When the bananas Foster I'd ordered at Oak arrived sans pyrotechnics, I had a hard time consoling myself. (The ice cream helped a little.) The whole reason people order bananas Foster -- the whole reason this post-meal sweet is a kids' favorite alongside cherries jubilee -- is the requisite tableside booze flambé. The waiter is supposed to set the bowl down, strike a match (or pull the trigger on one of those unromantic candle lighters) and set the entire restaurant ablaze.
It's not bananas Foster unless cheeks are rosed over. It's not bananas Foster unless someone loses an eyebrow. This was a fancied-up, Smokey the Bear-approved version of Bananas Foster, and I felt I had been duped.
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"The raisins were flambéed with rum," my server said, trying her best to comfort me. But that did me little good, since the pyrotechnics were carried out in whatever dark corner of the kitchen the pastry chef had been stuffed into.
Kitchens have stoves emitting flames that angrily lap the sides of sauté pans. Kitchens have red-hot planchas and salamanders that could blister the paint off a fire engine. Kitchens have plenty of fiery devices to play with -- they don't need to hold witness to flambéed raisins, golden or otherwise . All I'm asking for is that cool, blue flame that throbs in its final seconds before it snuffs out with a tiny, audible poof.
Of course, after consuming these bananas shellacked with caramelized sugar I might feel a little better. That ice cream could go a long way, too. And that tower of puffed pastry, filled with satin-soft banana cream and other unidentifiable, fruity things, isn't supposed to be included in bananas Foster at all. That's all bonus.
Come to think of it, this dessert -- as heretical as it is -- is actually pretty satisfying. Nice enough to warrant a repeat visit to Oak, even. But next time I'm bringing my own airplane bottle of Myers and and Zippo. There will be fire.