10 Legendary Los Angeles Desserts, Then and Now
Check out our annual restaurant issue, which this year celebrates desserts, out this Thursday, August 8.
Anne Fishbein Green gage plum dessert at Red Medicine
A great dish can define a chef or a restaurant, can install itself in the collective consciousness or trigger happy memories (see: Proust, madeleines) in a way that transcends the meal itself. Consider your mother's pie, which was probably not very good, but has become so over time, the fictionalization of memory and love having made it so. Now consider this when it applies to pies or puddings or plated desserts -- Why desserts? Because we love them, and because they encapsulate both homey comfort AND old school patisserie achievement -- orchestrated by very good, highly trained pastry chefs.
Over the years, the pastry chefs in this town have made some glorious desserts, beautiful creations that cover disparate genres and techniques, and that live on -- either because we remember them with great fondness, or because they've entered into the canon, or because every time we go to Mozza, we helplessly order the same damn thing for dessert.
Turn the page for 10 of the desserts that we can't seem to get enough of, either in our dreams or in real life.
10. Chocolate bento box soufflé, from Matsuhisa
Anne Fishbein chocolate souffle at Matsuhisa
You do not generally to go Japanese restaurants for their desserts. After a meal of omakase or sashimi, donburi bowls or tempura, mostly what you'll find are bowls of green tea ice cream or sliced fruit, maybe black sesame gelato if you're lucky. But at Matsuhisa, Nobu's first (1987!) and still our sentimental favorite of his restaurants, you will be presented with a bento box, a pretty lacquered box in which you'll find an old-school warm chocolate souffle cake, topped with vanilla sauce, adjacent to a scoop of ice cream, a sprig of mint, a few raspberries. It's a retro dessert, but one that stays on the menu, even migrating to the fancier Nobu restaurants, a happy throwback to the '80s.
9. Hostess cupcakes, from City
Anne Fishbein City's Hostess cupcakes
Back in 1981 (Bobby Sands, MTV, birth of Peyton Manning), Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken opened City Cafe, their precursor to the legendary restaurant City, and on the menu put happy desserts like peanut butter cookies and brownies. Another thing they put on the menu that year was a Callebaut chocolate cupcake filled with Mexican vanilla pastry cream. It was their riff on the Hostess cupcake, the name "City" piped on the top, and it became so popular that when City opened, it was there too, dozens of them on a big platter on the double pastry case. City is long gone, but every Leap Year, Feniger and Milliken host a City Night at Border Grill -- and the cupcakes are always on the menu. See you in February, 2016.
8. Vacherin, from Maison Giraud
Anne Fishbein Alain Giraud's vacherin
Many years ago, in 1997, long before he opened Maison Giraud, or presided over the kitchens of Anisette and Bastide, chef Alain Giraud created a lovely version of the classic French vacherin. This was at Lavande, Giraud's first restaurant after cooking under legendary French pastry chef Michel Richard, and it was the restaurant's signature dessert, an ode to lavender. Sixteen years later -- after iterations at Bastide and Anisette -- it's still on Giraud's dessert menu, a study in ice cream and meringue and strawberries and Giraud's beloved Gallic herb.
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