I should have known that a packed Beijing city bus does not provide the ideal conditions for bringing home a box of petits fours. But still I was determined, because I couldn’t pass by Comptoirs de France, whose macarons I had already raved about, and not bring home anything from their tempting display cases. Our friend Jack was cooking dinner tonight for Jacob and me, so I wanted to at least provide the dessert even if French pastries usually don’t go with Dongbei cuisine. I picked out a mini opera cake, tarte tatin, chocolate dome, and strawberry tarlett. Surely my little cakes will be packed correctly, I thought. And it’s just a 10 minute bus ride.
Of course, riding a Beijing bus on a weekend is akin to riding the New York 1 train during weekday rush hour. Everyone taller than you is breathing down your neck, you’re breathing down shorter people’s necks. You think no way can we fit any more people, yet more riders pile on and what little air pocket around you encloses a little more. Add that to the jerky driving and incessant stop and go traffic of Beijing’s clogged roads that might as well be parking lots, and I was picturing an amorphous heap of cake parts and chocolate smears by the time I got home.
Well, the petits fours survived somewhat intact. I fixed them up a little, snapped a few photos, and hid them for until after dinner. We whipped up some mojitos to use the last of our oh-so-fragrant but quickly wilting mint, and sat down for stewed pork belly, cumin broccoli, and fried eggs with tomato stew on top. (Sino-Latino-Gallic dinners and other such confounding fusions seem to be what naturally develops for lazy Sunday nights.) When I finally brought out dessert, no one was surprised because it turned out I had accidentally left the receipt in plain sight.
But I can think of no better way to end a day than with mini bites from a bakery that knows how to use sugar correctly, unlike many other bakeries here. The strawberry tarlett’s cake was rich and dense, the mini opera had a nice combo of dark chocolate and espresso, and the tarte tatin had a surprising but welcomed rum flavor. I especially loved the mousse that gushed from the chocolate dome from one small bite.
I snapped back to reality when we finally had to tackle the dishes. The next time I bring desserts back I’ll probably shell out the 15 kuai for a taxi, despite guilt about taking taxis during the day.
Comptoirs de France
East Lake Villas, 35 Dongzhimen Waidajie
Rm. 102, 1/F, Bldg 15, China Central Place, 89 Jianguo Lu