The Sweet Spot: Celebrating Desserts

For the past 19 years, Dessert Professional Magazine has hosted an awards and tasting party for the country’s top ten pastry chefs. Last night, at the Institute of Culinary Education, New York took the largest piece of the winning pie with chefs Sandro Micheli from Daniel, Marc Aumont from The Modern, Angela Pinkerton from Eleven Madison Park, Damien Harrgott from Bosie Tea Parlor, and the city’s darling, Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar.

As they lined up with the other winner—Sally Camacho from WP24 in Los Angeles, Craig Harzewski from Naha in Chicago, Nathaniel Reid from Norman Love Confections in Florida, Jean-Marie Auboine from his self-titled shop in Las Vegas, and Chris Hanmer from Las Vegas’s School of Pastry Design—I couldn’t help but notice all the champs were skinny. I’m not talking about just being smaller than Mario Batali, but I-never-even-eat-dessert thin. Oh well, so what if Tosi looks like she could be a vegan? It’s her pretzel and chocolate-chip cake-truffles we really care about.

You can just look at Tosi’s innovative creations to see that the art of dessert has come a long way. While a decade ago the real trick came in making superb chocolate mousse, a moist flourless chocolate cake, or perfect, airy pastries, today’s chefs have made dessert more than the end of the meal treat. They are creating art. Take Pinkerton’s lavender meringue with cocoa sorbet, for example; it didn’t look like anything you would order off a cafeteria sweets bar. The dish she offered had layers of crumble, cold, hard, light, sweet, and sour—all on one plate, which is a theme she carries over to Eleven Madison Park. Tosi too has been known for her original use of packaged crackers, pretzels, and various candies to spruce up cookies and cakes. Based on some of the other dishes at the awards ceremony, this trend isn’t going away, and people like it.

As guests fought to sample the gourmet sweets, past award winner Pichet Ong of Spot Dessert Bar flittered about the tables, garnering an excited “Hey chef” every where he went. Anita Lo of Annisa was also seen heading to the dessert room where Top Chef: Just Desserts Season Two winner Chris Hanmer whipped up a modern looking pineapple confit with a crazy tube of passion fruit studded with cilantro. Hanmer’s show mate and the United States representative of the Culinary Olympics in Germany, pastry chef Sally Camacho, also offered an interesting dessert involving a cup filled with a landscape of fluffy, crumbly, stiff, floral, salty, and chocolaty.           

Across New York you can find enjoyable desserts like the ones represented at the awards including the crazy flavors of rice pudding at Rice to Riches, everything chocolate at The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn, and next level desserts by chef Justin Hilbert of Gwynnett St., also in Brooklyn. If you happen to be in San Francisco, check out Humphry Slocombe ice cream parlor where Jake Godby creates the strangest flavors including salt and pepper, oolong tea, and peanut butter curry.

Despite all the innovative desserts being passed around the culinary school last night, I still go for the simplest, like Jean-Marie Aubione’s perfect chocolates and crispy bars and the bright raspberry and chocolate pastry by Nathaniel Reid. No matter how you like your sweets, though, there is something for everyone to indulge in. 

Restaurants with the Best Nighttime City Views

Yes, we know: Le Jules Verne at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But assuming you’re not proposing this time around, here are eight other international top spots to enjoy breathtaking views while you fill your belly.

Restaurant Georges at Centre George Pompidou, Paris: By the time you hit the third set of escalators going up to this museum’s roof, it should be clear you’re on your way straight to the top. Enjoy a drink on the terrace and watch the Eiffel Tower scintillate, then settle into the modern, aluminum-lined space for delicious takes on French classics, like the champagne-poached cod.

Rhodes 24, London: Located in the City of London’s tallest building, Tower 42, the restaurant has held onto its Michelin star since 2005, for Gary Rhodes’ traditional British cuisine, privileging quality products over fancy preparations, and letting the view add the sparkle.

WP24, Los Angeles: Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has become so ubiquitous, it’s refreshing to see him get back to what he does best: modern, Asian-inflected cuisine that made him famous. Opened in 2010, WP24 was named one of the best new restaurants in America by multiple critics, not least for the spectacular view of the LA skyline from the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

A Voce Columbus, New York: The panoramic view of Central Park, accented by the glittering whirl of Columbus Circle, is only slightly more all-encompassing than the delights of chef Missy Robbins’ pasta dishes, which are delicious enough to eat every day and deceptively simple enough to make you think you actually could.

The View Bar, Sao Paulo: The 30th-floor lounge of The View Bar is as exciting inside as the city view is outside, with visitors mingling happily with Brazilian locals over a coupe of champagne, and couples sharing a meal of small plates with local influences.

Michel’s, Hawaii: About to celebrate its 50th year this January, Michel’s at the Colony Surf on Waikiki claims to have the island’s best view, both of the ocean waves and the lights of Honolulu. Live music, fresh fish, and some of the world’s best sunsets make this destination justifiably famous.

Aqua, Hong Kong: Victoria Harbor at night is the focal point of every major building that has access to it for a reason — the multicolored lights and visually thrilling skyline add glamour to rooms that are already luxe. Aqua’s combination of Italian and Japanese food is appropriately international for the setting in the luxury shopping development One Peking Road.

Top of the World, Las Vegas: Located in the Stratosphere (literally; that’s the name of the tall building towering over the Strip) this restaurant prides itself on creating a menu of American classics with unique accents—as unique as the restaurant’s own signature feature, which is the entire space’s 360 degree revolution every 80 minutes.

Hotel Thrillist Conquers Los Angeles

Last weekend, the good folks—and insatiable party animals—over at Thrillist, set out to prove that the West Coast truly is the best coast by inviting hordes of social influencers, media types, and sweepstakes winners to be wined and dined (emphasis on the wined) in L.A., home to the website’s second-longest-running city edition. The home base for what was dubbed “Hotel Thrillist” was the JW Marriot, part of the massive entertainment complex L.A. Live, the centerpiece of downtown L.A.’s revitalization.

Night one featured a party on the hotel’s roof where we sampled bites from some of the area’s best restos, including Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Katsuya L.A. Live, LA Market Restaurant by Kerry Simon, Rosa Mexicano, Trader Vic’s, WP24 Restaurant & Lounge by Wolfgang Puck, and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. After that, it was off to the Club Nokia VIP Lounge, for a private affair that featured suds courtesy of Corona and specially mixed cocktails courtesy of Bacardi.

But the highlight of the weekend was by far the Entourage-style pool party, at a private mansion in the Hollywood Hills, where in between those same Barcadi-based cocktails and those ice cold Coronas, guests got coifs in the NIVEA for Men Spa and caught shade in smartwater’s Relaxation and Hydration Station. Top Chef Alums Marcel Vigneron and CJ Jacobsen made sure guests didn’t go hungry, with, among other snacks, an entire roasted pig. Midway through, the Aquailillies Flash Mob provided a dazzling spectacle of synchronized swimming that earned raucous applause from guests.

The weekend came to a close with one last bash at LA Production Studios, where partygoers seemed unfazed by the boozy weekend, going hard to the very end, aided in part by the addictive beats of Deejay Reprise. When all was said and done, despite the many opportunities, we managed to keep our shirts on, which for many, only made the weekend that much better. Check out pics below.

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Photos courtesy of Colin Wolff-Young.