Unlike Jessica, I am not a lover of the sweets. I much prefer to fill my stomach space with raw, red meat and crisp, sauteed vegetables. But, for the sake of expanding my horizons(and writing this blog!), I ventured out of my comfort zone and gave myself a 1-day crash course in dessert appreciation.
The restaurant I decided to visit was Higgin’s, located on the corner of Broadway and Jefferson. Higgin’s is known for their philosophy of supporting farming techniques that are sustainable, organic and regenerative. They recently hired a new Pastry Chef, so I figured this was a perfect opportunity to test both my palate and the skills of the newly appointed pâtissier.
Higgin’s Dessert Menu for the Week of June 18-25, 2011:
malted vanilla tapioca, oven roasted strawberries, chocolate pine nut biscotti
honey macerated local strawberries, chantilly cream, toasted pistachios
chocolate lambic framboise mousse, crème fraiche, cocoa nibs
caramel-hazelnut torte, hazelnut ice cream, hazelnut florentine
House-made Ice Cream or Sorbet
served with a selection of cookies and sweets
All Desserts $8.75
(For the sake of open-mindedness and education, I ordered one of each dessert, omitting the ice creams and sorbets.)
Rating Scale: 1=save yourself the expense; 5=you better buy two!
First up was the Tapioca Pudding. Texturally, tapioca can be similar to cottage cheese, and isn’t one of my favorite things to put in my mouth. This version was no different. While the malted vanilla was an interesting take on the original, it was undercooked and therefore a bit toothier than it should have been. Even though the menu says ‘oven-roasted’, I wasn’t expecting the strawberries to be served warm. Cold pudding calls for cold toppings, in my book. But alone, the berries were ripe and flavorful with a nice firm yet soft texture. The pine nuts were a safe and predictable topping, but it was the biscotti that stole the show. Crispy and chocolaty, it would have been an amazing complement to a hot cup of espresso, had I the foresight to order one. Rating: 2
Next dish was the Spring-time classic, the Strawberry Shortcake. The Organic, honey-macerated Oregon strawberries were AMAZING! Cheers to the chef for substituting honey for sugar. Anyone can sugar-macerate strawberries at home, but honey? Yummy! The shortcake was served slightly warm and was flaky without crumbling to pieces on your plate. It was lightly flavored with lemon zest and you could faintly detect the butter notes in the background. The chantilly was also lightly flavored with lemon, but was over-whipped and somewhat grainy. Organic toasted pistachios and a fresh mint sprig finished off what would have been a perfect dish, had the cream been ‘creamy’. Rating: 4
On to the dessert I was most looking forward to: the Chocolate Cake. The Pastry Chef struck gold with the chocolate Lambic framboise mousse sandwiched between three layers of chocolate cake and topped with chocolate ganache. Delicious! The cake was moist and rich and the mousse was dense and velvety. All the things you want your cake to be, this one was! The puddle of vanilla creme fraiche and the drizzle of framboise syrup were just icing on the (chocolate!) cake. It was easy to eat every last bite of every ingredient on the plate, even the cocoa nibs suspended in the hardened corn syrup garnish. Rating: 5
Last on the list was the Hazelnut Torte. With hazelnut ice cream. And a hazelnut florentine. And toasted hazelnuts. The only thing on the plate with out hazelnuts was the drizzle of strawberry coulis underneath the torte. Everything together was overkill. But, deconstructed, you could taste every component and you could tell the high quality of ingredients. I can’t even imagine the cost of the organic hazelnuts used in this dish alone! The torte was small for the price but, factoring in the organic nuts, it seemed fair. It was warm, rich and flaky, with ribbons of caramel throughout. The caramel was definitely a nice touch. You could tell the hazelnut ice cream had real hazelnuts in it, not the hazelnut flavoring used by so many restaurants. Cold and salty, it was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the torte. Aside from the redundancy, it was a beautiful dish that is sure to be a popular one. Rating: 4
All in all, Higgin’s new Pastry Chef did a great job utilizing the fresh ingredients of the season and turning them into amazing desserts. While not everything on the menu was stellar, it was definitely solid and I’m sure the individual items will improve as the chef settles into their groove. A small bit of advice to the chef? Skip the pudding and double up on the cakes!!!