Meaning “to puff up”, soufflés rose to prominence in France during the middle of the 18th century. They owe their fluffiness to vigorously whipped egg whites and often hide saucy centers or fruit-filled cores. A perennial favorite at French restaurants, the desserts are known for their delicate nature and are typically made to order. Some restaurants will even ask that you request the dish at the outset of your meal so they have ample time to prepare it. Soufflés will deflate when punctured – so if you want to document yours, be sure to have your camera handy ahead of time.
L’Auberge Chez Franҫois, Great Falls, Virginia
Enjoy dessert and a nightcap simultaneously with this soufflé, a revered staple for more than four decades. Garnished with candied orange peel, it is doused with a creamy Grand Marnier sauce at the table. The ethereal treat takes all day to make and must be ordered at the beginning of the meal – so you spend every course anticipating its arrival – but the work and the wait are worth it. Make a reservation at L’Auberge Chez Francois.
Herb & Wood, San Diego, California
Here’s a new meaning for the phrase “purple mountain majesties.” Plunge your spoon into this lilac-hued hillock to uncover a blueberry soufflé. Buttermilk whipped cream and ginger gelato are the perfect complements. Make a reservation at Herb & Wood.
Pikayo, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Do you want it sweet or savory? Made with Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego, and cream cheese, the soufflé is lavished with guava sauce hidings hints of cloves and star anise. To keep it dessert-y, powdered sugar is added. To make it a more savory proposition, they hold the powdered sugar and add port wine reduction. Make a reservation at Pikayo.
Oceana, New York, New York
Here’s a taste of late summer. A purple tower of soufflé conceals a core of blueberry. A scoop of vanilla gelato surrounded by a tumble of blueberries arrives on the side. Make a reservation at Oceana.
Everest, Chicago, Illinois
It’s called a New Wave Soufflé, so we can only hope it’s served against a backdrop of Smiths Singles over the sound system. The flavors of fromage blanc and coconut spring forth from the custard-like dish. Blenheim apricot coulis and Sicilian pistachio glace complete the presentation. Make a reservation at Everest.
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Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell and Instagram @nevinmartell.
Photo credits: Paul McLaughlin (Oceana); Allison Galese (Everest); Lyudmila Zotova (Herb & Wood).