Generally presented as a decadent dessert or a sugary treat with coffee, the éclair goes savory, sweet and multi-textured with Le Méridien's LM Éclair program. Executive chef Tobias Burkhalter, who oversees all on-site kitchen operations at the new downtown hotel at 1475 California Street, in addition to the hotel’s full-service restaurant, Corrine, developed a fun éclair flight with some distinct Denver flavor.
Burkhalter has more than twenty years of combined culinary experience in Switzerland and Colorado and offers a discerning European influence at Le Méridien. “To me, the éclair is the perfect pastry,” the chef explains. “From its 1800s French roots, the history and execution of a perfect éclair has the level of chic sophistication that you don’t often find in American markets.”
Burkhalter and his team use French finesse as the backbone, then weave in local ingredients infused with playful ideas. The international hotel chain's LM Éclair Diaries program was launched in 2014 in partnership with celebrity pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini (who has since been accused of sexual misconduct by several of his former employees). After distinctive creations cropped up at Le Méridien hotels everywhere from Mexico City to Bangkok, the desserts have come to Denver. The Hatch green chile éclair is Burkhalter's personal nod to Denver. However, along with this signature treat, guests and locals alike are invited to indulge in a full trio — with a few boozy pairings.
And, perfect for this winter, Burkhalter deems the éclair “a complement to a warm beverage on a cold day” – specifically an Illy coffee, which the hotel serves in its cafe. Le Méridien's food and beverage manager, Joshua Tallent, gave us additional guidance to help spike the sweets. Here are Tallent's three pairing recommendations to get you through chilly Denver days:
Hatch Green Chile Éclair + Pecan Old Fashioned
The hotel’s featured éclair with a chile kick, a kiss of vanilla cream, bourbon and bacon pairs best with this nutty libation made with toasted-pecan-infused bourbon, holiday-spiced Demerara syrup and Angostura bitters. “It creates more toasted notes and enhances the nuttiness found in some bourbons," notes Tallent. "The holiday spice brings a festive aroma to the nose. I felt this cocktail paired well with the smoky bacon and sweet heat from the green chile pastry cream of the éclair.”
Mocha Éclair + Ill’spresso
For the foodie/coffee snob hybrid, this brag-worthy duo goes beyond caffeinated satiation. “It’s a local and fun remake of a traditional espresso cocktail," says Tallent. "I created a ginger-pretzel syrup and paired it with Leopold Bros. Frenchpress-Style Coffee Liqueur, almond milk and heavy cream.”
Classic Chocolate Éclair + Montenegro Sour
Enthusiasts of the classic orange-cacao combo can rejoice with this aromatic brandy-based pour alongside the traditional pastry. “I have always loved the combination of orange and chocolate together," Tallent says. "The citrus and orange notes from the Amaro Montenegro paired with brandy, lemon and the velvety texture from shaken egg white provides a great deal of satisfaction.”
Enjoy the pairings at The Lobbyist, Le Méridien's cafe and bar. While the Lobbyist is open in some form at nearly all hours from dusk to well after dark, bar service, which runs from 3 p.m. to midnight daily, is your best bet for a sweet-and-boozy combo.
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