When it comes to desserts, I prefer subtlety to the overly sweet. Recent expeditions to a much heralded place for "Extraordinary Desserts" in San Diego yielded nothing but a chocolate and sugar-induced headache. Their heavy-handed use of sucrose in all of the desserts made everything one-dimensional and just plain sickening.
One piece we bought with what I thought was meringue on top of a fruit tart turned out to be a solid glob of compacted sugar! I kid you not! I could've broken a chunk of it off, dissolve it in coffee, and it'd have the same effect as a sugar cube. The four of us couldn't finish more than half of this small serving.
Sadly, this cavity-inviting calorie fest seems to be the norm at most American bakeries. Which is why I seldom buy any cakes or pastries from my local Ralphs or Albertsons. I am thinking that if they only just held back on the C&H a little bit, the desserts might actually be edible. But alas, this will never happen as I discovered when I bought an Angel Food Cake from Ralphs on a lark last week, and against my better judgment. The cake was so sweet, it tasted like cotton candy! C'mon! Desserts are meant to cleanse and tickle the palate after a meal, not beat it into submission!
This is the reason why I usually purchase my dessert pastries from Asian bakeries like J.J. Bakery or Assal Pastry in Irvine. The cakes I buy there are delectable, subtle, and sublime. And after finishing one, I don't have to chug a jug of water to revive my sugar-shocked tastebuds.
As far as fruit tarts go, my favorite is the one made by a small bakery in the heart of Little Saigon called Le Croissant Dore. I like their tarts for two reasons; the aren't overpoweringly sweet and they are ridiculously cheap! The tart you see above, which is I think about 15 inches in diameter, set me back only $18 (tax already included)! Just try to get one at that price at Champagne French Bakery! I dare ya!
The cheap price tag for that flaky crust, perfect custard, and luscious fruit has a catch though. If you are foolhardy enough to come in the hours before or during lunch, you'll have to brave the traffic and parking on Bolsa, which, I can tell you, can be hazardous to your health; physical and mental.
And, once you're inside the store, if you are not used to the Vietnamese way of queueing (hint: there is none), you will leave angry, incensed, and sometimes empty-handed. You will notice that in the clutterf#$% of people, they will pay no attention to you, even if you are at the front of the so-called line. While you stand there with a finger raised up, meekly muttering "but...but, I'm next," dozens of native speakers will have come and gone with possibly the last fruit tart in their hands. Here's my advice: Don't be a pussy! Speak up! Assert yourself! Only then will they respect you and sell you your damned tart!
Le Croissant Dore
9122 Bolsa Ave
Westminster, CA 92683