Renowned pastry chef Claudia Fleming, who is the owner of North Fork Table & Inn in Southold, is re-releasing what Bon Appétit called “The greatest dessert book in the history of the world.” Her book, “The Last Course,” was released in 2001 to much popularity and praise. Now, almost two decades later, it’s being served up again, just in time for the holiday season, with a new repackaged design.
Fleming set the industry standard for desserts during her tenure at New York City’s Gramercy Tavern, winning the James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.
“The Last Course” is complete with 175 mouth-watering recipes and more than 80 stunning photographs. Her easy-to-follow technique and fresh approach to classic recipes offer dessert lovers everywhere the ability to re-create her dishes at home. Fleming believes in a philosophy of highly satisfying food without pretension.
“There wouldn’t be a Gramercy Tavern dessert book if it weren’t for Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio, the two visionaries behind the restaurant,” reads the first line of the book’s acknowledgements. Meyer opened the restaurant in 1994.
“Over the years, my intuition about the best people has served me well,” stated Colicchio in the book’s Foreword. “And my intuition told me Claudia would be a star.”
“Perhaps most remarkable is Claudia’s rare combination of humility and excellence,” stated Meyer in the book’s preface. “I don’t know many people who possess those two qualities in such harmonious abundance.”
Flipping through the pages of “The Last Course” and gazing at the Raspberry–Lemon Verbena Meringue Cake or the Warm Chocolate Ganache Cakes is enough to transport you into dessert heaven. Try your hand at a Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Sauternes Gelée or Cherry Cheesecake Tart with a Red Wine Glaze.
To celebrate the re-launch of the book, a dessert-tasting event and book signing was held at North Fork Table & Inn, as well as a demo and Q&A at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Gramercy Tavern has been presenting “Tavern Takeovers” where alums from across the world, including Fleming, execute one-night-only dinners. The Independent joined to cover Fleming’s dinner on November 20.
We also caught up with Fleming to talk about “The Last Course.”
Tell us a little about your philosophy of highly satisfying food without pretension.
It has been said that “what grows together, goes together” and that naturally goes hand in hand with seasonality. This is the ethos I’ve embraced since my days at Gramercy Tavern. Food simply tastes better when it’s local and in season. The North Fork is an ideal region for putting that philosophy into practice, and it allows us to create satisfying, delicious food that’s both refined and unfussy.
Do you have a particular favorite recipe in the book?
I have many recipes that I love. However, both the chocolate caramel tart and the coconut tapioca are all-time favorites. They have been on every dessert menu I’ve ever created!
What do you want readers to take away from the book?
I want readers to know that making desserts doesn’t need to be daunting. Eating dessert is fun, and making it should be fun as well. I’d suggest that beginners should start with some of the simpler recipes and then work up to the more complicated ones, to build confidence over time.
Any advice you would give to a pastry chef just starting out?
My advice is to be patient, read, and do tons of research — meaning go out and experience different cuisines and restaurants. I’d also like point out that just because something looks pretty doesn’t necessarily mean it tastes good!