APPETITE Earthy, savory desserts call out to me. Despite my diminishing tolerance for excessive sugar, ice cream and gelato remain my biggest weaknesses, and I’m as appreciative of baked goods and balanced, unique desserts as I ever was. There are a slew of new and noteworthy Bay Area sweets on my menu — and a couple older places worth revisiting. (Visit the Pixel Vision blog at SFBG.com to read about six more.)
MISO SESAME RICE CRISPIES AND SOME OF SF’S BEST ICE CREAM
Run by husband-wife pastry chef dynamos Dennis and Eloise Leung (their fine dining background included Bong Su, a restaurant I still miss), Delise is a small cafe near Fisherman’s Wharf. Now three years old, the cozy spot is home to some of the best ice cream in SF (you read that right), cupcakes (thankfully unlike the typical “cupcake” served elsewhere), bars, cookies, bagels from House of Bagels, and sandwiches with unique Asian twists like crab salad in ginger turmeric aioli and kaffir lime dressing. Highlights are many, including a matcha green tea cupcake filled with red beans or a miso sesame rice crispy. I dream of ice cream flavors like Triple Threat, possibly the best pumpkin ice cream I’ve ever tasted with candied pumpkin seed and ale, or divine toasted rice ice cream, which is also served — alongside a few of Delise’s sorbets and ice creams — at Martin Yan’s brand new M.Y. China.
327 Bay, SF. (415) 399-9694, www.delisesf.com
IN LIEU OF ICE CREAM, THERE’S FROZEN CUSTARD
Since its debut at the Underground Market in 2011, Frozen Kuhsterd (launched by Jason Angeles, who now runs it with Alex Lam and Tim Luym) has proffered a Midwestern favorite with roots in Coney Island. Dense, creamy, soothing, it’s like ice cream made with eggs alongside cream and sugar. Available at a few locations, including from their food truck at SoMa StrEAT Food Park (follow on Twitter @frozenkuhsterd), flavors like Cinnamon Toast Crunch (Cereal Milk) and Thai Iced Tea are already a hit, Peppermint Bark and Eggnog Latte hook me for the holidays, and I’m eager to try the likes of Coffee Mint Mojito. Besides unusual sundae toppings, the custard is served in varying formats and as part of collaborations announced via social media, such as in donut sandwiches with Dynamo Donuts or in French pastry favorite kouign-amann from B. Patisserie.
YES, THERE IS A CHOCOLATE LAB
Afternoons at Chocolate Lab, chocolate master Michael Recchiuti’s brand new, all day chocolate cafe in the original Piccino space, feel almost Zen-like. Friendly service in cozy, light-filled environs, sitting at the communal table or at high corner tables with a Bay shrimp tartine sandwich, finished off with an affogato… it’s a happy respite. Opt for a Virgil’s root beer or cream soda float layered with Recchiuti extra bitter chocolate sauce and chocolate malt ice cream, then stop off at the shop next door to purchase some chocolates to take home.
801 22nd St., SF. (415) 489-2881, www.chocolatelabsf.com
INSTEAD OF TWINKIES, TRY TWINKS
The first time I visited Inner Richmond’s new Pretty Please Bakeshop was two days post-opening — before the demise of Twinkies. I knew even then that “twinks,” far superior versions (think Twinkies for the gourmand), would be a hit. Trying to decide between red velvet, banana bread, or pumpkin twinks means I just get one of each. The rest of the offerings please, from cupcakes to a quality Ding Dong — yes, they’ve got that covered, too.
291 3rd Ave., SF. (415) 347-3733, www.prettypleasesf.com
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED PEANUT BUTTER CUPCAKES. ENOUGH SAID
Opened this December in the historic MacFarlanes Candy and Ice Cream space, Sweet Bar Bakery in Oakland is the kind of bakery where just about everything ordered tastes as good as it looks. As I’m a peanut butter fanatic, chocolate dipped peanut butter cupcakes ($3.75) are more than enough reason to stop in. Lightly whipped yet intensely peanut-y PB rests inside dark chocolate coating a chocolate cupcake. Sweet Bar does right by all baked goods, from a savory bacon gorgonzola scone ($2.75) to perfect muscovado ginger cookies ($2).
2355 Broadway, Oakl. (510) 788-4997, www.sweetbarbakery.com
UPSCALE PASTRY DELIGHTS
Dining at Baker and Banker is memorable, from the tranquil space and service to husband-wife chef duo Jeff Banker and Lori Baker’s finely crafted food. A chef’s table and tasting menu (at $75 per person) in the active bakery is a key way to sample their range, including Lori’s exquisite desserts, much of which is available at their bakery during the day. Cult classic XXX chocolate cake is merely a starting point. A restaurant dessert that stays with me? Divine candied bacon doughnuts oozing with bourbon cheesecake filling under maple glaze. Bacon doughnuts may be overdone elsewhere, but there’s none quite like B&B’s.
Baker and Banker, 1701 Octavia, SF. (415) 351-2500, www.bakerandbanker.com
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