In 1980, while in college in Santa Barbara, California, Hubby-to-be and I discovered a wonderful french bistro called Mousse Odile’s. Opened by two french-born sisters, it served such classics as Salade Nicoise and Quiche Lorraine amongst many other delectable dishes, but the true pièce de résistance for Hubby-to-be was Odile’s raspberry tart. It was not too rich and had the perfect combination of sweet cream and tart berries.
One summer day we went for lunch and they had run out of his tart. Not good. After that he took to calling ahead to reserve his portion. Often, he just ordered the whole tart and took the rest home. So it was of no surprise to me that in planning a trip up to the family cabin in Inverness in the hilly woods near Tomales Bay, Hubby-to-be decided raspberry tart would be the perfect thing for dessert. He ordered and picked up not one but two tarts and off we went. We were about half way into the journey when Hubby-to-be exclaimed “Moscato Amabile!” Apparently, wine was on his mind.
Having worked the past two years at the original gourmet shop in Santa Barbara called Brinks Vintage Shop, wine was often on his mind. He had been thinking the whole trip about what wine to serve with the tarts and it suddenly came to him. Louis Martini made a special spritzy white wine that was slightly sweet and perfectly balanced, called Moscato Amabile. It was only available at the winery, had to remain chilled from the time of bottling until serving, and was only available certain times of the year. Being in the wine business, he realized during that drive that it was the season for Moscato Amabile.
The fact that Louis Martini Winery was two hours out of the way, in each direction, was insignificant. It was the perfect wine and we had to go to the winery to get some. We were young, somewhat carefree, and we had the time. So we drove to Napa and visited the Louis Martini Winery to purchase our Moscato Amabile and it was indeed the perfect wine to compliment our dessert. Our friends who joined us for the weekend loved the tart and the wine, and most of all they loved the story of our adventure to Napa that afternoon.
Sadly, shortly after we moved back to Santa Barbara in 2000, Odile’s closed it’s doors and Hubby’s raspberry tart was gone for good. I tried a few times to make the tart but it was never quite right. I am not very skilled with crusts and just couldn't perfect the pastry cream; it was always too sweet or too almondy or too lemony or too something. But in 2003, Chef Chris fell into our lives.
Chris is a personal chef I met through my friend Merryl, the quintessential dinner party hostess and a stellar event planner (www.merrylbrownevents.com). I met Chris a few times at Merryl's and he was funny, smart, casual, a joy to be around, and his cooking was affordable and delicious. So when Merryl offered for me to take over her coveted Friday night reservation with Chris, I thought it was a splendid idea. My three children were very active, Hubby was traveling a lot during the week, and it was getting harder and harder to find time to entertain. Chef Chris meant every Friday night we could have a wonderful and relaxing dinner.
Chris quickly became part of our family and we were thoroughly enjoying his cooking when Hubby’s birthday came along. August 15th. Same as Julia Child. We were having dinner with Julia for their joint birthdays so we asked Chris to do the cooking. Much like me, Chris didn’t stress over things and cooking for Julia did not rattle him one bit. His only concern was if he should bake a cake. I told him the only dessert Hubby likes is raspberry tart and relayed the story of Mousse Odile’s tart and how it tasted. He said he would work something out. Much to my surprise, at the end of a lovely dinner, Chef Chris presented a raspberry tart that made Hubby (and Julia) smile. Hubby had found his replacement for Odile’s tart.
After many dinners with Chris, and many raspberry tarts, Chris left to work full-time elsewhere. Sad to see him go, we of course wished him well. And then I asked him for the recipe for the raspberry tart. He generously explained the beautiful simplicity of the crust and the approximate measurements of the cream. I have made it dozens of times over the years and it does seem practically foolproof. It is not the same as the lovely french tart from Mousse Odile. The french do pastry so well and Odile with her sister Yvonne had mastered french pastry. But I can make this tart with success. I can make it without much effort, it looks beautiful, Hubby loves it, and most everyone who tries it loves it. Thank you Chef Chris.
"Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." - Voltaire
Chef Chris’ Raspberry Tart
1 1/4 cups flour 1/2 tsp salt 6 T confectioners (powdered) sugar, divided 10 T butter, cut into pieces 8 oz marscapone 1 T. heavy cream 3 punnets fresh raspberries Special Equipment: Fluted French tart pan with removable bottom ($10 at kitchen stores)
Put flour, salt and 3 T powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse once or twice. With processor running, add butter one tablespoon at a time. Process just until dough just comes together and spins in a lump. Press dough with fingers and palms into a 10” tart pan. Prick dough 5-6 times with a fork. Bake blind (with nothing in it) for about 17-18 minutes at 350 degrees or until just barely brown. Cool completely. In a bowl, cream the marscapone and cream until smooth. Sift in 3 T of powdered sugar and mix well. More sugar or cream can be added until the consistency and taste are to your liking. It should be thick but easily spreadable. Spread marscapone mixture evenly on top of the tart shell all the way to the edges. Carefully place fresh raspberries on top of the tart one berry at a time until all cream is covered. If you are in a hurry, raspberries can be sprinkled over the cream, using more berries and mounding them up for a rustic looking tart. Either way is beautiful and delicious.
Gluten-Free? Try my Raspberry Tart san Gluten.