Chocolate soufflé versus Eskimo bars at Snake River Grill
By Dina Mishev
Several nights a month during the summer, I’m at the bar in the Snake River Grill enjoying its Eskimo Bars and an espresso. I’m not the only one enraptured with the restaurant’s signature summer dessert. The Grill serves upwards of 150 orders of the dessert a week.
It’s not on the restaurant’s winter menu though. I understand this – how often have you craved ice cream when there’s snow on the ground? Besides, winter is the season for the Grill’s other signature dessert, a chocolate soufflé, to shine.
I’ve yet to have the soufflé. I’m not yet certain whether this is because I’ve sworn eternal devotion to the Eskimo Bars or because once the snow starts falling I really only have a sweet tooth for the S’more at Snake River Brewing. And the cast-iron chocolate chip cookie at The Kitchen.
If the Eskimo Bars are like the girl next door – easy going, fun, playful – the chocolate soufflé is Mariah Carey: diva extraordinaire. “It’s a very temperamental dessert,” says Jeff Drew, executive chef/partner at the Grill, of the soufflé. Every day the pastry chef whisks up four to five gallons of soufflé batter. Yes, one of his arms is much more developed than the other. At one point in the batter-making process, it has to be whisked constantly over heat. “You can’t stop for a second,” Drew said. Before the first soufflé is ordered by a diner, the pastry chef bakes up a practice one or two. “There are so many different elements that can affect it – how warm or cold it is in the kitchen that night; the humidity outside….” Drew said. “We need to see how things are working that night before a customer orders one.”
While the Eskimo Bars are more famous – two years ago they were featured on the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” – of the Grill’s two signature desserts, the soufflé has been on the menu longer. It was invented by one of the restaurant’s pastry chefs – who has since moved on from the Grill — 15 years ago.
A few times, the restaurant has tried to replace the chocolate soufflé with another flavor – lemon poppy seed, raspberry, Grand Marnier. “Then there’s an outrage,” Drew said. “The thing about signature dishes is that once you accept it as such and the public accepts it as such, those who love it can’t understand any reason why you’d take it off.”
When the soufflé is not on the menu – say, the entire summer – only about half of the soufflé lovers deign to try the Eskimo Bars. And of the half that try the bars, “they’ll only grudgingly like them,” Drew said.
If the soufflé lovers think their dessert is so much better than the Eskimo Bars, I guess I need to try it. Stay tuned.