Smart diners leave room for dessert. Brilliant ones just eat it first.
And really, why shouldn’t we? Dessert is all to often an afterthought. Or worse, an unpleasant struggle of will after gorging ourselves through four courses (and a bread basket). So it’s no wonder that some restaurants simply farm out their confections rather than putting serious energy behind their sweets. Not to mention that most chefs get nervous when you start forcing them to use things like measuring cups and recipes — critical to good pastry.
But dessert decadence is again on the rise (could economic recovery be far behind?). Kitchens are getting more creative with their last courses, retiring tired molten lava chocolate bombs and dry-as-dust cheesecake for a rainbow of cupcakes and childhood confections, fire and ice show stoppers, seasonal sensations and sweet-savory dishes that defy the category altogether.
Tummy rumbling? Here are some local favorites…
Of The Moment: With ripe apples threatening to bash our noggins at every turn, Starlight Cafe and Wine Bar take revenge on the crispy critters by serving up Gravenstein apple fritters with cinnamon ice cream and caramel. Take that. 6761 Sebastopol Ave., Sebastopol, 823-1943.
– Triple Threat: Warm milk and cookies at Jackson’s Bar & Oven are exactly that, because who can improve perfection? Jackson’s Cupcake does Hostess one better with a dark chocolate mini cake filled with white chocolate cream and a signature swirl on top. And beignets are just a fancy word for doughnuts, right? “I have to say one of the best desserts I had recently was at Jackson’s Bar and Oven. Their beignets are to die for. Instead of the tradional fried balls of dough, they make them into long sticks of deliciousness that are fried perfectly and soft and warm on the inside. They are served with a raspberry coulis, creme anglaise, and hot fudge to dip them in. It’s worth the trip just to have this for dessert,” said Clara Black.135 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, (707) 545-6900.
– S’mores: Campfire-inspired, these melted chocolate, gooey marshmallow and homemade graham crackers for two have been on the menu since Restaurant P/30’s opening. And getting better every time. 9890 Bodega Hwy, Sebastopol, (707) 861-9030.
– Butterscotch pudding: “It’s just an old-fashioned recipe that proves classics are classics,” said Bryan Bousquet of Bistro M. Made with brown sugar, cream, eggs and other diet-smashing goodness, this nursery favorite has permanently taken up residence at the Bousquet’s casual Windsor eatery, Bistro M (610 McClelland Ave., Windsor, 838-3118).
– You’ll want to get your peanut butter in this chocolate: Homemade “Nutter Butters” (you remember the peanut butter cookies, right?) with dark chocolate fondue for dipping at Zazu Restaurant & Farm. (3535 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa, 523-4814)
Ice: Liquid nitrogen and vanilla custard make for a spectacular ice cream dessert made tableside. Part science experiment, part haute molecular gastronomy, it’s all good when warm chocolate and French cherries complete this avant sundae at Madrona Manor (1001 Westside Rd, Healdsburg, 433-4231. Baked Blackberry Alaska is “beyond delectable, the whole dessert is homemade from scratch…including the blackberry ice cream!” according to Stacy Chamberlain, a fan of Viola Pastry Boutique and Cafe, 709 Village Ct. Santa Rosa, 544-8830. Mixing up hot and cold is Stark’s Steakhouse’s Frozen Hot Chocolate with Whopper Foam and Chocolate Crackle Cookies (521 Adams St., Santa Rosa, 546-5100).
Fire: Cherries jubilee, the oldest of the old school desserts, flambeed tableside with a flair at La Gare (208 Wilson Street, Santa Rosa, 528-4355).
Out of the Ordinary
Leave it to a pastry chef to mix sweet and savory flavors in a single dessert. Roy Schvartzapel is the pastry chef at Cyrus (29 North St., Healdsburg, 433-3311). On his current menu: Passion fruit gelato with miso custard, white peach miso soup, olive oil and sesame sable. Love red velvet? Schvartzapel’s updated version is topped with vanilla bean cream cheese frosting, candied baby yellow beets, pickled chiyoga beets, a yogurt sphere, carbonated raspberry and red beet consomme and verjus sorbet. Whew.
Ice Cream & Cake
Cheesecake: Autumn Barber of Aioli Delicatessen (6536 Front St # 7, Forestville, 887-2476) is a big fan of Autumn Merkel’s small batch Sinful Delights cheesecakes available at Aoili and at Graziano’s in Petaluma . “They make amazing cheesecakes!! Caramel macchiato is my personal favorite,” she said.
Willi’s Wine Bar’s (4404 Old Redwood Highway, Santa Rosa, 526-3096) warm Scharffen Berger Flourless Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Caramel, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Sea Salt Peanuts is my favorite dessert in the county,” said Megan Feldman. But it’s panna cotta and pot de creme that get big thumbs up at Cucina Paradiso (114 Petaluma Blvd N. Petaluma, 782-1130), Rustic’s Chocolate Mousse al “Francis Francis” served with a dollop of cream in a teacup (300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, 857-1400) and Creme brulee at Mosaic restaurant in Forestville (6675 Front St, Forestville, 887-7503)
QOW: Best Desserts
Favorite Sonoma County treats for your sweet tooth
10 thoughts on “QOW: Best Desserts”
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The warm chocolate tart at Barndiva stands out in memory and that was some five years ago.
I don’t get out enough.
Willi’s Wine Bar’s Warm Scharffen Berger Flourless Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Caramel, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream & Sea Salt Peanuts is my favorite dessert in the county.
They have a lot of other delicious desserts on the menu, but when I go there, I HAVE to get it! SO GOOD!
I have to say that the best desserts I’ve had in a long time have been at Viola’s Pastry Boutique and Cafe in Montgomery Village. There blackberry baked alaska is by far the best I’ve ever had. Beyond being delectable, the whole dessert is homemade from scratch…including the blackberry ice cream! My other favorite dessert at Viola’s is the chocolate chip cookie sundae. I can’t even fully describe the gooeyness and deliciousness of this dessert, you must try it to know the true extent. It consists of hot-out-of-the-oven homemade chocolate chip cookies, homemade vanilla ice cream, and chocolate and caramel sauce…utter perfection! Among these two fabulous desserts they also have many assorted pastries, cookies, cupcakes, and other desserts in their cold case, each one tasting better than the last!
Chef Mary Bergin started at Spago’s with Wolfgang Puck as the Pastry Chef. She now instructs many of the classes at Sur Le Table here in Santa Rosa. She makes the most wonderful kabocha squash pie with freshly whipped creme. Watch for her holiday baking classes and this particular pie recipe for your holiday dessert table. You will NEVER eat another piece of pumpkin pie after you try this pie. Her crust recipe is like eating a cloud & the filling is amazing. It’s the best!
While JM Rosen’s cheesecake is truly wonderful, I always LOVED their super rich towering slices of chocolate cake. It is so rare to get a moist traditional chocolate cake. Since the restaurant is closed, I don’t know if the cake is still available through their wholesale business?
There is nothing better than Key Lime Pie at Cafe Zazzle in Petaluma! Try it! you’ll love it!
Key Lime Pie? I loves me some Key Lime Pie. Too bad I haven’t got two nickels to rub together but that Key Lime Pie sounds darned good. Very darned good!
I have to say one of the best desserts I had recently was at Jackson’s Bar and Oven. Their beignets are to die for. Instead of the tradional fried balls of dough, they make them into long sticks of deliciousness that are fried perfectly and soft and warm on the inside. They are served with a raspberry coulis, creme anglaise, and hot fudge to dip them in. It’s worth the trip just to have this for dessert.