The French cheese puffs, gougères, have popped up as a chic, albeit budget, snack in this season's restaurant openings. We first noted the appearance of the traditional choux pastry laced with Gruyère cheese at Secession, where it was part of a thin $25 preview dinner. Before the amuse at a recent dinner at Corton, Paul Liebrandt sent out a plate of gumball-size bites including crab fritters, olive-oil “sponges,” and gougères surprisingly filled with liquid Mornay sauce instead of the usual silken layers of dough. And at West Branch, Mouthing Off noted that owner Tom Valenti "has the key to success: a significantly sized bar with lots of plush banquette seats—an ideal place to escape for … an icy cocktail and some puffy cheddar gougères."
We rushed to the Website of the Artisanal Cheese Center — the town’s foremost mail-order purveyor of the cheesy balls since Brennan's bistro has always had them on the menu — to see just how budget these balls could be. Despite a $60 price tag for 50 pieces, the fromagerie is OUT OF STOCK. We’re not sure if it’s the comforting mix of flour, eggs, and cheese drawing fans to the pouf party or the fact that a French food, even such a basic one, still feels like you're keeping it classy, but it seems we have a goug-enaissance on our oily little fingers. We can only hope that the more substantial fist-size vessels of Gruyère we'd nosh on from bakeries in Paris will be next to rise.