Chef-owner Brett Lockard of the Blue Hill Tavern in Canton explains the steps of making his four-layer candy bar dessert. (Michael Ares/Baltimore Sun)
Some desserts look too pretty to eat. But don't let that stop you from delving into these delicious creations by eight area restaurants. They want you to end your dinner on a good note. "We're the last act of the meal," said Citron's executive pastry chef Yassmeen H. Jackson. "We're the closer."
Alchemy Elements’ carrot cake
This is no ordinary carrot cake, said co-owner Debi Bell-Matassa, a pastry chef who has trained her staff to make the restaurant's house desserts. The two-layer, 6-inch-tall cake, is a family recipe made with cooked, pureed carrots, fresh pineapple and pureed walnuts. The moist layers are then lathered with limoncello cream-cheese frosting made with fresh vanilla bean. "It's comfort food taken up a notch," Bell-Matassa said.
Bel Air Town Center, 528 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air, 443-371-7513, alchemyelements.com
Bar Vasquez’s coconut and banana mousse
Michael Brown, the executive pastry chef for several Foreman Wolf restaurants, takes into account flavors that reflect Argentina — hence, his coconut and banana mousse with candied hazelnuts. The luscious concoction includes banana puree, coconut milk, a créme fraiche caramel sauce, orange juice and rum. "I love how happy desserts make people," the chef said. "And I'm a people pleaser."
From its opening days in 2009, the Candy Bar — a Snickers candy-like creation — has been a restaurant favorite. Created by the restaurant's former pastry Bettina Clair, the sweet treat features a pretzel crust, caramel nougatine, peanut-butter mousse, chocolate syrup and house-made marshmallow fluff. It's accompanied by Taharka Brothers vanilla-bean ice cream, with a pretzel garnish capping off the dish.
938 S. Conkling St., Canton, 443-388-9363, bluehilltavern.com
The multi-dessert offering solves the quandary of which one to choose; you get a coconut custard brûlée, a chocolate torte, a mint julep petite four and a Taharka Brothers jasmine blueberry ice cream cone. "If you don't know what you want, this has a bit of everything," said Yassmeen H. Jackson, executive pastry chef at Citron and Charles Levine Caterers.
Quarry Lake at Greenspring, 2605 Quarry Lake Drive, Pikesville, 410-363-0900*, citronbaltimore.com
The Elephant’s doughnut tower
Restaurant partner Mallory Staley was inspired by her young daughter to build a stacked dessert. Staley, who trained in pastry arts, collaborated with the restaurant's pastry chef, Suzanne Haug, to turn the concept into a reality. The result is an impressive tower of yeast and cake doughnuts, each coated with a different topping, like maple bacon, shredded coconut and caramel popcorn. Bring friends; it serves four.
924 N. Charles St., Mount Vernon, 443-447-7878, theelephantbaltimore.com
Gunther & Co.’s goat-cheese cheesecake
We can thank pastry chef Aja Cage for creating the desserts at Gunther & Co., including the creamy goat-cheese cheesecake on a brown-butter graham-cracker crust. The elegant confection gets a royal treatment with a blueberry compote, lavender-honey foam and lemon poppy-seed sorbet. While Cage left the restaurant this summer to work at Ris in Washington, Gunther's new pastry chef, Jessica Banner, who previously worked at the Turn House and the now-closed Bistro Blanc in Howard County, will continue to make the restaurant's signature sweets.
3650 Toone St., Brewers Hill, 443-869-6874, eatatgunther.com
Ouzo Bay’s walnut baklava
Many of the restaurant's desserts change with the seasons, but one is a constant: the baklava. New corporate pastry chef Cynthia Ruane, who oversees the baking at the Atlas Restaurant Group's restaurants, has made the popular dessert even better with sheets of crispy phyllo layered with walnuts, sugar, cinnamon and a hint of clove. It's finished with a honey syrup, fresh mint and vanilla-bean ice cream.
Executive pastry chef Dyan Ng takes the seemingly simple fruit dessert to an elevated level with honey-poached strawberries, caramelized milk, vanilla cream, spruce oil and a specially fermented plum powder that gives the elegant creation another flavor dimension.
Four Seasons Baltimore, 200 International Drive, Harbor East, 410-576-5800, witandwisdombaltimore.com
*Correction: A previous version of this story listed the wrong phone number for Citron. The restaurant's phone number is 410-363-0900.