Denver's dessert scene is growing slowly but surely and coming into its own as restaurants start to recognize the value of a professional pastry chef. Often overlooked, this position is highly technical, and requires precision, creativity, and artistry in equal parts. The final impression of a stellar dinner, the dessert, should match in every way all the effort that has been put in every other aspect of an establishment from the kitchen to the service.
Four pastry chefs are showing that it is not only possible to match an executive chef's menu with a dessert one, but that, sometimes, that sweet ending can be a draw into itself. Eater contributor Rachel Greiman explored the dessert menus at Avelina, Rioja, Departure, and Vesta and Ace. There, the talented pastry teams led by Yasmin Lozada-Hissom, Eric Dale, Erin Koroll, and Nadine Donovan create desserts that bring guests in and keep them coming back. Here's what to expect:
At Avelina, pastry chef Yasmin Lozada-Hissom features these four beauties on her creative menu: Coconut panna cotta with passion fruit crémeux, mango, and merenguitos; dulce de leche stack with kouign amann crisps, and tahitian namelaka; chocolate hazelnut crunch cake bar with salted caramel gelato; and citrus olive oil cake with fennel praline, kumquats, and bronte pistachio gelato. Her menu also includes a selection of ice creams and sorbets.
Erin Koroll at Departure in Cherry Creek brings five desserts on her menu: the guava mousse and coconut oce mango, with jackfruit, Thai basil; the strawberry ice cream and green tea ice mochi, Japanese peach, and shiso; dark chocolate brownie cake with peanut brittle, miso caramel, and banana ice cream; the Makrut lime tart with toasted meringue, candied lime, and makrut lime sherbet; and the coconut sticky rice with passion fruit, coconut jelly, hibiscus,and sesame. The brunch menu brings a variety of dim sum sweet endings also.
Rioja's Eric Dale complements chef Jennifer Jasinski cuisine with the white and black cheesecake, a blackberry-filled white chocolate cheesecake, with toasted black sesame ice cream, blackberry coulis, sesame nougatine, plus black sesame paint; the brandy snap cannoli, orange scented Carnaroli rice pudding, passionfruit coulis, and edible flowers; the variations of chocolate, dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate mousse, Gianduja mousse, hand painted white chocolate, chocolate miroir, and candied hazelnut; the now-classic beignets with sweet goat cheese and black mission fig filled pastries, and ruby port wine reduction; PB&J, peanut butter crémeux, white chocolate shell, peanut butter shortbread, grape sorbet, cotton candy; and brandy snap cannoli, an orange scented Carnaroli rice pudding, with passionfruit coulis, and edible flowers. Ice creams and sorbets are also available.
Sugar fairy Nadine Donovan is the force behind the dessert menus at Vesta Dipping Grill, two locations of all-American modern diner Steuben's, and Asian-inspired Ace. The desserts pictured here appear on the menus at Ace and Steuben's and include the Go-Go Saigon, a chocolate espresso mousse, with caramelized condensed milk, and crunchy coffee meringue; the yuzu dreamsicle, a creamy citrus semifreddo, with orange milk crumb, and Szechuan geleé; the apple blossom tart, made from a crisp puff pastry, with sake-infused apples, and Chinese cinnamon ice cream; chocolate bonbons; cupcakes in black and white; a classic coconut cake and a truck stop chocolate one too; a fried peach pie, shakes and floats and so much more.