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Photography by Ashley Gieseking
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Half-Baked Chocolate-Chip Cookie
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Cookies for Everybody
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Almond Lace Basket
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Bissinger’s at Maryland Plaza
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Bread Pudding at The Block
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Casey Shiller of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Café
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Chocolate Layer Cake at Tony’s
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Cleopatra at Cyrano's
Any time a customer orders three or four desserts at a restaurant—and nothing else—it pushes a server's "Whazzup?" button. Such a situation almost never occurs, except in extreme cases of the munchies...or when SLM is researching its "Best Desserts" features, as was recently the case. One night, we had some fun with it. Midway into our bounty of sweets, we grinned shamelessly, gazed into nowhere, and muttered through a mouthful of sugar, "Wow, this is really good." After perusing the feature, we hope your reaction will be the same.
Banana Cream Pie for Two
Chef Eric Kelly took this item (pictured above) off Scape’s menu due to his “personal consumption of one a day.” This pie—made with a cookie crust of Do-Si-Dos in the spring and Nutter Butters the rest of the year—also just happens to be Rams quarterback Sam Bradford’s favorite dessert. So it’s back on the menu—at least during football season. 48 Maryland Plaza, 314-361-7227, scapestl.com.
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis
You know it, of course, as glace au four. And you recognize the Ritz’s version (pictured right) is different, yet has the proper topper—not a tasteless cone of browned Styrofoam. A sea foam–light mound of meringue covers a dome of white chocolate, whipped with lemony perfumed essence of yuzu and layered with strawberry sorbet and almond cake. It meets the business end of a propane torch just long enough to produce a golden, delicate crust, which insulates the ice cream. Add a splatter of thickened fruit juices. Dessert is most definitely served. 100 Carondelet Plaza, 314-863-6300, ritzcarlton.com.
Chocolate Ganache Burrito
Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro
Your Ya Ya (Greek grandma) may already have whipped up this classic dessert. But if not, head to Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro. The chocolate-ganache burrito resembles the beautiful love child of a burrito and baklava. Warm and fresh, its flaky, golden layers of phyllo are wrapped in a squarish tube around a filling of smooth, dense chocolate ganache that’s then drizzled with a syrupy chocolate sauce. A scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream only adds to the decadence. 15601 Olive, Chesterfield, 636-537-9991, yayasstl.com.
It’s hard to bestow a superlative on just one of the many tiramisus around town these days, but we opine that I Fratellini’s is the one to beat. How does it manage to be both light and rich at the same time? It’s only a bit alcoholic at most, cool and coffeeish. An Italian government official wants to create a sanctioned version of the dish because he’s offended by the variations that abuse the name; we’re sure that this one will pass muster. 7624 Wydown, 314-727-7901, ifratellini.com.
The chewy collar of your pizza has been used to sop the last vestiges of olive oil from your dining partner’s plate of chitarra, and the kid in you—and your kids—are pondering dessert. Pastaria offers a roster of tempting confections, but pastry chef Anne Croy’s take on birthday cake—moist, almond-kissed layers sandwiched between a white-chocolate buttercream filling and the sprinkle-adorned icing—hits notes that are sweet, savory, and most important, fun. 7734 Forsyth, 314-862-6603, pastariastl.com.
Half-Baked Chocolate-Chip Cookie
The Tavern Kitchen & Bar
“Half-baked,” a term typically used to describe your brother-in-law, is a generous square of pastry genius (pictured left) that arrives, warm and welcome, after dinner at The Tavern. It’s baked—well, halfway, anyway—in an iron skillet, with the edges beautifully crisped. The center is moist and fudgy like a fresh brownie. Ground chocolate and chocolate chips add an extravagant richness to the dessert. The scoop of ice cream on top is unnecessary—but it deliciously melts into the chocolate. 2961 Dougherty Ferry, 636-825-0600, tavernstl.com.
Besides several packs of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the best $7 you can spend, sweetwise, is on adding Castello Banfi grappa to Acero’s marvelous figs. Plump, chewy fruits are crammed with crushed hazelnuts and almonds that alone qualify for a lovely dessert. It’s the addition of that swirl of grappa—tasting like summer’s last green apples, marinated in licorice—that sends this dolce into the unforgettably delightful range. 7266 Manchester, 314-644-1790, fialafood.com/acero.
Many home freezers have a secret place, a far-back corner where candy bars are not-so-innocently hidden. But we’d gladly replace our most coveted frozen treat with The Libertine’s “candy bar,” whose striations of silky salted-caramel semifreddo—hazelnut and cake cloaked in a coating of chocolate—have us closing the freezer door and returning to Clayton more often than we’d like to admit. 7927 Forsyth, 314-862-2999, libertinestl.com.
Cookies for Everybody
The best part of both the Oreo and the Twinkie: that powerfully sweet stuff in the middle. What’s amazing about Pi’s dessert (pictured right) is that the supersweet fluff between the cookies is vegan and gluten-free, just like the cookies themselves. The “chocolate chips” in the cookies aren’t chocolate, either. So the dessert conforms to just about any dietary restrictions—and yet, like Lucky Charms, it’s magically delicious. Multiple locations, 314-727-6633, restaurantpi.com.
Cassy Vires and crew put a new twist on the classic combo of chocolate and peanut butter. A housemade oatmeal–peanut butter cookie is topped with a creamy peanut-butter semifreddo (think ice-cream cake). Then this killer open-faced sandwich of sorts is finished off with a drizzle of decadently rich chocolate. 1821 Cherokee, 314-449-1888, tablestl.com.
Sidney Street Cafe
Is it possible to improve the Snickers bar? Sidney Street Cafe has taken a run at it, deconstructing this iconic treat into its most basic flavors—chocolate, nougat, and peanuts—then adding amplified adornments like dulce de leche and a bourbon-infused chocolate sorbet. Those details make this dessert the required finisher for a meal at this Benton Park institution (and SLM’s 2013 Restaurant of the Year). 2000 Sidney, 314-771-5777, sidneystreetcafe.com.
Almond Lace Basket
The almond nest and the butter-pecan ice cream are sublime by themselves. But when they’re topped with caramelized, brûléed bananas—poured slooowly from a silver gooseneck sauceboat—this amalgam (and its aroma) becomes forever emblazoned in your memory. If it’s not your birthday, celebrate the fact that this dish (pictured left) was born at Bistro 1130. 1130 Town & Country Crossing, 636-394-1130, bistro1130.com.
House Kit Kat Bar
Named by Wine Enthusiast as one of the nation’s top five rooftop wine bars, Three Sixty literally elevated the local restaurant-and-bar scene. It makes sense, then, to elevate a childhood treat to a grown-up indulgence. Enter Three Sixty’s house-made “Kit Kat,” a rich interpretation of the candy-aisle staple. Layers of rich chocolate ganache, hazelnut cream, and feather-light wafers form a dessert that’s familiar, astonishing in its ingenuity, and flat-out delicious. Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, 1 S. Broadway, 314-241-8439, 360-stl.com.
Key Lime Pie in a Jar
Even if you’ve stuffed yourself with burrata, salumi, and egg-salad tartine, reach deep for inner reserves, because the Pie in a Jar should not be missed. The flavors—usually a few per night—offer a visual treat with layers of crust, whipped cream, and filling, served up in a cute little jar. The authentic tang of true Key limes will conjure Florida vacations of the casual yet sophisticated variety—more Boca Grande than Fort Lauderdale. 1634 Tower Grove, 314-932-1088, oliostl.com.
Pavlovas seem to come from the same genteel, long-lost era as plus-fours, Herreshoff yachts, and a lady’s minaudière. Cielo’s version (pictured right)—no matter the season—is a flawless rendition. This fall, layers of desiccated meringue dissolve, leaving behind a wisp of lavender-infused honey. Chocolate amaretto cream lingers and blood-orange ginger sorbet cleanses, leaving candied violets for the last bite of this dessert’s dessert. 999 N. Second, 314-881-2105, cielostlouis.com.
The timing of this issue is perfect. Why? Because the amazing pecan pie at Farmhaus wouldn’t be available during warmer months. The restaurant’s menu continually changes as local product availabil-
ity shifts, and fall is the season to savor this Southern classic. A perfect pie crust envelops a filling of local pecans and maple syrup, brown-butter crumble, butterscotch sauce, and ice cream made in-house from Frostie root beer that’s imported from Excel Bottling Co. in Breese, Ill. 3257 Ivanhoe, 314-647-3800, farmhausrestaurant.com.
One More Cup
This month, The Cup is expanding to West County, adding a location in Chesterfield (1590 Clarkson, Ste. 105, cravethecup.com). Stop in for the seasonal cupcakes, like the Pumpkin Harvest, as well as the limited-edition options, including the Touchdown, a chocolate cupcake topped with gold sugar and a Rams “football.”
Panna Cotta Central
If panna cotta—an eggless custard—is the new crème brûlée, then the Central West End is Panna Cotta Central. The dessert is on the menu at four of the neighborhood’s restaurants: Bar Italia, Taste, Scape, and Central Table Food Hall. The version at Central Table is made using steeped-then-strained popcorn that’s garnished with house-made caramel corn.
World’s Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae
The Fountain on Locust’s popular dessert offers all the fun and flavor of a big-boy sundae at a fraction of the cost—and size. 3037 Locust, 314-535-7800, fountainonlocust.com.
Bissinger’s at Maryland Plaza
With its longtime history in St. Louis, Bissinger’s is like family to many. Chocolate-covered raspberries, as short-lived as spring peonies, and the synecdochical molasses lollipops have kept customers faithful to the brand for years.
Dave Owens, who may have one of the coolest titles in the industry—chief chocolatier and vice president of taste—oversees the Bissinger’s location in the Central West End. He and his team have expanded the chocolate experience with wine, beer, and spirits pairings. “The tea and coffee programs are really happening,” he says. To wit: Bissinger’s has partnered with Kaldi’s Coffee, whose production facility is behind the building, as well as Fezziwig’s Marketplace, a Lebanon, Ill., tea shop co-owned by one of the nation’s few tea sommeliers, Ellen Leaf-Moore.
Owens counts the Brun-Uusto—a Finnish-style bread cheese, served warm with tomato–cocoa nib chutney and crusty bread—among his savory favorites. He also recommends the Cococcino, a molten, flourless chocolate cake served in a mug and topped with vanilla-bean crème anglaise. “The goal,” says Owens, “is to have chocolate in as many different ways as possible.” 32 Maryland Plaza, 314-367-7750, bissingers.com. —J.A.
A Baker’s Triple
Faves at three new bakeries
Choosing a favorite among Simone Faure’s French pastries is like deciding what to save in a fire: impossible. Among the go-tos are the choux (puffs of pastry surrounding rotating fillings) and macarons. Then there’s the olive oil–lavender pound cake, and the bostock, an almond-studded specialty brioche dessert. Uncertainty—c’est la vie! 1626 Tower Grove, 314-827-4049, simonefaure.com.
A rectangular confection, striped in the colors of its namesake flag, the Italian tricolor includes three layers of almond sponge cake, held together by apricot filling and dipped in dark chocolate. (Tip: When buying a pound of assorted cookies for a party, the tricolor should go in the box first. That way, once everyone else chooses, you’ll get what’s waiting at the bottom.) 6197 Delmar, 314-932-1355, piccionepastry.com.
Pint Size Bakery
Empty-stomach indecision can spiral into full-blown paralysis when you’re greeted with so many options. The brownie—a moist, fudgy square whose sweetness is cut by a bitter note of espresso—is required eating. And for a nonchocolate fix, there’s the oatmeal-stout cake. 3825 Watson, 314-645-7142, pintsizebakery.com. —J.A.
The Best Bread Pudding Around
A passel of our favorites, from the most delicate to the most dense
Cyrano’s: Nearly identical to Harvest’s classic (see p. 98), this bread pudding adds dried fruit. Harvest’s includes currants, while Cyrano’s has tart dried cherries. cyranos.com.
Riverbend Restaurant & Bar: Slow-baked for four hours, this New Orleans–style iteration is more delicate—and the serving size smaller—than most. riverbendbar.com.
Jimmy’s on the Park: Amid swirls of raspberry and chocolate, flaky croissants form the backbone of this dessert. jimmyscafe.com.
The Block: There are more flavors than Ellen DeGeneres has dance moves. Should you encounter the pumpkin version (pictured above), complete with pumpkin custard, take advantage. theblockrestaurant.com.
Eleven Eleven Mississippi: This big seller has a few secrets: white chocolate, pecans, a sticky crust, caramel sauce, and ice cream—call it a bread sundae. 1111-m.com.
Remy’s Kitchen & Wine Bar: It’s the size—and weight—of half a brick. Many consider its brandy-laced hard sauce to be the best in town. remyskitchen.net. —G.M.
A thumbnail guide to STL's gourmet chocolatiers
Kakao’s sea-salt caramels are the most chocoliciously popular item. The buttery caramel and deep chocolate wrestle on the tongue like giggling toddlers, before the salt leaps atop both like a wild-eyed father joining the fun. 7272 Manchester, 314-645-4446; 2301 S. Jefferson, 314-771-2310; kakaochocolate.com.
Rick Jordan Chocolatier
Rick Jordan trained under chocolate celebrities in France to learn how to make aesthetically gorgeous confections, including his trademark demispheres—wildly colorful bonbons filled with combinations of ganache, caramel, and honey from his own beehives. 14882 Clayton, 636-230-9300, rjchocolatier.com.
VanBuskirk Chocolate Bar
Autumn at VB’s, as it’s known, means pumpkin-caramel truffles that pair perfectly with the spiced martinis, cold-weather beers, and rich coffees available at this epicurean hot spot. 5326 High-
way N, Cottleville, 636-352-1139, vbchocolatebar.com. —B.K.
Fame and Frosting
Casey Shiller on tastes, teaching, and TV
A two-time champ of the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, flavor guru Casey Shiller of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Café (9509 Delmar, 314-993-5455, jillyscupcakebar.com) is the go-to guy to learn about the future of the cupcake.
What new flavors will Jilly’s offer this fall? In November, we like the warm, spicy, homey feel of toasted apple and cinnamon. We’ll also probably bring back our pumpkin-pie cupcake, a fan favorite. It has a tiny wedge of pumpkin pie on top.
What else is new at Jilly’s? In November, Jilly’s will launch a retail ice-cream store and a party/event space that will take cupcake interaction to a whole new level. The ice-cream shop will be in the same plaza as Jilly’s—just around the corner, sharing walls with the original shop—but still be its own entity, including an ice-cream production facility, so we can make everything in-house. The party space will take our sprinkle parties to another level, way beyond squeezing icing onto cupcakes. We’re talking about letting people make fillings, icings, and garnishes.
You also teach at St. Louis Community College–Forest Park. What’s the hardest thing to impart to your students? Regardless of what product you’re making, it’s imperative to know the chemical makeup. Without knowing the chemistry and science behind it, on either the cake or ice-cream side, you’re in trouble. And you have to know the math. A properly balanced sorbet, for instance, is all math and science.
Do students ever feel the kind of pressure that you felt competing on Cupcake Wars? In our cake class, we do basic sponge cake and buttercreams. Our practical exam is in the style of Cupcake Wars—they’re timed, scrutinized, and you do feel the pressure. —B.K.
The tried, the true, and—to many—the tops in town
Bread Pudding Harvest’s rich-but-light take uses cubes of brioche bread that almost float in the bourbon-laced sauce. The dessert’s been on the menu for 16 years—except for a brief, mistaken effort to try something new. 1059 S. Big Bend, 314-645-3522, harveststlouis.com.
Chocolate Layer Cake Tony’s traditional cake (pictured right) is strongly chocolate-on-chocolate, moist and rich. It pairs perfectly with the house-made banana ice cream. 410 Market, 314-231-7007, tonysstlouis.com.
Sticky Toffee Pudding Well, no, it isn’t actually a pudding—it’s a slab of rich cake, topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream. Schlafly’s kept it on its menu—at the Bottleworks and the Tap Room—since it opened. Laud the wife of one of the owners for this jewel. 2100 Locust, 7260 Southwest, 314-241-2337, schlafly.com.
Apple Pie If you’re a pastry fiend, order Annie Gunn’s perfect apple pie with cinnamon ice cream on the side, so as not to interfere with this exquisite example of flour and fat. This dessert predates the Great Flood of 1993. 16806 Chesterfield Airport Rd., 636-532-7684, anniegunns.com.
Chocolate Fritters A holdover from the original Balaban’s, the flash-fried chocolate truffles at Herbie’s Vintage 72 are served in a Baileys Irish Cream–laced batter. It’s hot ’n’ gooey ’n’ irresistible. 405 N. Euclid, 314-769-9595, herbies.com.
Chocolate Martini This dessert “martini” at Baileys’ Chocolate Bar has been the signature dessert since the bar’s inception in 2004. 1915 Park, 314-241-8100, baileyschocolatebar.com.
Cleopatra Four scoops of French-vanilla ice cream are served with strawberries, bananas, and rum sauce. But the key ingredient to Cyrano’s classic dessert (pictured left) is Elmer’s Gold Brick sauce, chocolate that hardens when it hits the ice cream. 603 E. Lockwood, 314-963-3232, cyranos.com.
Cherries Jubilee Like the Cleopatra, this Cyrano’s dish dates back to the early ’60s. The magic show begins tableside, inside a shiny sauté pan, with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, fat cherries, and several liqueurs that are set aflame independently. The alcohol burns off, but the intoxicating aroma lingers.
White Chocolate Macadamia Soufflé Cake If those five words aren’t tempting enough, the scoop of salted-caramel ice cream and the three-berry garnish should seal the deal when it comes time to order dessert at Cardwell’s at the Plaza. Plaza Frontenac, 1701 S. Lindbergh, 314-997-8885, billcardwell.com. —A.L.P.