Saturday, April 08, 2006

Choux Me Up, Spit Me Out


The other day, one of my colleagues returned to the office from a little walk to clear his head. "Do you like cream puffs?" he asked me.

I looked up from my typing and felt my left eye start to twitch. "Did you say cream puffs?"

"Yeah, I found this little place. Asian-run. They specialize in cream puffs. Just cream puffs and Kona coffee. The cream puffs looked pretty good."

I love cream puffs. One of the central debates of my life is 'cream puff vs. eclair?'. The WiseGuy was holding a colorful flyer. I reached out my hand and wiggled my fingers. "Let me see." The glossy card was advertising the Choux Factory (now with four Manhattan locations!). I was drawn to the photo of the strawberry, chocolate and origingal custard "choux", a pastry that has people lining up around the block in Japan and takes its name from the French word for cabbage. Each one was under two bucks. The copy read, "Try the Best Cream Puff in the World!" and then "Baked Fresh, Crispy Puff, Filled with Plenty Custard." I felt my heart rate quicken. "No! Why did you show me this!" I yelled at my buddy.

"Well, if you don't want it, just throw the flyer away."

"No," I said, clutching it to my chest, "I want to look at it. I want to just ... tape it to my desk and look at it."

"Okay," he said. "It's a few blocks over on First Avenue."

"You're killing me here."

Well, I made it just under 24 hours before I caved and when in search of the mythical choux. I knew I was about to undo all of my healthy eating that Friday, but on my lunch break I set out to find the tiny shop, which was just across the street from the United Nations. I bought a chocolate and a strawberry choux, to go. Leaving the little shop I opened the pastry bag and dug one out. 'I'll just nibble on it as I walk back to my office,' I thought to myself. I took a bite. I had pulled out the strawberry. The pastry was firm and nearly crispy, the filling was creamy and tasted sweetly like strawberry in a way that was complimentary and not overpowering.

It was a gray day, drizzling. I was halfway down the block. Actually turning to see if anyone was behind me, I stopped on the sidewalk, took another bite and another and inhaled the thing. One second ago it had been in my hands, and now there was just some crumbs on my coat. I felt ridiculous and ashamed but also like I had just indeed tasted the World's Greatest Cream Puff. I could have attacked the other one, but I was now hoping to redeem myself by exhibiting a little self control.

I brushed some crumbs off my chest; the powdered sugar looked like snowflakes on my deep blue coat. I started walking again. On the next block, a fat young guy in a track suit passed me. He winked at me and smiled. I wondered if he could smell the sugar and guilt coming off me. I had to smile and laugh for him. I refuse to hate myself.

4 comments:

bbrug said...

That guy put on his tracksuit so that he could run to and from the cream puff place in comfort and ease.

There's a place like that on Broadway at Astor Place, too. What is it about Japanese people and cream puffs? Is it, like, the antisushi?

Vanessa said...

Waiting twenty-four hours before you bought a cream puff IS self-control. The utmost in self-control.

Joshua said...

I am amazed you resisted anything that long that had "plenty custard."
Though I would question your choice of strawberry, one look at your blog's color scheme tells me that's foolish.
Personally, I'm a fan of chocolate and chocolate like fillings.

Cupcake said...

You know me too well, JoshedPotatoes. I am a sucker for anything pink. If Draino was bright pink instead of bright blue, you would have a hell of a time convincing me not to drink it.

I tried the chocolate choux later, but I was disappointed. The filling tasted runny and the chocolate flavor was undoubtedly from a powder. It tasked more like weak chocolate pudding.

Next time: classic custard.