The art of indulging
On February 12, following the Paramount’s tasting, on-stage discussion, and screening of the film Chocolat, Fleurie chef/owner, Brian Helleberg will indulge diners with ethereally-prepared courses featuring luxuries like foie gras, caviar, and truffles. He talked with us about how he makes sensual and memorable food, which doubles as a recipe for long-lasting romance.—Eric Angevine
Why is French cuisine synonymous with romance?
It’s the whole culture of cherishing each bite. There’s so much respect for how the food is made, how it’s harvested, how the farmer cares for his livestock. A meal is not just a nutritional event, it’s just pure enjoyment; sitting back and taking three hours to enjoy your meal.
In the film, food brings a town together. Is that something you try to do at Fleurie?
When you see people out in a restaurant, they’re celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and they may only get to go out a couple of times a year. Sometimes people propose marriage here. We really want to be a part of making that event even more special.
People often feel guilty when they indulge their appetites. Do you think it’s good to do that once in a while?
Absolutely. Indulging is not just the gluttonous act that it might seem. It’s a matter of really focusing on your food, maybe eating a little bit more slowly and taking time to enjoy your meal. When you eat fast food, it’s all there and ready for you, and that’s the reality of our daily lives. It’s really special when you have time to focus on what you’re eating and converse with the people you’re eating with. Indulging has a negative connotation, but it can be positive, too. You’re really slowing things down for three hours and appreciating little things that you take for granted. Here, you might be enjoying a sauce that took three days to make, and the enjoyment can be in direct proportion to how much care went into that food; from the farm or the garden, to the kitchen. The time, effort, and love that goes into it is conserved and realized during that meal.
Finding that sweet spot
Cruel certainly isn’t the first word you’d use to describe Jenny Peterson, the vivacious personality and talented hands behind Paradox Pastry, until you find out she’s also been a personal trainer for 28 years. “Fitness has been part of my life as long as pastry has. I’ll feed you sugar and then work it off you—that’s why I named my business Paradox Pastry,” said Peterson.
And it’s a business about to take off big time. The custom cake and pastry company, which Peterson’s operated out of her home kitchen for seven years, will open a dessert café in the Glass Building this spring.
Peterson baked with her mom as a child because “there’s not much to do in West Virginia,” but it was an Easter-time trip to Paris at age 12 that clinched her love for baking. “I was too busy looking at the pastries to even notice the Eiffel Tower,” she said.
In college, she studied French (and physical education, of course) and then moved to Europe, where she met and married a Marine. She entertained other military families a lot with meals and remembers when someone told her that she was “like Martha Stewart—just a lot less irritating.”
During a stint in Paris, Peterson attended pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu. She spoke the chefs’ language—literally and figuratively—and after graduating went to work for a top bakery that traded her chocolate chip cookie recipe for their baguette recipe.
While she credits Europe with honing her passion and craft, she is American at heart, and looks forward to drawing from her travels to satisfy our sweet teeth in style. Just don’t forget your gym clothes.—Megan Headley
What’s your chocolate personality?
In the decade that Tim Gearhart’s been in business, Gearhart’s Chocolates has gone from a 700-piece-a-day production to 9,000 pieces on busy days. And apart from a tweak here and there, his 16 speciality chocolates have remained deliciously the same. We asked Tim if he ever predicts someone’s chocolate choice based on her personality (à la Vianne Rocher in Chocolat) and he was more than happy to play.—M.H.
The Purist: Criolla
The Kid-at-Heart: Brown Butter Caramel
The Romantic: Raspberry Zin
The Laid-Back: Kauai
The Gourmet: Pistachio-Toffee Orange
The Nostalgist: Malted Milk Hazelnut
The Traveler: Taj
The Homebody: Maple Pecan
The Matriarch: Earl Grey
The Patriarch: Apricot Brandy
The Adventurer: Maya
The All-American: Michigan Cherry
The Southern Gentleman: Mint Julep
The Go-Getter: Almond Mocha
The Party Animal: Tequila Lime
The Kind-hearted: Vanilla Bean Brûlée