You won't usually find me trekking all the way over to Coolidge Corner, but when I was invited to a complimentary cocktail and dessert pairing at the Coolidge Corner location of Finale, I made an exception. I mean, desserts plus cocktails -- that's not something I say no to!
Luckily, Emily was going too, so she offered to drive over. We walked into Finale to find five cocktails and five small desserts at each place setting.
We were soon joined by the rest of our table mates, including Daisy, and after we had a few minutes to catch up with each other, the tasting began.
Finale's Executive Pastry Chef Nicole Coady led us through the dessert aspect of the tasting, while Horizon Beverage's Tim Murphy took us through the cocktails. Nicole explained that she would set up a pairing by tasting the dessert first and then figuring out what complemented it while Tim would do just the opposite. Different people have different priorities, right?
We started with the tropical sunset cocktail and a crustless mini cheesecake. The cocktail was made with X-Rated Fusion Liqueur (a mixture of French vodka, blood orange, mango, and passionfruit), pineapple juice, raspberry puree, and a splash of soda water. A sip of this went perfectly with the ultralight, ultra-creamy cheesecake.
The cheesecake was made with Mexican vanilla and had a light, almost fluffy texture. I prefer that kind of texture over a dense texture, so I really enjoyed this cheesecake.
Next up was the more risky wild berry mojito and the lemon tart. I call the mojito risky because it was made with cava rather than rum, which was then combined with a mixed berry puree, crushed mint leaves, peach schnapps, and a splash of Sprite. Some people found this cocktail bitter. I wouldn't say I found it bitter, but I could taste the Sprite, and that made it a little unpleasant to me. I'm not sure why... because I do like Sprite. Maybe I just didn't want to taste it in my cocktail.
The lemon tart, on the other hand, was simply luscious. Nicole explained how she always uses the best, freshest ingredients for the best final result. So her tart shells are made with a European-style butter that gives way to a rich, sweet tart shell. The lemon curd in the tart shell is made with fresh lemon juice and was rich and velvety.
The third pairing incorporated the cocktail I was most looking forward to: a St. Germain sparkler and creme brulee. If you haven't heard of St. Germain yet, then you haven't been reading my blog because I profess my love for it all the time! In the sparkler, the elderflower liqueur was paired with a moscato, a sweet dessert wine. Because St. Germain is already syrupy and sweet (so sweet it can replace simple syrup in most drinks), pairing it with the sweet wine almost took the sweetness level over the top. I still really liked the drink though.
However, I didn't love the creme brulee. Something about the texture was just not right to me. I thought it should be a bit smoother, but that could just be personal preference. Nicole talked about how the brulee part is a bruleed thin layer of sugar. When she emphasized how thin that layer of sugar should be, it brought me back to my days of torching creme brulee at Flour. It took some practice to get that thin layer of sugar without burning the cream.
Moving on to even sweeter and now chocolatey territory, we found the chocolate bliss cocktail and tiramisu awaiting our attention. The chocolate bliss cocktail was beyond decadent. My first sip made me think I was drinking really rich chocolate milk. After a bite of tiramisu, I took another sip of the cocktail and found it to be exuding boozy flavors, making it less chocolate milk-like and more boozy chocolate adult drink-like. The cocktail was made with Godiva Caramel, Godiva Dark, Creme de Cacao, Finale Chocolate Ganache, and vanilla gelato. Oh yeah, it was that good.
The tiramisu had layers of mascarpone mousse (Nicole, thankfully, does not allow fillers like cream cheese in her tiramisu) and coffee-soaked ladyfingers topped with Valrhona cocoa powder. Go big or go home, right? The cocoa powder adds chocolate flavor and also a necessary bit of bitterness to balance the sweetness of the delicate pastry. Most tiramisu I've had in the past has been soggy, and I was pleasantly surprised at the stable layers of Finale's tiramisu.
We made it to the last pairing to find an espresso martini, made with Svedka vodka (the No. 3 vodka behind Grey Goose and Absolut), Godiva Dark, Kahlua, and, of course, espresso. The espresso martini was delicious on its own, with strong coffee notes, but became a bit too bitter after a bite of the chocolate decadence. Tim mentioned that the cocktail was intentionally made without vanilla vodka to keep the bitternes in the drink; I think I would have liked it better with the vanilla vodka.
The chocolate decadence was the one dessert on the plate I had been eagerly eyeing since the moment we arrived. It is a fudgy, flourless, truffle-like cake with a hint of coffee. I remember trying it for the first time at the first Taste of Cambridge I ever attended back in 2006. The cake can be purchased from the case but is not on Finale's plated dessert menu. It was such a treat to see it on our plates that night. The cake is so rich that I could only take very small bites of it, but I loved every bite.
Does any of this sound appealing to you? If so, make sure you make a reservation for one of Finale's remaining two summer drinks tastings.
Summer Drinks Tasting
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Finale Coolidge Corner
6:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.
$19.95 per person