The origin of the desserts known as Death by Chocolate has been loosely credited to Les Anges, a Santa Monica restaurant from the '80s. Food writer Marian Burros describes the dessert as something novel in 1984, when she took a 15-restaurant tour around L.A. in eight days: "'I think I have something that will interest you,' said the waiter at Les Anges. 'Death by Chocolate.'" Burros called the combination of ganache, butter cream, mousse, and meringue "marvelous."
It's also given a nod by chocolate geeks before it was mainstreamed during the "American chocolate boom," referenced in the New York Times in 1981.
Today, Death by Chocolate comes in several forms, including the flourless chocolate cake (which has earlier origins) or the molten lava cake that New York chef Jean-George Vongerichten claims to have invented in 1987, an assertion disputed by French chef Jacques Torres.
I was convinced of the dessert's greatness when I tried chef Michael Bennett's version at Bimini Boatyard.
His spin? The cake is made with five liquors: whiskey, Frangelico,
rum, Grand Mariner, and Kahula. It's moist and chocolatey and decadent and boozy. "That's, like, 7,000 calories," Bennett joked this past weekend. "Well, more than a day's worth." As you can tell by the photo, it's no dainty thing.
What's the next iteration for the dessert? If someone hasn't done it already, some chef is going to single-source the hell out of the chocolate from a fair-trade outfit like Pacari in Ecuador or Madacasse in Madagascar. The latter would paired with whipped cream infused with vanilla from the same region.
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