In case you missed it this morning, Grub Street just did a national slideshow of new desserts (see the San Francisco section here). And we aren't the only ones noticing that desserts are having a moment: Food & Wine is doing their first ever Best New Pastry Chefs special issue this year; Bravo continues to find viewers for Top Chef: Just Desserts; and Tasting Table just did this, albeit more brief roundup of new pastry stars. Now, since our fellow editors forced us to limit our picks for S.F. to a mere ten, here are fourteen more very worthy candidates that should have made the cut, were the rest of the country more accepting of how awesome we are.
Absinthe This beautiful, light take on a pineapple cheesecake by pastry chef Bill Corbett shouldn't be missed. It's just about to be added to the menu, and features toasted macadamia nuts, and a clean herbal note via a drizzle of cilantro syrup. 398 Hayes Street at Gough
AQ Barely three months into the restaurant's life, AQ pastry chef Maya Erickson has already caught the attention of Food & Wine in their national People's Best New Pastry Chef Poll. And with this dish, we can see why. A dense chocolate torte is topped with torched marshmallow, a rich branch of pure dark chocolate, and accompanied by fanciful cubes of vanilla gelée and a scoop of graham cracker ice cream. This one was a bowl-licker. 1085 Mission Street
Charcoal and Fire
Atelier Crenn Rising pastry star Juan Contreras has concocted this very trippy new dessert, which may not be on the menu quite yet, involving a hibachi-like presentation with dry ice and actual pieces of coal. Atop the glass you have braised, spiced abd charred eggplant standing in for coal, and citrus-coal meringue standing in for ash and embers. There's also sesame ice cream hidden in there. It's an elegant, totally unusual, and dramatic dish that is Contreras attempt to conjure the elemental wonder of fire. 3127 Fillmore Street
b. patisserie No roundup of current desserts would be complete without Belinda Leong's delectable, addictive, foodgasm-inducing kouign ammans. (Both Michael Bauer and Jonathan Kauffman were quick to name Leong to the tops of their lists among pastry folk.) The plain version (top), filled with a butter-sugar paste of sorts, is the standard-bearer around town. The chocolate version (not pictured) is to die for. And the new "red fruits" edition (bottom), released just in time for Valentine's Day, is filled with a yummy mixed-berry jam.
Chocolate, Peanut Butter
Benu Much like the the savory dishes at one-and-a-half-year-old Benu, pastry chef Christopher Bleidorn's dessert plates are highly composed, lightly molecular, artful creations. This chocolate-peanut butter creation could be a Kandinsky painting, or a sculptural installation by Jessica Stockholder. In fact it's a couple of cylinders of rich, shiny chocolate ganache set with a bit of gelatin, and swirled around it is a rope of peanut-butter pudding. Add to that the lightest touch of salt from miso ice cream and crunchy bits of miso meringue, as well as roasted peanuts, a couple shreds of chocolate sponge cake, and some shockingly crunchy chocolate tuille that represents another of Bleidorn's science-inspired secrets. 22 Hawthorne Lane
Blue Bottle at SFMOMA The Mondrian Cake at Blue Bottle's upstairs outpost, next to the sculpture garden at SFMOMA, has been wowing art and pastry fans alike. Pastry chef Caitlin Williams Freeman's creation — using both vanilla and red velvet cake coated and layered with ganache — is visually impressive, and in this age of desserts-as-art, it's a wonder no one thought of this before.
Medjool Date Torta
Cotogna The best example of the more casual but still flawless desserts Devin McDavid is doing for Cotogna is this delicious Medjool date torta, which is kind of like a lemony take on a blondie. The lightly tart, brownie-like body is studded with dates, and finished with Meyer lemon caramel, and candied tangerines. 490 Pacific Avenue
Fifth Floor Pastry chef Francis Ang is also on Food & Wine's shortlist this year, and we understand why. These stunning little bites are his warm almond beignets, served with a luscious yuzu marmalade we wish we had a jar of, crème fraiche, condensed-milk ice cream, candied thyme, and an almond-coffee purée. The dish is neither too sweet nor too precious, and for obvious reasons, it pairs perfectly with coffee. Hotel Palomar, 12 4th Street
Bearss Lime Cake
Jardinière Lisa Lu's new desserts on Jardiniere's menu are deceptively simple but highly innovative — so much so they recently garnered special praise from Michael Bauer. This lime cake, made with California-grown Bearss limes (kind of like key limes, but more special) is Lu's spin on the flavors of a margarita — created originally to celebrate Traci Des Jardins's birthday, as she's a big margarita fan. It's a zesty, citrusy lime cake topped with tequila sorbet, dollops of coconut mousse, and garnished with salt foam. It's a delightful closer to a meal that's neither too sweet, nor expected. 300 Grove Street
Locanda After a night of Anthony Strong's excellent saladsa and pasta, who can really stomach dessert? Well, you might want to try next time. These relatively new fried ricotta croquetas are airy, rich, lightly sweet, and drizzled with a tangy citrus caramel. 557 Valencia Street
Parallel 37 To match the dressed-down yet sophisticated plates executive chef Ron Siegel is now doing at the Ritz's new Parallel 37, pastry chef Eva Wong is doing a selection of simple desserts like a chocolate cake with cinnamon-passion fruit ice cream, and a ginger cake with apple and rum ice cream. We gravitated to these Nutella croquettes, which are paired with small Nutella ice cream sandwiches. 600 Stockton Street
'Crostata di Mele'
Quince We couldn't leave off this gorgeous dish, which may be a paradigm for all high-end tarte tatins. This is pastry chef Devin McDavid's apple "crostata di mele," which is a heavenly, tender little apple tart, garnished with huckleberries, Italian pistachio coulis, and olive oil sorbet. 470 Pacific Avenue
Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Milk, Hazelnut
Sons & Daughters Probably the most intense and satisfying bite of chocolate we had in our dessert tour was this concoction by Sons & Daughters pastry chef Kevin Gravito — a disc of rich, perfectly salted chocolate like the best truffle filling you ever had, garnished with salted caramel, toasted hazelnuts, and milk sorbet. We ate every bite. 708 Bush Street
Chai Crème Caramel
Waterbar Master pastry chef and author Emily Luchetti got some help with this dessert via one of her assistants, who recently took a trip to India. It's a chai-spiced crème caramel over gingersnap crumble, topped with roasted apples and a brandied sugar tuille. The consistancy of the custard is like a light flan, and it's made by steeping tea and spices into the custard base. It's a totally unique and inspired wintry dessert. 399 Embarcadero
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