I received an email in November from the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, PR folks asking if I would like to come to a pre-tasting of the culinary team’s newest desserts. There were further details in the query, but once I read “pre-tasting” and “newest desserts,” pretty much everything after that was a blur. A few weeks later (though it seemed much longer) I sat in the lobby of the Ritz and was greeted by a friendly PR person who said the other editor/writers that were invited had to reschedule and I would be alone in tasting and giving my opinions on the new desserts.
The sole taster of multiple desserts. Hot damn! This was getting better by the moment.
Pastry Cook Katrina Vasquez, Executive Chef Kennardo Holder, and Pastry Sous Chef Jacqueline Veliz.
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I was then introduced to Executive Chef Kennardo Holder who took me into the lower windowless maze of corridors, kitchens, sub-kitchens, pantries, and storage areas that exist below the lobby. My final destination was pastry with its ovens, prep areas, oversized mixer, and proofer plus Pastry Sous Chef Jacqueline Veliz and Pastry Cook Katrina Vasquez. And in the center, on a medium-size island, were five striking desserts.
Though I am usually especially excitable and loquacious pre-eating, the presentation had me a bit dazzled and it was all I could do to stumble through a couple questions (the professional journalist in me peeped up through the dessert haze, at least for a few moments) before zealously grabbing utensils and digging in. At one point I may have had double-fisted spoon action going on but I’m not sure.
The new lineup of desserts at the White Plains Ritz-Carlton. From left top: Fruit & Nut Sundae, The Ritz-Carlton Cake, and the Sweet Potato & Maple-Pecan Crumble Tart; Hudson Valley Apple Cheese Cake.
The lineup included (in order of preference): a Fruit and Nut Sundae with scoops of cognac gelato and frozen orange/pistachio/cherry nougat served with chocolate crunchies and pistachio brittle; The Ritz-Carlton Cake, a dark Valrhona chocolate, Grand Marnier, and candied orange cake with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream, crème anglaise, and orange segments; a Sweet Potato and Maple-Pecan Crumble Tart with sweet potato, cranberry, and marshmallow filling and cognac ice cream; the Hudson Valley Apple Cheesecake with Graham Cracker tuile, apple cider sauce, cranberry Morello-cherry gelée; and a Pumpkin Spice Crème Caramel (top) served with crème fraîche whipped cream and candied pumpkin seeds.
Visually, the desserts ranged from pretty to truly inspired, and regarding taste, none had sugar as the primary flavor component note, an unadulterated sign of an accomplished pastry chef.
At some point during my engulfing, a tall bottle of sparkling water plus drinking glass appeared per my request and soon after, in a hasty reach to finish the last bit of cognac ice cream before it got too melty, I knocked both bottle and glass over in what I normally would’ve considered a dreadfully awkward display. However, with my belly full of dreamy desserts, I didn’t give a sugary hoot.
Look for Chef Veliz’s desserts on the Ritz’s Lobby dinner menu.
The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester
3 Renaissance Sq
(914) 946-5500; ritzcarlton.com/westchester