My Broken Coeur à la Crème

Memories of a Valentine’s Day Heartbreak

Coeur à la Crème

If the photo of my dessert here gives you the impression that I am somehow  hostile towards Valentine’s Day then I can assure you right now that I am. I owe the day no loyalty. It has tried in earnest for years to sour me on its sweet promises of unfettered love and a fancy public dinner out from which to show it off. The day has failed over the years in its mission but as far as I’m concerned my experiences with it have  left me with several real-life lessons than cannot be found on a greeting card or the tag of a dozen roses arriving at your place of work.

This food blog writer has never been one for sappy platitudes and yet this heart-shaped blob of milk-fat you see here is one of the sappiest of all Valentine’s Day desserts. I hate it. A dessert comprised solely of cream cheese and other dairy, sugar and a splash of vanilla is somehow elevated to romatic tradition sole based on it being shaped like a heart. Spare me. Just looking at it compels me to share with you the sour and slightly acidic tale of my 25th Valentine’s Day. The one where my own naive coeur à la crème was savagely stabbed by my true love.

This is “The One With Dr. Frank.”

I was 25 years old and had somehow managed to suppress my personal dating activity until I had finished college only a few years earlier. Doing this had the effect of imparting a premature sense of urgency to the situation each time even the hint of possible romance presented itself. Each new chance at love seemed as if it were my last chance passing me by.  Looking back now I see that the sweet-spot for true love hadn’t even yet begun!  I was not the bitter Valentine’s Day hater you see before you today. No, when I was 25 the Valentine’s Day party was something I was all too eager to attend.

Then I met Dr. Frank.

Dr Frank was “all that and a bag of chips.” In fact when I met him he was holding a bag of chips and cruising me heavily at the supermarket. His forward, overt interest in me was something I had not yet experienced (at least not out in public) and his complete lack of shame in showing his interest was inebriating to me. After 15 years of trying to remain invisible lest anyone discover the real me it was both unnerving and exciting to think someone as gorgeous and normal looking could see through to me so quickly in front of the ice cream freezer. And still want me.

I may have turned my head to look behind me to see if was actually me he was staring at. I botching this first meeting.  In the countless replays of the scene in my mind I imagined Dr. Frank annoyed with my inexperienced and awkward small talk.  No matter.  I just wasn’t ready to let Dr. Frank “close the deal” so I scampered off sheepishly to the safety of my bachelorhood.  

We would meet again several months later at a party thrown by a mutual friend. Dr. Frank recognized me immediately as the guy from the market and then proceeded to flirt even more shamelessly than he had before. I immediately fell under the spell of his confidence and his full attention. He asked me if I would like a cocktail (which was all the qualification necessary those days to secure a date with me) and by the end of the evening I was head-over-heals planning out our wedding and eventual retirement together to the Italian countryside.

He seemed to be everything I would ever want. Five years older than me, he was handsome beyond measure, successful, confident, unashamed, and most importantly: interested. Inwardly he was, well, let’s just say I hadn’t quite learned how to see the insides of people.

Coeur à la Crème

Dating Dr. Frank was never easy but it was always a thrilling exciting ride and a very passionate one at that. I could never count on him to call when he said he would and at most times I never knew when I would see him next. This of course made it difficult to work out our future married life together in my Dr. Frank fantasies  but I learned to make do.  I was quite good at projecting onto him any “reality” I felt was required.

“He just forgot to call because he’s under a lot of work stress right now.”

We had dated all of 3 months by the time February 14th rolled around and I knew this would be my first special Valentine’s Day — the romantic celebration that I craved for years! The 25 year old me who had never dated anyone for that length of time anxiously (and passively) waited for Dr. Frank’s invitation. Surely he was planning something special and would call me after he had it  all arranged!

Dr. Frank eventually invited me to the local hot-spot restaurant in town which was doing a special Valentine’s menu for the occasion. Wow! I would get the double satisfaction of a romantic prix-fixe dinner date with my super hot doctor guy AND I would get a full-scale pubic presentation of us as a couple. I had grown a bit frustrated that we hadn’t yet managed to be seen out publicly as a couple so this night, combined with our happiness on display, had me forgetting all about that unimportant detail.  Score!

Coeur à la Crème

Coeur à la Crème

In hindsight there were many signs which I chose to ignore that might have indicated the night (and our relationship) would not end well. Dr. Frank didn’t pick me up that night in his pride-and-joy Mercedes as he usually. This time around he asked me to meet him at the restaurant.

“He’s so busy taking care of patients. I don’t mind at all if this makes it easier for him.”

Even though I did mind.

After I parked my car and walked in alone I was shown to our table by the host.  As I approached I could see to my astonishment that there were four other people sitting at the table with my boyfriend!

Dr. Frank saw me, stood up, and then came over to kiss me hello. On the lips. He introduced me to our table-mates: there was Tom (his “ex” who was very handsome), Darrel (his “other ex” and even more handsome), and finally Carlo and Michael — whom he introduced as “the other guys I’m dating right now.”

Um…huh?

What I remember feeling next was a dizzying punch to the head followed by a loud cacophony of unintelligible table chit-chat which my pounding heart would not let me hear  because I was trying so hard to keep composure. My WASP upbringing has taught me never to show emotion in public but this value was strained as I struggled with so many hitting me all at once.

Was I to have  already known about these people? Who were they? And why were they here at MY Valentine’s Day celebration?

Had this been a theatrical movie or play this would have been the moment where I would shout out “how very dare you!” and throw my cocktail in his face and storm out while calling him an asshole. My WASP training is hard ignore however so I found myself doing what any WASP would do:  quietly suppress my emotions and sit down to a dinner with Dr. Frank’s and his other boyfriends.

I must have realized that a self-debrief of the last three months would take place at a later time (probably  with a therapist) but in that moment all eyes in the restaurant seemed to be on me and watching to see how I would react to Dr. Frank’s apparent Valentine dinner tradition.

I opted to keep my cool. Besides, Carlo, one of Dr. Frank’s other unsuspecting boyfriends was kind of hot.

Carlo was dark and Italian looking and we quickly bonded over the mutual injustice that had been done to us by Dr. Frank not long before. We drank expensive cocktails and sharpened our wit, both at his expense. When it was time for dessert our server reverently placed before each of us our very own individual coeur a la creme before taking a step back in gleeful anticipation of what she was sure would be our ‘oohs and aahs’.

Our table for six turned into a flirty table for two despite the fact that we were sitting next to the wreckage of our previous “relationship”.  Like Dr. Frank, Carlo too was bold and full of confidence and he too earned my attentions by asking if I would like another cocktail. Why not? I was single again and I couldn’t afford to let love pass me by. I was determined to make the best of it and even declared to Carlo that this was going to be considered our first date!

Carlo and I eventually got up and said our tipsy goodbyes to Dr. Frank and his romantic past. They hadn’t paid much attention to us anyway nor we them and we doubted they would miss us much. Besides, it was getting late we were eager to leave them to the rest of their lives.

We made a big show of walking back through the restaurant together holding hands and acting as if we had just had the best dinner of our lives. We kissed goodnight at the front door and Carlo offered to walk me to my car. Such a gentleman!

Then as we passed by what was probably the one true love of Dr. Frank’s life, his beloved Mercedes, Carlo quickly took out a serrated steak knife he must have pocketed from the restaurant and plunged it effortlessly into the driver’s side front tire — simultaneously deflating the poor doctor’s ride home and my hopes for a new boyfriend.

It would be the last time I saw Carlo. I was finally ready to learn how to pay attention to ‘the signs.’

I consider that lesson my Valentine’s gift from Dr. Frank and I do remember him fondly for it. It would not be the last time I would ever see Dr. Frank, however. He would return later to make several key re-appearances later in my life – but never again with the same sense of gravitas and drama he had when I was only 25 and in a hurry.

Damn Valentine’s Day.

Broken Coeur à la Crème

Broken Coeur à la Crème

If you wish for the full cathartic effect plunging a dagger into this dessert will impart I recommend investing in a full sized coeur a la creme mold.They are inexpensive and can be found at most cooking stores or online. The mold has small holes in the bottom that allow the liquids to drain out and the heart to solidify and hold its shape nicely. If acting out on early personal heartbreak is not your concern I have found the recipe still works quite well in other shallow dishes or even custard cups.

This is what you will need:

  • 2 sheets of cheesecloth, each large enough to line the mold. Rinsed with water and squeezed until damp.
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

This is how you make it:

  1. Line the coeur à la crème mold with 1 square of cheesecloth and then the other right on top of it and set aside.
  2. With an electric or KitchenAid mixer with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, crème fraîche, powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt until smooth. This should take about 4 minutes.
  3. Fold the mixture into the coeur à la crème mold and smooth out with a plastic spatula. Cover the mold with overhanging cheesecloth over and place mold on a shallow baking dish to catch the liquids. Cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and chill for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.
  4. When ready to serve, unmold the dessert onto a platter and sharpen your dagger. The dessert is great on its own but it is traditionally served with a topping of sliced fruit or raspberry sauce.

Notes

(Note: Some recipes will have you putting the cheese mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove any clumps before setting into the mold. I have found that if your cream cheese is at room temperature when you start that this is an unnecessary step and certainly not one Dr. Frank would do for you.)

http://www.sisboomblog.com/2013/02/coeur-a-la-creme/

 

About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don't know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]" means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small 'boom' in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a "food blog" or even myself a "food blogger".

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  1. “I prefer my hearts with a bit more substance and heft.”

    Nailed it! And -hoo-boy- it’s exactly what I got the second time around. I’ve never been able to put it so succinctly. Thanks for those words!

  2. Grrr…I wish there weren’t Dr. Franks in this world. Glad you moved on… Love how you plunged the knife into yours :)

  3. Oh Trevor, this post had the best ending ever. I feel like Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally “Best last line of a movie, ever.” At least your Coeur looks great – mine was a big white pancake boob. Happy day after Valentine’s Day!

  4. Trevor, thank goodness you’ve finally found the love you deserve!

    I was madly in love with a gorgeous Latino gay friend in college which was tough, but I could deal…until he started dating another girl and brought her to a party! I got so drunk that night I have no idea how I made it back to my dorm room. Then, I quit drinking all together for many, many years. But this gorgeous guy would continue to torment me for years. I was gulible, trusting, naive, and lacking in self-esteem. So, I finally grew up.

    Love your heart! xoxo

  5. The ending was even better than I could have pictured.I can hear the slow hiss of the deflating tire in my head.(Although my sympathies do go out to the car).

    Who knew that the Doristas were a vengeful lot? Perhaps all that time in the heat of the kitchen has seared our souls.

    My inability to fully see inside people is probably how I landed with my ex-husband. If only I learned that life lesson a heckuva lot sooner.

  6. Ah, Valentine’s Day – I’ve often wondered if it tries to be terrible on purpose. It does seem to be good at doling out depressing life lesson. What I learned this year is that cream hearts are indeed sappy but delicious. And also beautiful when slashed with red. I’m not sure what kind of lesson that is, exactly, but at least it’s tasty.

  7. Your bleeding 25 year old heart or Dr. Frank´s stabbed one… Hostile is what I will use from now on when referring to a few holidays that are not to my liking, perfect word. This is one of your most interesting posts Trevor!

  8. Roses are red, broken hearts are too. Dr Frank was a dick, but you knew what to do.
    … bloody Valentines are the best, by far! I loved this post. xoxo

  9. I stand amazed at the chutzpah. What a dinner. But it made for an interesting story.

  10. Am I am the only one hearing “it’s raining men” as they read about all the boyfriends sitting at that table ? Oh my- this was movie worthy indeed, but that is not necessarily what you want to hear when it is your life. You are clearly an amazingly strong person (in addition to being hilarious)and your perspective is fabulous. Plus your priorities are spot on -”and besides, Carlos…was kind of hot”. Wow and thanks for sharing. And that dessert, by the way, looks phenomenal. I had the “soccer mom uses her colander” version but I loved it nonetheless……..

  11. What an awesome post. And wow, that Dr. Frank. Sounds all too familiar. I wonder if I know him! I had every intention of making this recipe, but just could not get past my disgust for the day this year. The mold is going back to Sur La Table. Maybe in a few years. Or not. But I do love your bloody knife in the heart. Brilliant!

  12. Fab fab fab post!!! I’ve been waiting to read yours all day! Love it!

    Also, “I prefer my hearts with a bit more substance and heft.” You are so right. Dorie’s recipe is lovely but too light and fluffy. Tastes good but not quite right consistency. Glad I tried!

  13. I LOVE your first photo! It’s the bad relationships that help us find (and appreciate!) the good ones. One boyfriend in particular helped me discover all the things I DIDN’T want in a relationship. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Well, Trevor, I don’t know what to say. That is the beginning of a New Yorker magazine story, for sure. Did you not proceed with Carlos because he slashed the tire. I actually thought that was a good idea and well deserved. It’s apparent that Dr. Frank is a totally jackass and wouldn’t respond to or be bothered by angry verbage. Didn’t you think of keying the car? Another idea for the future. I thought you were a little harsh with the Coeur in the first picture. It is not the food’s fault. But, it was a dramatic beginning and I certainly was enthralled by your story. Remember when you just wrote about mayo?

  15. Wow what a great story for a mere coeur de la creme…I understand your photo with the “blood” red coulis!

  16. Oh my! What a story. Dr. Frank did not deserve you, and you are better off without him, but then you already knew that now didn’t you, Trevor? Life’s lessons come in a variety of packages from a multitude of sources – bosses, friends, family members, used car salesmen (don’t ask), professors – you name it. But no teacher can compare to a boyfriend for sheer coronary impact. I loved reading about Dr. Frank. What a guy. I simply can not imagine being introduced to the ex’es and “the other guys I’m dating right now.” Somebody needs to tell the good doctor that nobody is that good.

    I love Coeur a la creme, but I have not made it in years. Thanks for the reminder.

    This is just my second visit to your site, having come from Sippity Sup, and I am loving everything about it. The design is wonderful, your writing a joy, and your food most enticing. Thanks for some truly delicious reading. Bravissimo!

    P.S. And you were right to leave Carlo in the dust. It feels pretty good, doesn’t it, to pay attention to the signs?

  17. I have taken my dip in your prose and my fingers are all wrinkly because I stayed in for so long. I didn’t want to get out of the pool. I LOVED your story you told so well. I need a double dip. More, please!

  18. Dr Frank is a piece of work. I am abivalent about Valentines Day because it simply passed me by as a non- event for so many years. Great job on the coeur a la creme. I made a blob, which tasted not bad,

  19. First, I love that you went anti-valentine’s day. Someone had to do it. And second, I feel like so many of us (or, at least those of us who were still dating past the age of 20) had Dr. Frank come into our lives at some point. I choose to think of mine as a lesson learned the hard way. Great post!

  20. Best Valentine’s post ever. I’m glad there was both a little revenge served cold and a happy ending, too.

  21. Your photos are beautiful, and perfectly paired with your story. I don’t like Valentines Day at all (a husband moved out that day when I was in college… kind of messes it up a bit!). Didn’t get to the recipe either, but I’m happy you did so you could charm us all again with your wit!

  22. I’m speechless about that wicked Valentine’s night.I can totally understand why you hate Valentine’s Day. I once met a man for dinner who pursued me hotly. During appetizer he tells me he’s living with another woman. I promptly told him he was a jerk, and there is a reason I take my own car on first dates, and I got up and left him there. I learned that there are good people and bad people and they are miles apart. I married a good one, have had 12 great Valentine’s days. I’m still speechless about Dr. Frank and his night of Ex’s. The heart is perfect recipe for this story.

  23. I had to come back to say, I think the tire slashing was appropriate, although I’m generally a rule follower and non-violent person. I had a friend who ran her ex husband over with a car. Now that was bad! :)

  24. Dr. Frank Dr. Skank! I guess you gotta kiss a few toads before you find your prince, eh? Also, love the recipe reference to the others. hhaha slick move! This crustless cheesecake sounds divine!

  25. WOW! What a story! It was very entertaining and how terrible… I could feel like it was happening to me while I read it! What a terrible thing for him to have done but as you said, those are the lessons we learn and are hopefully not to repeat! I will be interested, however, to hear more stories. Dinner and a show!

    Love the pics – fantastic.

  26. My first boyfriend was also a Dr. Frank. Or, at least Frank was finishing up his PhD in clinical psychology when we were dating, so he was a soon-to-be Dr. Frank.

    The way our story differs is that my Frank was the exact opposite of yours– kind, sensitive, understanding, and in love with me. I responded to his goodness by making him want to get as far away from me as possible, because that’s what all self-disrespecting, closeted 21 year-old college students do, isn’t it?

    It was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. It sounds as if you deserved my Dr. Frank and I deserved yours.

  27. Love the picture and adore your story. Going on 59 years of wedded “bliss”, I can’t even
    remember what dating was…..

  28. Trevor, We’ve all had our Dr. Franks! I’m just glad I found the right person to share my live with!! He really did deserve to get his tires slashed…what an idiot!!
    I love the heart mold with the knife stuck into it, and the red coulis oozing out!! Best photo!!

  29. Trevor, your post has left me entirely speechless…how could any comment I make in my less than perfect English do any kind of justice to your amazing writing skills! But I will say that I enjoyed reading your personal story tremendously and that your photography is quite amazing! I really must try to find some of these heart-shaped molds, the coeur à la crème looks wonderful when it is in the shape of a heart, even if it is a bleeding heart.
    Have a good weekend filled with inspiring stories and thank you for the lovely comment you left on my blog post!

  30. What an ending, and a great story! Wonder what the Doc is up to now?

  31. Trevor! Fantastic post! At least you saw the serrated steak knife and the slashing of a tire as negatives in possible boyfriend material. =D

  32. The bloody coeur photo sums it all up, though of course that’s what you intended. They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs, so I’m glad that you finally found the one. Your story made me smile. Sounds like everyone got what was coming to them in the end.

  33. I am a stranger to you. I am old and I am straight. I loved this.

  34. I wondered about your hostility towards Valentine’s Day and anything heart-shaped and now we know. I am so glad that you were able to share your story with us and get some of your frustrations out. It looks like your coeur didn’t suffer a bit. Betsy, is right – you sometimes have to kiss a lot of toads before you get your prince and I am glad that you found yours!

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