APPETITE Though my sweet tooth has diminished over the years, it only means I can’t stomach sickly sweet. I still take immense pleasure in a fine dessert. Here are some desserts so good they threaten to surpass the meal that came before.
CITIZEN CAKE ICE CREAM PARLOR AND EATS
Citizen Cake has been on a meandering journey from its original Grove Street location, to its new Fillmore home, with a recent revamp from restaurant to ice cream parlor. My last visit nearly went south when at 4 p.m. we arrived hungry for a meal as well as chef Elizabeth Falkner’s ever dreamy desserts.
Our server informed us the restaurant wasn’t serving the regular menu — although the website, menu and storefront all say they serve lunch from 11 a.m. on daily. I’m glad they decided to make a meal for us (they said it was because we were close to 5 p.m. dinner time), but I hope this gets worked out quickly, so that what is stated as being served is served.
Thankfully, the savory dishes we ordered pleased, particularly a fried chicken Cobb sandwich ($13). Although pricey, the chicken is of high quality and expertly fried, laid over a layer of egg salad (nice touch), topped with avocado, blue cheese, and bacon tomato vinaigrette in a brioche bun. The savory menu is predominantly sandwiches, salads, appetizers, and comfort food dinner dishes like meatloaf or spaghetti and meatballs.
Where I get excited is with soda fountain offerings. In classic style, there are egg creams (favorites from my East Coast days), milkshakes made with any choice of Falkner’s cakes, phosphates, spritzers, floats, and my all-time favorite root beer, Devil’s Canyon, on draft. Now I don’t have to wait for the annual SF Beer Week to have this gorgeous root beer! Though cherry or Concord grape phosphates ($4) are listed on the menu, ask about off-menu options: I recently ordered a passion fruit phosphate, subtly floral and bright. I likewise reveled in the effervescent tart of a fresh Lime Ricky ($4) balanced by bitters.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know soda fountains are making a comeback, although I’ve been waiting for more to open in San Francisco (watch for a classic parlor to open up soon in Cole Valley).
Soda fountain sips are just the beginning. Falkner’s lush cakes, macaroons, cookies, tarts and cupcakes still abound. But there’s now a liquid nitrogen ice cream machine (which she was operating herself on last visit), the liquid nitrogen ice creams a base for an extensive new list of sundaes and shakes.
I went straight for sourdough ice cream, delicately bready, not too sweet and altogether right in an SF sourdough sundae ($9) drizzled with grape syrup, brazil nuts, and salted Spanish peanuts. The bowl is dotted with diced strawberries and an exceptional chocolate-peanut butter halvah, sticky and satisfying. I was ready for a second bowl as soon as I finished the first.
2125 Fillmore, SF. (415) 861-2222, www.citizencake.com
PISCO LATIN LOUNGE/DESTINO
The duo of Pisco Latin Lounge and Destino share adjoining storefronts and menus, including the biggest selection of pisco (over 50 bottles) around. The pisco is certainly a draw. But, unexpectedly, dessert stands out here, too.
Recent returns to this duo (which I’ve been dining at on occasion for years), included a relaxed Sunday brunch and dessert. Blessedly, both brunch and dinner menus offer triple chocolate chile buñeulos ($7). These dense chocolate dough balls are dark and oozy, with merely a hint of chile. Resting in a pool of salted caramel with a vanilla crème anglaise dipping sauce, they are dangerously decadent.
1815 Market, SF. (415) 552-4451, www.destinosf.com
JASPER’S CORNER TAP
Dessert at Jasper’s Corner Tap is as much a highlight as the heartwarming, gourmet pub fare and impeccable cocktails. A cinnamon pretzel donut and a shot of Maker’s Mark and espresso with cream ($8) is filling after burgers and Shepherd’s Pie, but you’ll find room. The donut is made from house pretzel dough, but it is still somehow light and soft. A shot of bourbon, espresso, and cream is served affogato-style, an ideal finish. Ultimate kudos go to two house ice creams: fresh mint and Maker’s Mark bourbon ($4 a scoop). The bourbon is creamy and boozy, while fresh mint is bright. Together, it’s a Mint Julep in ice cream form. Genius.
401 Taylor Street at O’Farrell, (415) 775-7979, www.jasperscornertap.com
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