Top Tastes is not a list of all-time favorites, rather the best tastes of the last two weeks (since my last newsletter), often from new openings.
Though my sweet tooth has diminished over the years, it only means I can’t stomach sickly sweet. I still take immense pleasure in a fine dessert. Here are desserts so good, they threaten to surpass the meal that came before:
CITIZEN CAKE ICE CREAM PARLOR & EATS, Pacific Heights (2125 Fillmore Street between California & Sacramento, 415-861-2228)
Citizen Cake has been on a meandering journey from it’s original Grove Street location, to its new Fillmore home, with a recent revamp from restaurant to ice cream parlor. My last visit nearly went south when in the 4pm hour we arrived hungry for a meal as well as chef Elizabeth Falkner’s ever dreamy desserts. Our server informed us they weren’t serving the regular menu though their website, menu and storefront all say they serve lunch from 11am on daily. I’m glad they decided to make a meal for us (they said it was because we were close to 5pm dinner time), but I hope this gets worked out quickly so what is stated as being served is served.
Thankfully, savory dishes we ordered pleased, particularly a fried chicken Cobb sandwich ($13). Though pricey, the chicken is high quality and expertly fried over a layer of egg salad (nice touch), topped with avocado, blue cheese and bacon tomato vinaigrette in a brioche bun. The savory menu is predominantly sandwiches, salads, appetizers and comfort food dinner dishes like meatloaf or spaghetti and meatballs.
Where I get excited is with soda fountain offerings. In classic style, there’s egg creams (favorites from my East Coast days), milkshakes (made with any choice of Falkner’s cakes), phosphates, spritzers, floats, and my all-time favorite root beer, Devil’s Canyon, on draft (now I don’t have to wait for SF Beer Week to have this gorgeous root beer!) Though cherry or Concord grape phosphates ($4) are listed on the menu, ask about off-menu options: I recently ordered a passion fruit phosphate, subtly floral and bright. I likewise reveled in the effervescent tart of a fresh Lime Ricky ($4) balanced by bitters.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know soda fountains are making a comeback, though I’ve been waiting for more to open in SF (watch for a classic parlor to open up soon in Cole Valley).
Darcy O’ Neil’s book, Fix the Pumps, outlines the history and richness of soda fountain culture. I can’t help but fall for the romance of perching on a stool at the counter and ordering a phosphate (the only thing missing is a jukebox).
Soda fountain sips are just the beginning. Falkner’s lush cakes, macarons, cookies, tarts and cupcakes still abound. But there’s now a liquid nitrogen ice cream machine (which she was operating herself on last visit), the liquid nitrogen ice creams a base for an extensive new list of sundaes and shakes.
I went straight for sourdough ice cream, delicately bready, not too sweet and altogether right in an SF sourdough sundae ($9) drizzled with grape syrup, brazil nuts and salted Spanish peanuts. The bowl is dotted with diced strawberries and an exceptional chocolate-peanut butter halvah, sticky and satisfying. I was ready for a second bowl as soon as I finished the first.
PISCO LATIN LOUNGE/DESTINO, Castro (1815 Market Street, 415-552-4451)
The duo of Pisco Latin Lounge and Destino share adjoining storefronts and menus, including the biggest selection of pisco (over 50 bottles) around. But I’ve said enough about sipping pisco here in 7×7 and Where magazines. Unexpectedly, dessert stands out here, too.
Recent returns to this duo (which I’ve been dining at on occasion for years), included a relaxed Sunday brunch and dessert. Blessedly, both brunch and dinner menus offer triple chocolate chile buñeulos ($7). These dense chocolate dough balls are dark and oozing, with merely a hint of chile. Resting in a pool of salted caramel with a vanilla crème anglaise dipping sauce, they are dangerously decadent.