Several weeks ago, Esquire Food scribe (and restaurant critic) John Mariani sank his teeth into the Colorado food climate, noshing his way through Denver, Boulder and the mountains to get a taste of what's cooking in Colorado. And he clearly has a sweet tooth, because he just compiled a roster of the best desserts he's eaten this year, giving shout-outs to the pastry programs at two Colorado restaurants: Row 14 and the Pullman, in Glenwood Springs.
At the Pullman, Mariani singled out the chocolate whoopie pie with cola ice cream, and at Row 14, he loved the poached pear in vanilla and saffron with Gorgonzola dolce. "John came in for dinner while he was in town, and he asked about our pastry program, and I think he really appreciated the simplicity of the poached pear dessert and the fact that it wasn't all dressed up with a bunch of inedible garnishes," says Row 14 executive chef Arik Markus, who was willing to share the recipe, which appears on the next page.
Poached Pears in Vanilla and Saffron Serves 4
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2 cups dry white wine, such as pinot grigio 3 cups water 3/4 cups sugar 1 vanilla bean split, scraped and added to the pot Small pinch saffron threads 4 Bosc pears, stems intact, peeled vertically in one direction 4 ounces Gorgonzola dolce
1. In a medium saucepan bring the wine, water, sugar, vanilla and saffron to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. 2. Add the pears and weigh them down with a small plate to keep them under the surface of the cooking liquid. Simmer until the pears are tender, checking them every ten minutes or so to see if they're done. Test them with the tip of a paring knife. If the knife comes out easily when inserted, the pears are done. 3. Transfer the pears to a plate to cool. 4. Raise the flame on the poaching liquid and reduce by 50 percent. Chill and reserve. 5. To serve, split the pears lengthwise through the stem and core them with a melon baller. Divide the poaching liquid equally among four bowls, add the pears and top each plate with crumbled Gorgonzola dolce.