During high school, I woke up every morning at 6:30 am, left the house at 6:53 and took the train to Columbus Circle. Every single school day. I would say that I miss it, but I really, really don’t. In fact, I even preferred my fifteen minute schlep all the way up hill to uni this past year. No joke.
Since I don’t live that close to my high school, I rarely ever go back to that area. Sure, I have some friends who live on the Upper West Side and now and then I’ll be by central park, but it is quite the rare occurrance. It’s an even rarer occurrance when I choose to go there, but that’s exactly what I decided to do last Thursday.
My mother and I had some stuff to do on the Upper East Side, but we decided to start our day having a croissant at Bouchon bakery on the third (or is it second?) floor of the Time Warner Building. I’d been to the place a handful of times when I was in high school and have tasted a variety of their desserts. I’ve tried the oreo, which I don’t remember being that good, some sort of mint thing, whcih I have no recollection of and the macarons, which are super-sized but yummy. I may have tried a croissant. I don’t remember.
We sat at a pair of high chairs around a small, circular table with a great view down Central Park South and over Columbus Circle. It’s a great vantage point of New York and has the much added bonus of being free. Coming to New York? Forget Top of the Rock, go to the Time Warner building.
While the view was nice, the croissant wasn’t the most attractive one I’ve had. It was not in the traditional crescent shape and, while I applaud originality, the crescent shape is such a part of eating a croissant that I felt let down. Where were my delightfully crispy and crackly edges? What about all the different bits to eat? Why, oh why, Thomas Keller did you let this happen?
After I got over my initial disappointment, I was able to enjoy my croissant. It was okay. That’s about it. The outer edges were practically non existant and provided no satisfying crunch or any distinction from the outside to the inside really. There were plenty of layers that were light and airy, in a good way. The taste, however, was my major issue. It wasn’t that there was no butter (thank goodness!) it was just that it felt like salt and sugar were having a competition to see which taste could out flavor one another on my tongue. If a croissant can be too flavorful, this one would be that croissant. I liked the texture, but could gladly pass on the flavor party.
Does that mean I like bland croissants? Well, no. I would argue that the perfect croissant is the opposite of bland. In fact, I would call this croissant bland. It was the single dull note of SUGAR/SALT that was so boring. We taste those all the time, the American taste bud expects that. So yeah, it tastes good on one level, but it’s how we expect something to taste. A brilliant croissant uses butter (and a bit of sugar and salt) to create a subtle flavor party that is subdued. If this croissant causes a mess when popping the cork off champagne, my ideal croissant has gone to finishing school and knows the proper way to open champagne.
Bouchon was certainly a throwback, but, once again, I don’t feel like I need to go back.
Do you prefer strong or subtle flavors?