For fall, she is experimenting with pears poached in red
wine with pink peppercorns, as well as a sponge cake with
thyme and coriander.
At the more-formal Sepia, Mispagel makes a goat cheese
cheesecake finished with raspberry vinegar, candied pistachios, beet
sorbet and lavender. She also makes an olive oil cake with strawberries,
champagne liqueur and strawberry/lemon verbena sorbet.
Miso pot de creme with lemon verbena sorbet is the most
popular dessert on the menu at Proxi, she says. It has caramelized white
chocolate, a thin layer of butterscotch and small cubes of steamed banana cake.
At Grafton Street, chocolate profiteroles are made with banana ice cream,
candied bacon, spicy peanuts and salted caramel. “Guests have reacted positively
to the chocolate profiteroles, as they are well-balanced and not overbearing,”
Vegetables add balance
“You can round out flavors by adding savory elements to desserts,” Mercury
says. He plans to add a dessert with apple and fennel to his fall menu at Oak +
Rowan. He also likes to use fall root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips, as
well as herbs for desserts such as rosemary/pine nut ice cream.
He says fall is a great time—with squash and pumpkin in season—to offer
a squash pie. “For me, using squash is more interesting than using pumpkin, but
people are thrown off by the name ‘squash pie.’ However, many squash have a
nutty flavor, and pumpkin is actually a squash. You can enhance things with
vinegar to add an acidic note and deepen the flavor. I also use a wine reduction
for more balanced flavor.”
Mercury notes that if he changes the name of the dessert from “squash
pie” to “pumpkin pie,” sales increase. However, foodies and those looking for
something interesting like the squash pie and are more open to trying it.
In summer, he has offered carrot creme caramel with chamomile, ginger,
quinoa and yogurt; chocolate and cashew with Taza chocolate, cashew mousse,
brioche and mascarpone; and market fruit and cream with bourbon, Chartreuse, honey, hemp
seeds and meringue with lemon verbena.
Corn mousse at Oriole has pretzel, jalapeño and miso elements. Kwon uses a silicone mold into
which she pipes the corn mousse, freezing it with nitrogen to shape it into a tiny ear of corn. The
husk is pretzel, freeze-dried corn, jalapeño/miso caramel and dark chocolate.
At Proxi, avocado mousse—which has tapioca pearls, pandan leaf, grapefruit cocoa nibs and
coconut—straddles the line between sweet and savory. “I’ve wanted to make this dish for a long
time,” says Mispagel. “I was always working at a seasonal restaurant, and avocados don’t grow in the
Midwest. But I grew up in San Diego, and they were a big part of my diet. I tried an avocado smoothie
and loved it. Avocados are so creamy and earthy, and they work with the more-casual Proxi menu.”
She makes a puree of avocado and sweetened condensed milk. Then, she folds in egg yolks and
whipped cream. The dish is topped with black tapioca pearls and small white tapioca pearls, which
she cooks, dehydrates and fries to make into puffy chips that give the dessert a little crunch along
with the candied grapefruit cocoa nibs.
Sepia’s sweetcorn cake is a light, fluffy steamed cake with blueberry, sorghum and sunflower-seed butter. “Imagine if cornbread were a dessert,” says Mispagel.
KATHRYN KJARSGAARD IS A FREELANCE FOOD WRITER BASED IN OAK PARK, ILLINOIS.