The Pair of Gourmands share their recipe this week for 'Ile Flottante'.
The Pair of Gourmands share their recipe this week for 'Ile Flottante'.

'Ile Flottante'

by - Story: 37353

Food is Life, and what a good life it is!

She says:

With Valentine’s Day this past week, I suppose decadence was on my mind so that seemed to be a valid topic for this week. Often we speak of the importance of everyday food that is more about comfort than luxury but there is nothing wrong with a bit of decadence now and then. In fact, I think it should be required to keep one’s stamina up! I hope you won’t think I am trying to justify a delectable Valentines’ Dinner or assuage guilt over past indulgences. If anything, see me more as a missionary on the hunt for prospective converts to the religion of gourmandise…

Let me start by offering a definition: gourmandise is technically a French word that can either mean being greedy or as a noun, a sweet treat. However the true use of the concept relating to “gourmand” is more in terms of someone who is very fond of good food. This is different than a “gourmet” as the original connotation of a gourmet is someone who is a connoisseur, knowing food and cooking well and also preferring the finest of ingredients. Today of course the word most of us employ instead of gourmand is “Foodie” but don’t you think that brings the concept to a much more mundane and unimportant level? Gourmands love it all – the rustic picnic and the four star dinner – and I think in today’s world any time taken to appreciate anything is valuable. Why should we only appreciate the fancy or expensive things?

Okay, so now you are thinking I have written myself up against the wall. No, I just want to reinforce the fact that everyday appreciation helps encourage the desire for variety. It is easier to appreciate something when you don’t have it all the time. (Some of you will probably be figuring I am now justifying not being able to afford more decadent meals – perhaps I am, but the same truth still applies! So there!)

One of my earliest decadent food memories came from a trip to Europe, and it was around Valentine’s Day, interestingly enough. I was only 18, and could not nearly afford to enter Fouquet’s, a famous restaurant on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. But I did stand with my nose almost touching the glass, staring at the dessert cart parked in the window. The most impressive item on the cart was a huge brandy-snifter shaped glass bowl that housed something I learned later was called “Ile Flottante” (“floating island”). These little meringue islands floated over a sea of custard, and little rivers of caramel syrup wound their way down the islands and dissolved into the custard sea creating beautiful patterns. Here was something more decadent than I could imagine, and that mesmerized me. I stood there for longer than was proper, but I remember the maitre d’ didn’t give me a nasty look. It was more of a knowing smirk, a fleeting moment when I felt a kindred spirit through that window glass. I knew then the importance of indulging in things like Ile Flottante: it is a celebration of life. Just look at holidays like Easter and Christmas if you don’t believe me – we indulge after Lent or in the dead of winter to remind ourselves that we should appreciate our existence, and by doing that amidst more humble meals we show respect and we heighten our appreciation at the same time.

So, now that I have written myself back to the dining room table, let me toast your good health and encourage you to have that extra chocolate from the Valentine’s box. Or, if you are the poetic type, let me leave you with the words of the Bard himself:

Sonnet 75 – William Shakespeare

So are you to my thoughts as food to life,

Or as sweet seasoned show'rs are to the ground

And for the peace of you I hold such strife

As 'twixt a miser and his wealth is found,

Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon

Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure,

Now counting best to be with you alone,

Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure,

Sometime all full with feasting on your sight

And by and by clean starvèd for a look,

Possessing or pursuing no delight,

Save what is had or must from you be took.

Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,

Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

He says:

Well, with what she just finished saying, I don’t have much to add so maybe I can give you a recipe for “Ile Flottante” (“floating island”). It’s a very easy recipe and it is pretty decadent. It’s a classic French dessert which I learned in culinary school in the 80’s.

4 egg whites
3 tbsp sugar
Enough milk for boiling the islands

2 cups of milk
4 yolks
1/2 cup castor sugar (this is finer than regular white sugar)
Good quality Vanilla (pods, or Orchid brand, found at Choices Market)

First, make the meringue or 'islands':
Beat the egg whites in a bowl with a little pinch of sugar, until the eggs form a peak. Keep beating the eggs and add the remaining sugar. When you have shiny firm peaks, stop beating.

Drop big clumps of egg white mixture into a large pot with a slow boiling milk and vanilla mixture to cook for 2 minutes or so. Remove carefully and let cool on a tray, but do not refrigerate.

Next, make the custard or “ocean”:
In a bowl mix the egg yolks and ½ cup of the sugar and set aside.
Heat the 2 cups of milk with the vanilla, being careful not to burn it. (A trick here is to rinse the pot with cold water first, and that helps the milk not stick to the bottom.) Heat until slightly bubbling, then remove from the heat and pour the hot milk on the yolk mixture while stirring quickly. Pour back the mixture into a clean saucepan, and RE-heat over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring continuously. It should not boil during this second time. After a few minutes the custard will have gotten thicker.

Remove the vanilla pod if that is what you used.

The custard can now be put into flat soup bowls or regular bowls or even deep plates, and the islands placed on top.


The ile flottante is now ready to eat straight away as by that point the custard is warm and the meringue is at room temperature.

If you drizzled caramel sauce on top of that and made some nice caramel decorations it will look like a million bucks.

Have fun and keep on cooking.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories