Delectable and bite sized portions in the US are like finding a fish riding a bicycle.
While America is slowly waking up to the fact that plates do not need to be the size of two heads, and that a portion that resembles Mount Everest is not bliss but a tumultuous catastrophe, I still find that the “petite portion control” trend is exactly that – a trend. It should be a revolution.
Which is why I was fell in love with a cute, petite bakery that Gastronomypix took me to in a chilly but sunlit town of San Francisco, speckled with friendly folks, delectable hotspots and a delightful series of unexplored adventures.
Aptly named Delise Dessert Cafe, it is coincidentally owned by her sister and brother-in-law, where the star of the show is none other than the adorable baby Gabe. While for the longest I thought Delise meant “delicious” in a forgotten European dialect, it is actually a portmanteau of the pastry chef founders’ names: Dennis and Eloise. How appropriately astrological.
A walk away from the boardwalk on Bay Street and on the corner of Fisherman’s Warf, the collection of food literature and acrobatically designed visuals on the window demand a neck jerking break. Furthermore, the fact that the sourcing of ingredients is organic, pure, and unadulterated adds a fresh sheen to the concept of the petite cafe bursting with surprises.
Finally, flavor rich and appropriately portioned food in the US. Found in the alluring San Francisco.
Having worked up an appetite for something scrumptious, I started off with something I characteristically avoid – a sandwich. I am so over bread and dough, courtesy of a strenuous trainer. But this one’s description ensured a puddle of salivating drool to ensue, on par with my fascination with another disliked carb attack – bagels (famed in Holland no less). Delise concocted a bruleed cheese sandwich for me, which was layered with caramelized brie, fruit marmalade, candied nuts and arugula salad. This tasted even better than its crunchy sound – the creamy brie topped with sweet notes melted in my mouth, and the greenery reminded me that this was perhaps a healthy snack, betrayed only by the scrumptiously glistening candied nuts.
And the best thing was it arrived with a spiced chocolate cookie, which although not warm, was a dense, uncrumbly and lickable treat. And gratis at that, a smart business tactic, for it’s taste made me beeline towards the entire dessert platter walled up adjacent to the ice cream and counter. I rooted myself to the ground for what seemed like hours, trying to pick out and photograph the daylights out of a plethora of cute, miniature offerings.
While I wasn’t able to physically taste them all, I definitely swallowed whole bits with my eyes.
Plating was a forte at Delise. With dried aromatic flowers placed ornately alongside short breads, almost caught in conversation, the food was a delightful spectacle that reminded me of well dressed neighbors in a swanky neighborhood, getting ready to attend an impeccable gastronomical ball. Interlaced between the aromatic sugary scents were whole star shaped spices called star anise, bringing festivity to the plating tactic, alongside a whiff of mischief.
If there is one thing I love that is not chocolate, it is carrot cake. Oh how I swoon at the seemingly oxymoronic combination of rabbit food blended into a baker’s heaven. Although admittedly, I have been turned off by the bread loaf sized slices being served across the continents. Which is why the cylindrical shaped mini tower of temptation was precisely what I was craving. Topped and infused with candied ginger, coconut, raisin, pineapple, candied walnut and cream cheese frosting, the description outweighed the size of the cute little cake. Admittedly I couldn’t taste some of these, owing to a rapid gobbling that mandated another piece, but I definitely enjoyed the cake’s perfect texture and the candied walnut atop the soft-scoop style frosting. A bite well relished.
Salt is trending in 2012, yet Delise has whisked past many others on catapulting on this trend with a perfect sea salt fudge brownie. The fudge-iness ensured that it lusciously soft and gooey, melting with a delectable salt crunch, where the juxtaposition of sugar with its arch rival was a gastronomical battle of inescapably addictive proportions.
One of my many no-no’s includes a rice crispy treat – while I do granola bars, I simply cannot bring myself to crunch through a hollow and often soggy flake of sugary electrolyte. Yet, the flavors here were alarmingly inventive – miso and sesame! Not only was it a petite cube with barely any frightening sugary glaze on it, but one could actually spot the bits of sesame playing peekaboo from the beige blankets! Delightful and colorful indeed.
Red velvet is another fad whose bus I seemed to have missed. Yet, as aforementioned on many ironic chocolate endeavors, peanut butter is one thing that I cannot imagine a life without. And Delise aptly placed peanut butter frosting on their red velvet cupcake, almost urging folks like me to give it a bite.
What rocked about the Delise cupcakes was their lack of cupcake character, so much so that I actually thought they were cake scoops! Now, over half a decade into a forgettable trend, I am quite over the muffin sized cupcake with more frosting than cake, and a tower of iced sugar that is an inevitable pointer to a consequential diabetic attack. Their cupcakes looked more kid friendly and healthy for adults, strictly based on the realization that a powerful taste can still be infused into a bite sized portion.
The banana cupcake was one that did not have the appearance or the aroma of bananas. Paired with Nutella frosting, the dreamy globes of candied nut pieces that topped it made it instantly lickable.
But I moved onto the milk chocolate hazelnut mousse, entranced by its architectural wonder that would give the leaning tower of Pisa or Oslo’s Opera House a run for its fame. In an asymmetric and visually challenging vial of sorts, this gluten free delight was infused with candied orange and topped with a dark chocolate glaze, further topped with burning orange colored orange peel flakes and visibly sparkling salt grains. Gastronomypix said it was the newest kid on the block, and what a well groomed one indeed.
Having Gastronomypix photographing alongside me was quite the treat, for it allowed us to creep backstage and see a plethora of sesame flavored macaroons being baked fresh, and also sample some award winning (or award advocating) treats, the best being a chocolate and fudge brownie with nutty bits, topped with berry cream frosting and gold flakes. Hats off to Delise for coaxing me into trying flavor combinations that I wouldn’t fathom I would ever like, and licking my chops for more and more.
By the time that I had opened up a bakery of its own in my stomach, the afternoon sun was peeping in and beckoning me to try what Delise had earned its fame on – its 31 plus flavors of ice cream. And once again, with a forte in flavors, and the inventive juxtaposition of these, it was an ordeal to select a few without foreshadowing a literal explosion. I settled with Salted Caramel Brownie, having a penchant for observing the sugar and salt war and an impeccable weakness for chocolate. As expected, it surpassed expectation with a sturdy texture rivaled only by the toughness of Coldstone Creamery, and a remarkably strong chocolate and salt flavor without an overpowering sugar burden. I’d go back any day for a taste of the goat cheese with fig, or the red blossom earl grey, or the intriguingly titled triple threat – infused with no less than pumpkin, pumpkin ale and pumpkin seed brittle. It’s no wonder that I perched myself like a schoolboy in front of the blackboard with colorfully chalked out flavors that whisked me into my dairy wonderland.
Speaking of my favorite of all things in eateries, the ambiance at Delise was definitely worth scribbling about. It was conducive to chit-chat, flirting, and even working – giving the standard Starbucks an exodus in the derriere (no offense, but having been to a plethora of unpleasant franchises, the crowning glory is slipping, and fast). Pine frost green walls, and a totally glass front, was perfect for people and sunshine to gape right in. And for those uninterested in flirting or eye gazing or photographing, there were cookbooks to explore other worlds.
It made me smile and feel slightly nostalgic of walking out of the sun dripped dessert café and back onto a lazy weekend day.
Some things exist to lure temptation. Others are meant to last.
Some fulfill both.
Even if they are bite sized!