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Food & Drink

Dominique Ansel turns life’s firsts into all-dessert tasting menu

You may recognize the name pasty chef Dominique Ansel for his world-famous Cronut, but now he's got another original up his sleeve.  

By day, the kitchen above his newest New York City bakery, Dominique Ansel Kitchen, is for production. But three nights a week, it is transformed into U.P.- or Unlimited Possibilities—an after-hours, dessert-only tasting spectacle. Wowing guests with a table that descends from the ceiling and an eight-course menu that sends diners back in time, it has two seatings a night.

For U.P.'s initial menu, he was inspired by first life experiences: Things like a person's first word, first kiss or first job. Each dish is a physical interpretation of these common and uniting life events.

First Word is an alphabet soup-looking creation made with sweet pea, rice milk, carrot cake, meringue, yogurt and gin that can be paired with a yuzu sparkler. First Kiss is a soupy-sweat treat made with raspberry, fresh mint, vanilla cream and a cocktail pairing of butter popcorn rum and cola.

The James Beard award-winning chef started as a fine dining pastry chef and said that he wanted to go back to his roots of plated desserts, but with a twist. Instead of desserts as a finale, the tasting menu pushes the boundaries of what desserts and dining out can be.

"I believe there's still a lot to do when it comes to pastry --and the pastry world still has so much more to give," Ansel said. "So I hope to inspire people, to get them excited, to change the menus, to do new things."

Ansel showed us the dish First Heartbreak, a flowered-shaped Baked Alaska-inspired meringue with a base of chocolate-dipped rocky road ice cream that's set ablaze with alcohol.

"We asked a lot of people what heartbreak would feel like for them," Ansel noted.  "And a lot of girls said it was eating ice cream, watching TV. A lot of guys said alcohol or fire. So we took as inspiration the baked Alaska and we made ice cream and we light this dish on fire." 

The petals eventually burn away and the fire slowly dies leaving just sweetness --a poignant symbol of having your heartbroken for the first time. 

It's an ambitious and unusual menu, but Ansel's goal was to spark the kinds of conversations that would stick with his diners. "It gets people talking about the dishes and the first time in their own life. I really want to make sure that people remember their meal"

And with a menu like that, they are sure to - provided of course that you can get in. U.P takes reservations through a ticketing system months in advance and so far they have been selling out instantly. So perhaps the new first on the list will become 'First Reservation at U.P.'

U.P. is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:00-8:30 P.M. and 9:00-10:30 P.M. The tasting menu starts at $75 per person, adding $35 for beverage pairings.