Tarte Tatin is everything that’s wonderful about French cuisine.
It’s delicious, elegant, and fancy but also sort of folksy. And it’s basically irresistible, tempting even the most hardened of dessert haters.
Because Tarte Tatin is on the menu at most French restaurants in NYC, it’s something of a litmus test. Not sure if that new local French bistro is any good? Order a slice, and all shall be revealed. If the Tatin game is strong, odds are the restaurant will impress the date, the out-of-town family, or the boss you’re buttering up for a fancy new job.
Like most perfect French dishes, Tarte Tatin is deceptively complicated. It’s one of those desserts that seems simple to make, but takes a lifetime to master. The secret lies in the quality and freshness of the ingredients… and a certain je ne sais quoi. The apples – or whatever fruit is used – must be crisp and (dare I say?) tart. The pastry – pâte brisée or puff pastry – must be buttery, flaky, crisp but never sugary or mealy. Butter and sugar are cooked into a caramel that is rich without being cloying. Once in the oven, it must be removed in that tiny window between raw, crunchy apples, and applesauce.
For all that, Tarte Tatin should only be attempted by the most confident of home cooks. For the rest of us, it’s much more satisfying to be served a warm slice topped with ice cream or crème fraîche.
Here are some of New York’s finest:
42 Grove St, NYC, 10014
Don’t judge a book by it’s cover; this ugly duckling is baked just right. Richly braised apples sit over a thick layer of pâte brisée, with a sophisticated smear of crème fraîche.
238 Malcolm X Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 11221
Good things come in small packages topped with hazelnut ice cream. Pleasantly easy on the caramel, this modest serving packs a mighty flavor on a crisp bed of puff pastry.
The Pandering Pig
209 Pinehurst Ave, New York 10033
Apples are the original, but pears are a perennial cult classic. This Hudson Heights bistro offers a buttery, cinnamony Tatin that’s sweeter, spicier, and good for blustery fall weather.
Amelie Wine Bar
22 W.8th street, NY 1011
A thin sliver of Tatin, topped with vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit. This packs a whollop of flavor, on a flaky, crisp pastry sole.
Pates et Traditions
52 Havemeyer St, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Cozy, playful, and distinctly French, this Williamsburg institution stuffs crêpes with all manner of classic French flavors. The La Memé Jeanette, filled with caramelized apples, cinnamon and ice cream, is a welcome interpretation of the Tarte Tatin.
180 Ludlow St, LES
The French may be sticklers for culinary tradition, but style is the art of breaking rules. This LES date-spot features a flambéed Pineapple Banana Tatin topped with rum raisin ice cream. Sharp, tropical, and mouth-watering, this is a French revolution of dessert.