Greek and Roman mythology considers the pear a fruit of the gods; the ancient Chinese believed that the pear was a symbol of immortality. Alice Waters and her team of world class chefs at Chez Panisse also treat the pear in high regard. When pears are in season, you’ll often find Frog Hollow Farm’s Warren pears featured in Chez Panisse’s famed Fruit Bowl and their mouth watering desserts. To celebrate the arrival of our pear season, I headed down to Chez Panisse to witness their love for our Warren pears in person.
Pastry Chef Mia Ponce and Chef Anthony Tassinello were my hosts for the day as they prepared for their busy Tuesday evening service. Both are fans of Frog Hollow Farm and this day it was the Warren pear receiving the primo position in the fruit bowl as well as the spotlight on the dessert menu with the Warren pear and huckleberry Crisp served over Warren pear sorbet. True to Alice Waters’ pledge to using fresh, locally grown ingredients, the day started with Chez Panisse chefs literally touching every fruit being served that day. “We baby sit them, we check their ripeness and keep them out an extra day to make sure they reach peak ripeness,” Chef Mia said as she opened the just-delivered box of Frog Hollow Farm pears.
As Chef Mia and Chef Anthony prepared tonight’s dessert, they commented to each other about their love of the Warren pears. Chef Anthony said “Warren pears are so special, they are not something we see all the time… however, it is becoming more popular or in vogue to find heirloom varieties. They are different from other pears as they aren’t mealy and have a bigger, more intense flavor; they are a big juicy fruit as opposed to some other pears that are lacking.” As I watched the chefs place the final touches on the crisp, I had one thing on my mind – the tasting! Before I knew it, the crisps were taken out of the oven, bubbling over and ready. Plated with the Warren pear sorbet, the Warren pear found its perfect home at Chez Panisse and in the crisp– yes it tasted as great as it looked. Heavenly!
Chez Panisse's Warren pear and Huckleberry CrispMakes 9 servings For crisp topping:
- 1 1/3 c All-purpose flour
- 2T plus 1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
- ½ + 1/3 cup ground untoasted almonds or pecans
- 2.8 oz unsalted butter
- ¼ oz salted butter
Preheat Oven at 400F. Mix dry ingredients. Add in butter and let combine until small pea size pieces form. Add in nuts and mix until just combined.
For crisp filling:
- 7 cups of Warren pears, peeled, cored and cut into ½ in cubes
- 1 ¾ c huckleberries (can substitute raspberries or blackberries if huckleberries are not available)
- 2 ½ T flour
- ¼ c sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Splash of poire Williams
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 2 ½ to 3 cups crisp topping
Combine all ingredients together in bowl. Taste and adjust with additional lemon, sugar, or poire Williams. Place in a 10 x 8 in gratin dish. Cover with crisp topping. Bake at 400F for until the crisp starts to bubble and the crisp topping is golden. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, caramel ice cream, or pear sorbet.Photos on this page by Jeff Bordes, a contributor and managing editor of this site.