Amid the many low rise office buildings on the busy street in West Los Angeles sat the small wooden house, the last remaining structure of its kind on this street, and the final evidence of a simpler time gone by. The house had a few small tables situated outside its doors, and inside its living and dining rooms had been cleared to accommodate small and medium size tables, seating a total of about 30 people. The house maintained the charm of its original wood floors and peeling pastel paint, but the door to its kitchen had been updated with a swinging one that had a window in its center, a nod I’m sure to the modernized kitchen within.
This was the setting of my long-ago favorite restaurant, Chez Helene, closed for a couple of decades now but still very alive in my memory. I was introduced to this gem, specializing in French country cuisine, when I was in college and I frequented as often as my budget allowed. I always ordered my same favorite dishes, which were presented efficiently and warmly by young servers in crisp white aprons, often boasting French accents themselves.
It was here that I was introduced to a simple and wonderfully delicious dessert called the “Chomeur,” which I had never heard of before and have never seen on another menu since. Available in raspberry or caramel (I always chose caramel), it consisted of a moist, warm caramel cake baked atop a buttery caramel sauce, and was served in its own individual oversized ramekin with a small pitcher of light cream alongside it. The first time I ordered the chomeur, I was instructed to break open the cake to release its steam and pour enough cream over it to lightly soak it. The resulting perfect spoonful after addictive spoonful was warm and pudding-like, with the sweetness of the caramel slightly cut by the cream. It retained enough texture to remind you that you were eating cake and was as moist as you desired by how much cream you added. It was truly simple comfort-food perfection and one of the best non-chocolate desserts I have ever had.
Here is my version of Caramel Chomeur - enjoy the recipe. What is the best dessert you ever ate?