Souffles are those delicious, fluffy, eggy dishes that, when made properly, are the best things ever. That is not hyperbole. It is a fact. Toss in some cheese and heavy cream? OMG. The cheese souffle I ate at Le Gavroche when I was twelve years old still stands out in my mind as The. Best. Meal. Ever. What else did I eat? I have no idea. But that cheese souffle was fantastic.
In 1985 my parents, grandfather, and I went to London. Indeed I remember very little about the trip, but I remember that souffle. My mother was a foodie before it was a thing to be a foodie. She bought mesclun lettuce before it was mainstream, served hearts of palm in salads, and could whip up a perfect batch of eclairs without a second thought. So before embarking on our trip to London, she decided she wanted to go to Le Gavroche for dinner.
Alas, there was no email at the time, so she placed an international call to London trying to secure a reservation. Fully booked for dinner, she settled for a lunch time reservation, and off we went. I can’t recall too many details of the meal, other than I ate a life-changing souffle topped with Swiss cheese and baked in a dish of heavy cream. The fluffy texture, rich but not overpowering cheese, and creamy goodness have stuck with me for a long time.
Before we left the restaurant, my mother had purchased their cookbook, with promises of making the cheese souffle. That was 1985. After years of vague, empty vows to make the souffle, I gave up. I “borrowed” the cookbook, that I would never give back because (a) my mom yelled at me for getting food splatter on the cookbook. (Well, duh, it gets used next to the stove) and (b) because she never made anything from the book.
Last New Years Eve, I served the souffle to a small crowd, earning rave reviews (and possibly, a few clogged arteries). The dish was a huge success, and I will undoubtedly make it again. Next time it will not be served alongside a cream of mushroom soup (also a Roux recipe, also very heavy), fish and several desserts. Next time it will be cheese souffle and salad. (And next time, I will take a photo or three.)
Nearly a year after making the souffles, I am planning a trip to London in 2017. I have seen the menu at Le Gavroche, and the Souffle Suissesse is still on the dinner menu. Of course, it is a big decision: will we reserve, and blow our entire dining budget on the memory of a great souffle? One that I can recreate at home, no less. Would the souffle live up to the memory of my twelve-year-old self? Time will tell. If we go, rest assured I would take a photo of the souffle, unlike last time, when food photography wasn’t a thing, and you had to waste precious film and developing costs on a single photo.