Bites of Spring: And For Dessert…
And now on this Mother’s Day, we’ll wrap up our look at the memorable bites of spring for dessert.
Expectations were thru the roof when I learned that Essence’s owner Eugenia Theodosopoulos once worked at Paris’ renowned Lenôtre and a Phoenix restaurants writer dared me to say that these macarons weren’t superior to those at Ladurée or Pierre Hermé. I won’t say they’re better…or worse. They are world class macarons, balancing the delicate, graceful cookie, with the right proportion of magnificent confiture, cream, or chocolate fillings. My favorite was a lovely raspberry-rose, but don’t leave without a salted caramel or the intriguing strawberries and cream. All the macarons could have been from the legendary Hermé, though none of the flavors matched the fireworks of the master’s vanilla-olive oil. Essence’s croissants, pain au chocolats, and éclairs would be the class of Paris as well.
I’ve never been a fan of popsicles or any of their frozen treats on a stick colleagues ever since my youth summer sports camp days where every afternoon concluded with various “Bazooka Pops” and “Fudgsicles” that never tasted of anything but brain-freeze. I’ve had Mexican paletas before. They were acceptable. That was before Paletas Betty. Betty Alatorre de Hong’s paletas are free of chalky ice and actually smooth, almost moist for a frozen object. The flavors are distinct– Mexican Chocolate with several punches worth of cinnamon or the sublime refreshing mango spiced with earthy chilies. The best part? You can eat these paletas completely without the last few bites falling off the stick like with inferior versions. The popsicle has grown up.
How do you choose dessert at Lahaina Grill? Sample them all. The crême brûlée is a vintage rendition with the ideal scorched top and a pleasant custard infused with Maui grown vanilla beans. You’ll eat it first and forget it though. Top right is the stellar “Road to Hana Cake,” far more enjoyable than the stomach-churning dive. Here, sour cream chocolate mousse is layered with chocolate cake and a macadamia nut studded caramel. Bottom right is a wonderful muffin- like flourless chocolate “sunken” cake that could use the Roy’s liquid center technology (see below). The one to talk poetically about is the Triple Berry Pie in a flaky crust to be replicated everywhere. Raspberries, currants, and blackberries aren’t very tropical…but this is a pie they’d be mighty proud of in the South and Maui.
An architectural masterpiece, this is the showpiece dessert from Christopher Gross at his suave multi-room restaurant in the Biltmore Shopping Center. It’s really called a parnassienne au chocolate, but it sure looks like a chocolate tower to me. As has been noted many times, Gross baked this with Julia Child on her PBS program years ago. I can just imagine Julia’s reaction to the room-stopping appearance that is matched by the chocolate mousse and lattice itself. The mousse is hidden in the center of the roughly five inch tower with a white and dark chocolate lattice structure. Chocolate- covered coffee beans and the vanilla espresso sauce intertwined with a dark chocolate sauce complete this piece of art. Even the vanilla espresso sauce is poured on at the table for a final flourish. As if there aren’t any flourishes already.
It wouldn’t be a bites of the week segment without the San Francisco smørrebrød titan. This is actually the only smørrebrød Nick Balla serves on weekdays and it’s only $3 then, compared to the $6 smørrebrød on weekends. It’s simple– house-baked sprouted rye bread slathered in a hazelnut butter (Nutella gone to Harvard), a quenelle of deep dark chocolate mousse, the texture of marsmallow fluff, in the center, and a scattering of hazelnuts about. I know I can’t stop talking about it, but you’ll have to deal with that.
San Francisco’s young chocolate maker Dandelion just opened its new factory- café in the Mission. The sipping chocolates are excellent, if not quite at the thick Angelina level in Paris. Dandelion’s chocolate bars are magnificent, but it’s pop-up collaboration with bakers using their chocolate in artistic designs is the real eye-opener presently. A perfectly soft chocolate chip cookie? A perfectly soft macaron with a praline filling? Absolutely. The mystical dark chocolate torte will stop any conversation. It’s relentless dark chocolate in pie form.
If only I could make something like this as dessert for my wonderful Mother. I’ll try. This was her Hawaiian birthday dessert. Roy Yamaguchi’s chocolate soufflé remains the paragon of liquid center chocolate soufflé still to this day. The center doesn’t explode. Instead, the liquid chocolate slowly oozes out with caution, moistening the cake, and serving as a sauce with the raspberry coulis. Even the coulis didn’t taste like cough medicine this time, the usual drawback.