Mont Blanc in the Shadow of Mount Rainier

fumies_mont_blanc_500Many will be mystified when they see this mass of “string” in the bakery. Some think it looks like a little mop head, absentmindedly shoved in the showcase. I, admittedly, was mistaken the first time I saw a Mont Blanc. It was at a Tokyo bakery, in the shadow of Mount Fuji. How is a ball of pasta considered dessert, I wondered? And why are the Japanese so crazy about this concoction?

A Mont Blanc is a little cake made with a meringue or sponge base, covered with whipped cream and a piping of pureed chestnuts that provides a noodle-like “hairstyle” topping. As popular as the dessert is in Paris and elsewhere in Europe, Mont Blanc is practically everyone in Japan, whose people love the subtle sweetness and the flavor of chestnut.

fumies_gold_500So when my partner and I caught wind of a new Japanese bakery in Bellevue that makes Mont Blanc, we had to go. Fumie’s Gold is a bit challenging to find, but this postage stamp-sized bakery is sweet indeed. Fumie Kumagai is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and stocks her small showcase with a small sampling of treats. Bellevue’s Asian community seems to have caught on to her schedule, as it can be like a gold rush to get Mont Blanc before they sell out. We had to settle for a cream puff our first visit, but Kumagai held a Mont Blanc for our return the next day. It’s basically a to-go shop, so we devoured our dessert in the car. Quite good, but room for improvement. Based on what she told us, we’d like to see Kumagai ante up and invest in higher quality cream.* And while the Japanese generally compliment a dessert by saying, “That’s good…it’s not too sweet,” even my Japanese companion/critic commented that both the cream puff and the Mont Blanc could have been sweeter.

That said, this is a sweet spot worth checking out, especially if you’re hitting Bellevue for its booming food scene.

*An associate of Kumagai contacted me after I posted this write-up, confirming what she told me in the store: that she uses DariGold cream purchased at Costco. Suspicions raised, I consulted with a number of home and professional bakers/pastry chefs in the area, and universally they agreed that ultra-pasteurized cream doesn’t hold as well as pasteurized cream. Most also agreed with me that ultra-pasteurized cream is flat-tasting by comparison; one person referred to it as the equivalent of Cool Whip or Miracle Whip. Cream is expensive, I know, as I often make ice cream at home. It’s worth the investment. While I applaud supporting local businesses (like DariGold, whose cream I’ll sometimes use when used warm in a recipe) and striving for sustainability, I believe that cream is a critical product in a bakery, and the culprit that holds Kumagai’s creations from shining brightly. For that reason, I’d recommend using cream from Golden Glen Creamery or Fresh Breeze. Costco even sells pasteurized cream from Producers Dairy via its Business Delivery program, though it’s not a local product. I’ve updated this posting to include these creamy thoughts, with hope that Kumagai will feel free to share past or future experiences using other types of cream, and with hope that Fumie’s Gold will become more golden.

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