Earlier this week someone told me that Balkan Treat Box in Webster Groves was open. Like the U City Trolley, we’ve all been waiting far too long for it to appear. Thinking the rumor true, Cyndy and I drove out Manchester on Tuesday to find the new brick and mortar location for the highly successful food truck. The sign on the door said: Closed.
I took a quick look at the Balkan website (which I should’ve done in the first place) and discovered they were to open the next day, February 13, offering their old world dishes Wednesdays through Sunday. Ahh . . . at last!
But where were we to eat lunch today? With a gleeful voice, Cyndy reminded me that all was not lost. Cyrano’s was nearby!
On to Cyrano’s
Now, I’ve not been to Cyrano’s since Laura, my Webster-friend-who-moved-off-to-Kansas-City, took me a few years ago. It was good to be back. Besides having a classic menu, the cafe provides a spacious park lot, a dining bonus that I find especially appealing during the winter.
A Basement Beginning
Cyrano’s hasn’t always been in Webster. It started in Clayton with Mr. and Mrs. John Marshall back in 1960. The original owners must’ve been conflicted as to what they were about. They had their Hi-Fi Showroom on the first floor at Clayton and DeMun (now a bank) and the basement housed Cyrano’s, the city’s first French bistro. Later, they expanded the restaurant upstairs. But a kitchen fire in 1979 caused the business to relocate to South Big Bend, before ultimately landing in Webster in 1996.
Some of the signature dishes followed Cyrano’s in their many moves. Cyndy remembered eating the foot-high Cleopatra sundae with strawberries, bananas, and a hard chocolate shell mounded with whipped cream at the Clayton location. It’s still on the menu today. We were both able to pass it up this time, but the Bread Pudding overpowered our resolve.
Later, I ran onto their bread pudding recipe on line. It’s a little more involved then the one that I make. While I use biscuits, this one calls for brioche bread, that makes for a fluffy, smooth pudding. Or could all that goodness come from the crème anglaise made with eggs, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla? The recipe is called Steve Gontram’s Harvest Bread Pudding.
Cyrano de Bergerac was considered “a gentleman, a scholar and the best swordsman in all France.” Cyrano’s in Webster is equally accomplished in its culinary expertise.
- 2 loaves brioche
- 3⁄4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 cups milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1⁄2 vanilla bean
- 1⁄2 cinnamon stick
- 1⁄4 tsp. nutmeg
- 3 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
For the sauce:
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
- 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 Tbs. light corn syrup 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1⁄2 cup bourbon
- 1⁄2 cup dried currants
- 1 pint heavy cream
- 2 Tbs. sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove outer crust from the brioche. Using a serrated knife, cut the loaves into 1-inch cubes and put them in a large mixing bowl.
In a sauce pot, combine sugar, milk, cream, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and egg yolks. Slowly pour half the hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking to incorporate. Add remaining milk mixture and whisk.
Let the custard cool slightly, then pour over the brioche cubes. Toss lightly and pour into a greased 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a sauce pot, combine all sauce ingredients except bourbon and currants and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add bourbon and currants, and set aside.
In a mixer, combine the heavy cream with vanilla and sugar; whip until stiff.
Pour sauce over each serving of bread pudding, then add a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish (traditionally it’d be with mint and powdered sugar) if you feel the need to gild the lily. Yields: 12 servings.
Cyrano’s Cafe. 603 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves. Open: Sun-Thu 11a-10p; Fri-Sat 11a-12a. Owners: Chip Downs (pastry chef) and Melissa Downs (general manager).