"For months, I would just walk around thinking the words, 'Soba cha, matcha, malt, and salt,'" says Jeb Breakell, executive pastry chef and partner at Emmerson in Boulder. These are the four main components for the Malted Barley Pavlova that showed up on Emmerson's opening menu back in August and continues to be a hit into the new year. But last summer, they were just a chorus in Breakell’s head until he could get into the kitchen and try out the dessert.
"In the very beginning, we thought Emmerson and the menu would have a big grain focus,” he explains. “So I had this idea for a dessert where it could be a grain without being cake or bread. But there was no point in me trying to execute it in a kitchen other than the one I would end up using. So I waited.” When Breakell was finally able to try the ingredients together, they worked. From there, he built the rest of his dessert menu.
For a CIA-trained chef that has worked in famed New York kitchens from Daniel, to Per Se, and Eleven Madison Park, this is the first restaurant dessert lineup that is 100 percent his, and the results are surprising and weird in a good way. The pavlova is just as savory as it is sweet, and once cracked and spooned, there’s still an ice milk to be found at the center of it. The deconstructed Fennel & Grapefruit is plated like a present, with explosive candy shop flavors and textures from tart apple to celery spice.
For the Shiro Miso Flan, Breakell uses a sudachi citrus caramel mixed with pear and yogurt. Even the seemingly straightforward Chocolate Fudge is balanced with juniper, coffee, and cocoa nib. Fruit lovers will want to order the Blueberry & Cucumber that combines sake ice and yuzu citrus. Each dish on the five-item dessert menu plays a specific role, Breakell says: "Whenever I design a dessert menu, I want to fill basic categories: chocolate, fruit, custard, and a wildcard.”
"The beauty of Emmerson is that there isn't a 'concept.' It's just four guys coming together and putting out food that we like,” he adds. “We want delicious, thoughtful food, and the dessert menu is no different. The desserts here should be part of your meal; everyone that comes should not leave without getting one."
It’s an easy endorsement, but important to note is Breakell doesn’t usually like or necessarily stay for dessert. He got into this business to create dishes that are “not overly sweet, balanced, savory, and exciting,” in other words, ones he himself would order at a restaurant. For anyone else on the fence about that final course, the opening of Emmerson might be a good time to reconsider.
Emmerson is open seven days a week with cafe, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and bar hours. Check the website for details and updated menus.