Funny how life’s events move in orbits and return again at various times and ways. Today (December 5) is such a day, as it is Sacher Torte Day. Coincidentally, today our maître chocolatier Patrick Peeters was hand decorating Sacher Torte Petit Fours on the enrobing machine. When I told him today is National Sacher Torte Day, he chuckled in slight disbelief, asking, “is there such a day?” and checking my eyes for a twinkle.
Many, many years ago as a young man, I traveled Europe in the typical knapsack-on-my-back fashion. Even then at the age of 21, I was reading guidebooks and planning itinerary around taste experiences. Having read that the world's best chocolate cake was made and served in Vienna, I found my way there. There in a very nice hotel and a very expensive café for my young man’s wallet, I sat and ate what was to be a great cake. It was great in that I was 100% present to experience it, for not only was it so expensive, and I wanted to remember in a way I could recall all its nuances years later. I also lingered because Vienna was bone cold that time of year, and especially that year, and the café was warm and had a wonderful aroma, din and feeling of life is grand.
Years later as still a young man but a little older, living in California, and working as a tea-taster of sorts, I had spare time to pursue the making of this great cake and talked my way into the kitchen of the best eatery in town. Could I apprentice in the kitchen and learn the kitchen craft and focus on making one thing, Sacher Torte, I asked and the restaurateur accepted. Soon enough, I was making way more cakes than I thought possible and I was up to my elbows in pots and pans; some of the line cooks piled on and took delight in my arrangement. I of course vowed to make the best of it and made some good, but not very good, cakes; but not as good as I remember. I think this work as apprentice pastry chef served me well and was a formative experience in shaping what today is a substantial taste memory bank in chocolate flavor.
Full circle, we have Sacher Torte made by Chef Patrick Peeters in Petit Fours. Yes, he made a limited edition box set of 16 exquisite petit four cakes. These will be internet-only sales, and you will find them up on the website soon.
I have eaten 8 so far today and still hungry for more. Under the influence of 8, I must say I have a feeling that life is grand and I am willing to believe Sacher Torte may be the best chocolate cake in the world.