The chocolate torte is a heavenly creation. Never mind. That is an understatement. The chocolate torte is heaven. It is simply a piece of heaven stolen from the sky and given to the residents of Presque Isle, ME so that they may actually experience and know what joy is. The experience begins when you enter the glass doors of the Café Sorpreso (roughly translated as “Café Surprise”, a fitting title for its location in northern Maine). You take your seat at a black wooden table draped with an immaculate white table cloth. The torte arrives on any variety of oddly shaped plate. Some are the classic circle, others are square, some are rectangular, while others still are some strange combination of the three with spirals and curves and irregular edges and whatnot. However, the main attraction here is not the plate, the table, or the doors. It is the actual torte itself. The first thing that strikes the eye when one looks at it is simply its beauty. Above all else, it is simply an appealing, almost angelic thing to behold with one’s own two eyes. The torte has a wonderfully pleasing triangular shape with the outside being perfectly rounded into a semi-circle. It has a few swirls of chocolate sauce and usually a slight sprinkling of powdered sugar on the top, accompanied by a spiral of whipped cream offset to the side of the plate, but still touching the torte itself. The color of the torte is unique, slightly darker than the dark brown of the table, but not quite black. The white of the powdered sugar, the whipped cream and the plate in the background compliment it elegantly. This cake seems like it was designed not only to please the taste buds, but the eyes as well. As for texture, the chocolate torte is mostly uniform. There is but the slightest hint of a crust-like layer at the very top, but it is barely noticeable to the eye, and invisible to the tongue, as it is completely uniform throughout. The texture of this piece of heaven cannot be adequately described visually, at least in my personal opinion, until the person it is being described to has the pleasure of actually seeing it for his or her self. It can almost be seen as a hybrid between chocolate fudge and just a triangular mass of solid chocolate.
As with just about everything related to the chocolate torte, its smell can simply be described as perfect. When cooking it, the ingredients smell just as one would expect them to. Eggs smell like eggs, butter smells like butter. It is only when the dish is served that one can truly appreciate the smell. It has a very rich, but not overwhelming smell of decadent, indulgent chocolate. This scent, although just about perfect, all but overwhelms anything else that the cake might be subtly hinting at to our noses. Despite this, our olfactory senses cannot help but be seduced by this wonderful, godly, heavenly scent. At the first breath of the essence of this food, one wishes to simply inhale it. However, human lungs are not meant to receive oxygen from chocolate (no matter how wonderful it may be), so the next closest thing would be to eat it.
As the wonderful slice of chocolaty heaven is sitting on the table, waiting to be eaten, there is suspenseful, almost greedy feeling. It’s as if we have returned back to the stone age and are afraid that someone or something else will steal a piece of our mammoth or wooly rhino steak, except that we are sitting in a quaint, European style café in 2010 and the mammoth steak is a piece of chocolate torte.
When one takes the first spoonful of the cake to one’s lips, the feeling is indescribable. The spoon slides through the cake with one frictionless motion, neither making any sound nor disturbing any of the cake other than what is being taken. There is this moment where one almost feels regret at having to destroy such a beauteous piece of art, but this feeling soon passes when one’s tongue gets the first taste of the torte. The taste, although the most prevalent and arguably the most important part of this decadent food, is impossible to fully understand until one has actually tried the torte for themselves. Reading a written description of it is a sad, cruel excuse for such a heavenly creation. The first flavor one encounters is the taste of pure, immaculate, paradisiacal chocolate. The richness and exquisite taste is inexpressible. The only significant taste (when using the 5 taste classification) one feels is sweetness, but oh what a sweetness it is. The texture of the torte is also one of its strong points. As described earlier, it can best be described as some combination of fudge and pure dark chocolate. As one prepares to swallow the cake, a very pleasant, warm sensation begins to caress one’s mouth: it is the essence of the rum that was put into the cake when it was still a bowl of batter. After swallowing, it is almost hard to believe that something could possible taste so divine, and everyone who has had the pleasure of one bite will invariably want just one more…
The chocolate torte does have a mischievous side to it as well. When it first arrives, it is quite small, only slightly larger than an average person’s fist. Anyone who sees it for the first time may even be unimpressed and think that they will have to order a second dessert. However, by the time they are done with this small but potent piece of chocolate, they will have second thoughts on that second round of desserts. As of March 2011, I have never met someone who can eat more than one piece of chocolate torte as a dessert. Having it as a meal with nothing else is a different story, but even then, two pieces is where most people draw the line.
I like to believe that food is not just nourishment or entertainment; it is a symbol and an intrinsic part of the culture that one inhabits. The chocolate torte is not only a good-tasting mound of chocolate, fat, and rum, but is also the embodiment of Café Sorpreso. Café Sorpreso itself is a very interesting topic to debate. It is located in a small brick building directly across from the Braden Theater in Presque Isle. Now, one may think “Okay. So what? What about it?” Café Sorpreso is a very European style restaurant, and the prices are reasonable for the quality of the food provided. I personally have travelled twice to Europe for a total of about three weeks of being there. One of these trips was to England, and the other to Austria. I know it may seem odd, but nowhere, not even in Vienna, known for its scrumptious pastries and succulent cakes, have I encountered food that has been as well-prepared and good-tasting as in Café Sorpreso. Not bad for a little restaurant occupying what was once a women’s gym in northern Maine. Anyways, back to the torte.
I think it perfectly embodies the character of Café Sorpreso. It is rich, elegant, unique, and its wonder is only known to those brave enough to look for it. Although I usually make a semi-weekly trek to the Café with my stepfather or mother, and occasionally my father, I usually sit in silence, exchanging but a few words on school or affairs in the County or whatnot. I like to think and remember the good times I had with my friend that traveled with us in Austria, sitting at cafes every evening and lazily pondering the world. This is not to mention the amazing quality of the food, itself a humbling fact. The modern yet simple interior of the Café Sorpreso, decorated with portraits of obscure personalities from the 1920’s sparks memories of many an Austrian night in Salzburg and Vienna, lounging about inside small restaurants and speaking to my friend without uttering a sound.
Café Sorpreso’s chocolate torte is a glorious creation. It has an exquisite taste unique to itself, a texture unparalleled, and beauty like no other. It is the epitome of European culture in Aroostook County, as is its parent, the Café itself. I cannot speak for others, but I know that I look forward to spending many more northern Maine December evenings pondering at the table by the window at the Café Sorpreso, enjoying the warming feeling of eating such a rich culinary work of art.