disconsolate with the absence of almond paste in American sweets that his Master''s thesis became a business plan to overthrow the baking industry and saturate it with the stuff. A clever scheme was hatched to erect giant marzipan factories right next door to the American orchards where the almonds were harvested, instead of shipping them off to Europe where they were only imported back as heavenly confection. Lacking a swift pheromonal strategy that would set virgin nostrils quivering with immaculate delight, however, it''s a cold call, sorta like ice and Eskimos.
"I think it''s a matter of exposure," offers Paul Wainscoat of Hedy''s Backerei. "The more you can convince people to try something different, the more popular it becomes when they find they like it. Almond paste is really one of my favorite flavors. You can use it like vanilla; it enhances other flavors. We cover our Princess cake with marzipan that I make from almond paste, corn syrup and powdered sugar that becomes ivory or can be tinted a light green, pink or lavender. It gets rolled out as thin as possible-that''s the tricky part-and used to cover a French sponge cake with layers of whipped cream custard and raspberries."
"Marzipan is very popular in the Scandinavian countries," maintains Gerard Bechler of Patisserie Bechler, "but you also see it a lot in France, where it''s used as a filling in fruit or walnuts, and then dipped in caramelized sugar." He says it''s especially good combined with flavors like chocolate and cherry brandy.
"You also see it in France where it''s often made with hazelnuts," says Yann Lusseau of Parker-Lusseau Pastries. "It''s not as popular in the States, but I still get special orders for it sometimes for things like wedding cakes." Proof of the pudding that some customers are just chemical reactions, waiting to happen.
Salinas'' Steinbeck House is now open for lunch between 11:30am-2pm, Monday through Saturday. Traditionally, the restaurant had two lunch seatings throughout the afternoons. Reservations are recommended. 424-2735.
The Wine Enthusiast magazine recently bestowed high honors upon the 1995 Paraiso Springs Vinyards Johannisberg Riesling. The wine was named as one of the 100 "Top Wines of 1997", and the Top Best Buy for 1997, earning 92 out of 100 points. Though bottles are hard to find (the winery itself only has 24 left), the 1996 Riesling, following the same model, was already named Best Buy for the month it was issued. It''s $9/ bottle and sold everywhere. cw