L’atelier du Ninikine, Okayama
As a parting gift from our friends in Okayama, we received a gift box from L’aterlier du Ninikine, with several individually wrapped items like madeleines, pound cakes, financier cookies. In Japan, these items are nothing out of the ordinary, but once we tasted them, there was something different about these Ninikine items. First, they’re very adept at using Japanese ingredients in traditional French pastries, probably more than any I’ve sampled. Take, for instance, this pound cake slice: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/127/334830609_039c44815a_o.jpg
Those large black items are traditional Japanese beans, mixed in the cake. First I didn’t even notice the beans, and I was just happily eating what I thought was a really good pound cake, and then I realized what it contained. Perhaps the surprising part was that the flavors matched so well, or maybe that the flavor of the bean was masked in this form as a sweet. Boy, was I disappointed when I ate the last of this.
Matcha financier cookie: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/140/334830623_0fa682baf8_o.jpg
Matcha flavor is used in so many east-west dessert items, I grow a bit tired of it, since it seems like it’s there in a willy-nilly fashion. As with the pound cake, I was caught a bit off-guard because this matcha flavored financier accomplishes what most of those matcha-laden desserts don’t quite seem to get: balance. I might be that this financier cake had just the right amount of sweetness that worked well with the deep and slightly bitter flavor of matcha. Often, I find that matcha is paired with items that are too sweet, and it just kills that balance. Or it’s the amount of matcha flavor that mingles with the other flavors (I’m thinking about the matcha truffles I love from Sakagura in NYC). I guess I’m still trying to figure it out. But whatever that “rightness” is, Ninikine seems to strike that balance and offer some really good stuff.
Looking at their website, they have a ton more to offer than I received in my little gift box. I may have to make it a point to stop in Okayama next time and get some more goodies here. It also looks like they have a very nice café to enjoy their sweets.