By The Glass
A perfect pairing for the perfect puff
AS MY household's official "wino" and aspiring foodie, I read my fair share of related periodicals. So I did catch Saveur magazine's mention of the Liliha Bakery Coco Puff in the May 2007 issue. As I live up the road from the bakery, I was happy to see word spread about this island favorite.
I don't recall exactly when I devoured my first Coco Puff. I was surprised to read that the bakery has only been making them since 1990, as these tasty treats seem embedded in my childhood memories.
With nearly 6,000 Coco Puffs consumed daily, it seemed fitting to pay some form of tribute to this local culinary icon. So being the "wino" I am, I decided to find the perfect dessert wine pairing for the Coco Puff. Before heading to work one day, I armed myself with just short of a dozen puffs (you know how it is ... a couple must've fallen out of the box on the drive over).
German riesling and French chenin blanc from the Loire Valley are my passions and usually my top picks for sweet wines. However, a classic sauternes seemed best for the job at hand. These legendary wines from Bordeaux in France are made from sauvignon blanc and semillon grapes.
Chateau D'Yquem 2001 ($350 half-bottle): I started with liquid perfection, rated a full 100 points by wine critic Robert Parker. The wine was scented with orange marmalade, jasmine, peaches, apricots, crème brulee ... it had an ethereal quality with a hint of nutmeg. Full, rich, crisp and bright, its elegance lifted the flavors. Although the finish seemed short, the flavors lingered on the palate for more than two minutes.
Tasting the wine with the Coco Puff's chantilly frosting alone, butter, cream and vanilla tones emerged. With the cocoa filling only, a warm balance of citrus and apricots pushed through. Tasted all together, the fruit warmly caressed the combination with a silky finish.
Chateau Roumieu Lacoste "Cuvee Andre" 2001 ($40 half-bottle): A wine I highly recommend, scented with hints of apricot, nectarine, lilikoi, and vanilla. It's refreshing with ripe stone fruits, a mélange of citrus zests, bright acidity, mint, liquid caramel and a rich, vibrant finish. Tasted with the frosting alone, it emphasized buttery, vanilla, apricot and citrus tones. With the cocoa filling, the rich apricot flavors took charge. Tasted all together, there was more emphasis on the fruits (ripe apricots, orange) and a velvety finish.
Chateau Raymond Lafon 1987 ($115 full bottle): At 20 years of age, a great sauterne is just beginning its second life. This wine offers insight into this region's signature mature flavors. Flavors of honey, dried apricots, raspberry, vanilla, toffee and hazelnut praline were enticing, with a medium rich finish. Tasted with the frosting, this wine allowed the flavors to show through. With the filling, chocolate flavors were dominant. Tasted all together, a nice play of flavors with hidden accents of li hing mui, prune and mocha made for an interwoven lacy finish.
I understand Liliha Bakery's Coco Puff recipe is a closely guarded secret of the owners, the Takakuwa family. Although my experiments in the kitchen can be quite spectacular, according to my daughter, the puff is one that I dare not attempt to replicate. Satisfaction lies in the fact that I can get my fix just down the road, 24 hours a day, six days a week.
Kevin Toyama is at sommelier at the Halekulani and an advanced certificate holder from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
This column is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org