Some questions define countries. “Fromage ou dessert?” once defined France. But France has changed. Making this beautiful question obsolete. And the choice at the end of a meal even easier. For that question had shrunk to a monolithical interrogation: ”Dessert?” .
Modernity certainly comes at a price.
While dessert is worthy of a question, coffee never is. A meal without coffee in Paris is a bit like a day without alcohol in England. Something rare and peculiar. If there’s a meal, there will be coffee to wrap it up.
Over the past few decades in Paris, dessert has supplanted cheese; then slowly got supplanted by coffee. End of meals are that competitive in Paris. Recently, Parisians started blaming dessert for many of their own problems: dessert started being too pricey, too fattening, too time-consuming. Poor dessert. Meanwhile, coffee was bragging. Self-satisfied. Frequently accompanied with un ptit chocolat - taunting dessert. Arrogant little thing.
Le café gourmand is a just attempt to reconcile coffee with dessert. On one plate: an expresso and an assortment of miniature desserts just seem to celebrate the glory of bitterness and sweetness brought together. Colourful and peaceful joy.
The assortment of desserts that comes with le café gourmand usually includes un mini moelleux au chocolat, une mini crème brûlée, un mini clafoutis, and une petite boule de glace. Mini and sweet is something that satisfies the Parisian. Mini sweet is mini sin. Works.
The trick of le café gourmand is that though it is minimum sin, it is maximum indulgence. You have it all. Coffee and dessert. And multiple desserts to top it off. Restaurateurs with le café gourmand become the Parisian’s partners in crime: flattering his social sense of guilt, while stroking discretely his shameful gourmandise.
Not sure if you (want to come across as though you) still have room for dessert? Café gourmand in its plentiful discretion is here for you.
It is worthy to know though that while ordering it for lunch is fully acceptable, ordering it for dinner is much more suspicious: what at lunch time is viewed by fellow eaters as a charming expression of a sense of soft indulgence becomes in the evening a form of inability to fully enjoy. By some Parisian miracle, time of day started defining whether Le Café Gourmand had a centripetal or centrifugal influence on the self.
In the end, the surge of Cafés Gourmands in Parisian bistrots and restaurants teaches us about the evolution of the status of la gourmandise in Paris: vice in the day time, virtue at night.
Thank God for long and dark Parisian winters…
Useful tip: Screw people who make you feel bad for eating dessert.
Sound like a Parisian: “Oh ouais, tiens, un café gourmand, pourquoi pas, tiens! Alors, combien de cafés gourmands?”