Crème fraîche seems ubiquitous in restaurants these days: dolloped on berries, swirled into soups, and even whisked into salad dressings. Until recently, crème fraîche was available only in pricey little cartons imported from France. Now, several California companies are making high-quality crème fraîche, and it's turning up in more grocers' cases.
What's all the fuss about? Slightly misnamed, crème fraîche is not in fact fresh but rather cultured, like sour cream. It's silky smooth and, because of its higher fat content, doesn't break or curdle when heated, making it a perfect base for sauces. Its gentle tang also complements sweets beautifully; use it instead of cream in dark chocolate ganache or whip it and spoon it over cake. Crème fraîche is best displayed simply, as in rich but refreshing cucumber soup.