Friday, June 20, 2014

Artichoke Gelato, Anyone?

Ingredients that are pegged as savory items have been sneaking their way into desserts more and more these days - to the dismay of many.  I've often found myself on the fence, sometimes appreciating the risk-factor, but usually I am left shaking my head.

A while back I dined at WD~50, Wiley Dufresne's restaurant on Clinton Street in New York City.  The dessert tasting menu was what immediately caught my eye.  The Pastry Chef, Alex Stupak had just left to open his own restaurant, however, his menu was still in place.  Known for their use of molecular gastronomy, WD~50's menu teases diners with playful plating, and contrasting textures, temperatures and flavors.  While it was an enjoyable experience, certain elements were just too much, in my opinion.   One dish in particular made me feel like I was a cow grazing in the meadow - there just happened to be a scoop of ice cream in the grass.  I was not sold.  Since Stupak's departure, the menu has changed.  His predecessor, Malcome Livingston II seems to have tamed things down a bit.  Selections include Bartlett Pear Sorbet with Honey-Milk Crisp and Tarragon & Apple Tart with Pomegranate, Swiss Chard and Pistachio.

I gave up on these pseudo-desserts, until I popped into Amali for lunch.  Located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the restaurant offers sustainable Mediterranean cuisine.  After enjoying olive marinated in Greek olive oil and parsley pappardelle Bolognese (side-note: it's AMAZING!!) I moved onto Pastry Chef Anna Markow's dessert menu.  I enjoy following Chef Anna on Twitter (@verysmallanna) and was excited to taste her selections.  I was not disappointed.  She sent out her signature Sticky Chocolate Beet Cake with Stracciatella Yogurt Gelato and Chocolate Honey.  The beet cake was like a chocolate pillow.  The tangy gelato paired perfectly with the warm, moist cake.  Rounding out the wonderfully balanced dessert was a meringue topping that offered a crunch before melting in your mouth.  

Chef Anna also sent out her Ginger Carrot Sorbet.  The texture was spot on.  Also well balanced, the carrot offered a freshness that was complimented with a zingy ginger blast.  It was a perfect palate cleanser to her final offering - Artichoke Gelato.

Believe me, I was nervous, too.  It just doesn't sound like a good idea, but once again I was proven wrong.  Chef Anna nailed it - smooth, rich an flavorful.  The artichoke was subtle.  It offered a nutty flavor that was welcome and refreshing.

Moral of the story:  When carefully thought out (and placed and prepared with purpose,) a savory ingredient can really enhance a sweet offering.