Winter is citrus season and that gives dessert-makers the perfect chance to balance out heavier foods with a light end to dinner. Four of Denver's best restaurants, which also happen to have great pastry programs, have citrus-centric desserts on their menus right now. These should not be missed: the Citrus at the Squeaky Bean, the Meyer Lemon Semifreddo at Fuel Cafe, the Lemon Copetta at Spuntino, and the Crostada di Pompelmo at Frasca Food and Wine (clockwise starting top left).
The Squeaky Bean Citrus dessert is a mix of surprising textures and flavors: there is a deeply flavored nitro frozen grapefruit snow, the tangy smooth yuzu curd, candied lime and blood orange zest, sections of blood and cara cara oranges, a cashew shortbread that arrives both baked and in cubed unbaked dough form, and a cara cara orange ice cream frozen with liquid nitrogen. The combination is playful and just challenging enough to want to try it again and again.
The Meyer Lemon Semifreddo at Fuel Cafe is an adaptation of an old Mario Batali recipe from Babbo. The adjustment consists mostly of less sugar and more lemon zest rebalancing the sweetness of this dessert. Bob Blair, chef and owner at Fuel Cafe, likes to add housemade limoncello to the semifreddo broth. Blood oranges are in the broth and also as a garnish.
Tart, sweet, warm, and frozen all at the same time, the Lemon Copetta at Spuntino reveals different textures and temperatures as you eat it. On top, there is creamy marshmallow meringue, then melting frozen lemon semifreddo, and underneath that a warm caramel sauce, completed by a crunchy surprise at the bottom. Pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom likes to garnish the copetta with berries to add an extra element of freshness.
The grapefruit tart at Frasca Food and Wine, listed on the menu under its official Italian name- Crostada di Pompelmo- is, in some ways, a staple of this dessert menu. The Friulian-inspired restaurant always includes a tarte among its desserts and the winter version is grapefruit. There is a delicate crust, coconut, almond, and pastry cream, topped with grapefruit sections and accompanied by amaretto gelato.