22 May 2008

A Puff Piece

It's almost June, so it should be prime weather for an icy green-tea frappe like the one I had the other day at Cafe Zaiya in midtown.

The day was about 50 degrees, however, gray and pouring rain, but I didn't let that stop me. I spent the afternoon with an incredible jewelry designer in the garment district, digging through bolts of antique tulle, dusty velvet flowers and vibrantly dyed ostrich feathers, all the while wondering what sort of antique germs and diseases could still be gripping tenuously to their undersides.

To discourage the tuberculosis no doubt already multiplying on the lining of my throat, I suggested we celebrate our finds with tea and a Japanese cream puff. After all, if it's going to be your last meal, it might as well be a decadent one.

And, if it's going to be decadent, you should start with something savory, just to prepare your palate. So onigiri (seaweed-wrapped rice balls), a salmon bento box and a burdock-root bun were first up, followed by a Beard Papa cream puff for me and a layered green-tea pudding for my friend.

A little background on Beard Papa: I used to work in midtown, in the food department of a magazine, no less, but after I stumbled upon this place (the line of Japanese people out the door was a hint that something delicious could be buried inside), I would sneak out in the middle of the day just to satisfy my cream-puff craving. Even after I started working way down on Wall St., I would race up there and back for my lunch hour on particularly trying days, and devour a few- right on the subway, even- on my way back to the office.

Unfortunately, they weren't serving my favorite type that day: green tea, of course, in which the sweetness of the pastry-cream filling is balanced perfectly by the intense, grassy flavor of matcha (green-tea powder). I had to settle for the regular, which is a soothing, rich vanilla cream surrounded by a crisp, flaky pastry shell, adorned with powdered sugar (which yes, I did manage to snort and spray all over the table at one point while trying to annoy the man who sat himself next to us).

This Japanese rendition of a French classic dessert might just be the reason fusion cuisine was invented. And pairing it with the refreshing, not-too-sweet green-tea frappe is so good it should be illegal.

Once it really warms up, I'll have to try Beard Papa's green-tea shaved ice, too. I've seen it on the menu there for years now, but it's just so hard to get past those cream puffs.


Anonymous said...

Green tea nail polish? That's no way to quit biting your nails...

marva gladstone said...

Hey, that's what I was going to comment on!
Anyway, I second your love of Beard Papa. Those Japanese have it going ON with weird sh*t like that.