At long last I'm blogging about our trip to the Cafe Fleuri Chocolate Bar back in April. This has been a hard one for me to write about because it's caused me so much soul searching.
I used to believe that an excess of delicious treats could only be a good thing, but I have to admit this dessert buffet really knocked me on my butt. There were simply too many amazing treats on offer, which meant I had to leave (in considerable stomach distress) without trying many of the great looking chocolates. And, even with the desserts I did try, I had to restrain myself to one or two bites to keep from filling up too soon. The sight of all those barely touched desserts being cleared from our table haunts me to this day.
How a buffet could bring a seasoned eater like myself to her knees I'll get to in a moment, but first a little background for any readers not yet familiar with the Chocolate Bar and Cafe Fleuri. Cafe Fleuri is the atrium-style daytime restaurant (as opposed to Bond, a hot nightlife spot) in the Langham Hotel in downtown Boston. September through June the restaurant offers two weekend buffets; a Sunday Brunch Buffet and a Saturday Chocolate Bar. We visited the Saturday Chocolate Bar to celebrate a friend's milestone birthday.
Neither Cafe Fleuri buffet is cheap; the Sunday Brunch Buffet costs $52 a person, and the Dessert Bar will set you back $40 each. However, to put this in perspective, consider how little chocolate $40 would buy you at Godiva -- about four candy bars. Now imagine an entire room filled with the highest quality chocolates incorporated into desserts with every possible mix of fruit, spice and oil. Imagine a fondue table, cupcake buffet, crepe station, and sundae bar, with coffee, tea and hot chocolate (of course) to wash it down, and a DJ spinning upbeat music to distract you from the early signs of cardiac distress. $40 begins to sound like a bargain.
The first question people ask when I tell them we went to an all you can eat chocolate buffet is "Was there anything besides chocolate?" The answer is yes, the buffet featured sweets as diverse as fruit crepes and cotton candy, but there wasn't much in the way of non-sweet foods. After several trips to the buffet, many of us resorted to potato chip & pretzel (both from the fondue table) palate cleansers.
The next question is "How was the quality?" which is an important consideration. I think we've all been to so called "chocolate buffets" on cruise lines or college dining halls that were nothing more than five variations on the same chocolate cake cut in different shapes, which is why the quality of food at the Cafe Fleuri Dessert Bar blew me away. Literally any of the mini desserts I tried would have been the best thing on the menu at most restaurants. Two months later I can distinctly recall the bright mango flavor at the top of the "Mango, White Chocolate and Chili Parfait" and the surprising creaminess of the "Guanaja Cremeux with Olive Oil & Sea Salt." Clearly someone forgot to tell the Langham that a chocolate buffet is a novelty event, because they have spared no expense in creating the best quality desserts in the city.
To illustrate exactly how diverse the desserts on offer were, here are a few of the crazier desserts we saw (note - the desserts change week to week):
- Dense Chocolate Cake with Raspberries
- Black Forrest Varrine
- Mango, White Chocolate and Chili Parfait
- Guanaja Cremeux with Olive Oil & Sea Salt
- Manjari Lemon Crunch
- Creme Fraiche & Bitter Chocolate Trifle
- Banana Bacon Tart
- Manjari Chocolate and Gruyere Tart
- Spiced Chocolate Shot
- Paris Brest (Choux Pastry, Strawberries, Whipped Cream and Fudge) (my favorite)
- Mandarin Cremeax with Mousse
- Jivara Milk Chocolate Powder
- Milk Chocolate with Blackberry Cremeax
- Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart
- Blueberry Yogurt Panna Cotta
- White Chocolate Mousse with Carmelized Pineapple
- Vegan Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango
These were all in addition to more normal fare like cupcakes, crepes, fondue, ice cream, etc.
So now that I've listed all these incredible desserts and told you they were the highest possible quality, you're probably wondering why I'm not giving the buffet a full-on endorsement. The truth is that for someone who loves dessert as much as I do to go into a room with unlimited deliciousness and a limited stomach capacity is a form of torture. I wanted to finish every bit of every dessert I took, but I would've been full after two. It felt positively sacrilegious taking one bite of a dozen desserts and leaving the rest of those gorgeous mini desserts on my plate. And, as someone sensitive to caffeine, the effects of consuming so much high quality chocolate were not pretty.
So overall, I'd say that trip to Cafe Fleuri in the Langham is an absolute must for dessert lovers, but if you have limited cash or stomach capacity, you may want to skip the buffet and just go in on a weekday for one dessert. When the quality is this good, the quantity isn't necessary.