There has long been a connection between opera and cuisine. Famous singers Nellie Melba and Luisa Tetrazzini both had classic dishes created in their honor, and Daniel Boulud have been lucky enough to invent a dessert for his favorite soprano, Renée Fleming.
In December of 1999, when she was preparing for her signature role of the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Renée was the guest of honor at a gala New Year's Eve benefit at his restaurant Daniel, where she delighted everyone with an impromptu concert. Daniel Boulud wanted to celebrate the diva with a special dessert, so he made a cake that combined chocolate, orange, Champagne Chantilly, and amaretto biscuits. It was a mix of textures and tastes as delicate and extravagant as the Marschallin's aria. And to decorate the top of the cake, they made a special silkscreen of part of the score.
What was originally a five-page recipe has evolved over the years into a simple, sweet, and luscious dessert that is perfect for a glamorous late-summer dinner. This version is a coupe glacée, the French term for a dish of ice cream with fruit, but it is a more elegant concoction including whipped cream and a warm chocolate sauce. Fresh raspberries replace the orange of the original gâteau since chocolate and raspberries are a perennially popular combination (in the fall or winter stewed fruits are fine too). And pistachios add a bit of surprise. When Renée is in New York City she often enjoys this coupe glacée at Bar Boulud, right across from Lincoln Center, following a performance.
Like most desserts, this one is lovely served with Champagne, but Daniel Boulud prefers to open a bottle of Brachetto d'Acqui, a slightly effervescent low-alcohol wine that makes a wonderful pairing with chocolate. And because the wine is produced in northern Italy, not far from Milan and La Scala, it furthers the opera association. Then all you need to do is put on a CD of Renée singing, and you have a perfect concerto dolce.