For years we would drive to the backcountry of Greenwich for an annual Christmas dessert party given by Joan Caldwell. An enormous cut evergreen was set up in the library with hundreds of baubles collected over a lifetime. Logs blazed on the grate and, incongruously, white geraniums grown giant with summer’s blessings, brightened the bay window during their winter sojourn. While there might have been a homemade pie, most of the cakes and cookies were purchased from local bakeries. Sherry was set out on a sideboard, and all that was left for Joan to do was perk the coffee and prepare a pot of tea. Guests traded tales and family catch-ups as we plunged forks into the most outrageous of frosted chocolate cakes and bonbons.
An almost similar party took place last summer following a fundraiser affair for the Garden Education Center of Greenwich. If we had known that inveterate hosts Carol and Stephen Memishian were planning a sumptuous dessert tasting at their home, we would have had much smaller portions of their supper spread of Italian specialties and waited, however impatiently, for the lavish display of forbidden pleasures they had in store for us.
Out came Champagne and apple Tarte Tatin; Pear Charlotte; raspberry and vanilla panna cottas; sponge cakes filled with sabayon or with orange mousse, chocolate mousse or cassis mousse; rich chocolatey Opera cake; butter cookies and macaroons; patés de fruits; truffles; and sorbets. What a delirious high — and all from one patisserie, La Tulipe Desserts — and what a clever decision on the part of the Memishians: Let award-winning Maarten Steenman do the baking so that they, the hosts, could enjoy the conviviality of family and friends. It’s a great idea to borrow to make your Christmas party full of sweet temptations.