Desserts are not Silicon Valley’s strong suit. Mediocre crème brûlée, ho-hum sliced chocolate cake and uninspired, oversweetened fruit desserts abound. But dig a little deeper, and one can find a few outposts of creativity.
Saratoga’s Sent Sovi features an appealing patio menu and equally appealing desserts like the “caramel corn”: popcorn-flavored mousse, brown-butter almond cakes and caramelized bananas. It is the perfect size to share and offers sweet and salty in equal measure. “The berries and Gewürztraminer terrine” is summer on a plate. Layers of berries and fruit in a gelee of the sweet wine are paired with limoncello and raspberry sorbets and shiso coulis. It’s light and cool with beautiful flavors and restrained sweetness.
At the other end of the spectrum, Ruffled Feathers Eatery is downtown San Jose’s answer to the health conscious and socially aware consumer. Seventy percent of the restaurant’s produce is local, and the only things frozen are the house-made gelatos and sorbets. They offer preservative-free food and have a pastry chef onsite to produce all of their light and fresh desserts, a rarity for most casual restaurants. The custard-soaked strawberry bread pudding is a winner. It’s crisp and buttery on top and crowned with fresh strawberries and house-made vanilla gelato. The ginger orange panna cotta is good, too. It’s the perfect texture, creamy and light at the same time.
Finding good desserts is a rarity, but finding a good vegan dessert made without butter, eggs or cream is a pleasant surprise. At Tigelleria in Campbell, “Budino al Cioccolato is a mousse made with a blend of organic tofu, chocolate and sugar. The resulting texture is thick and dense and intensely chocolatey and can be served with rum-soaked amaretti cookies. Vegan or not, this dessert was incredible. There is a soft flavor in the background recognizable as soy, but the imported Italian cherries that top the mousse cuts through that flavor and brings excitement to the dish. A Cappuccina 2003 Carmenos complements the dish exquisitely. The mousse is served in a flip-top Mason jar with a heart-shaped spoon that adds to its appeal and represents the amount of love put into it by the chef—and that is above all, what makes a great dessert.