I'm not generally a supporter of culinary identity-theft. You can have your banana cream pie flavored yogurts and your oatmeal cookie energy bars. But I can't deny a certain pleasure when you try a dish without any particular expectations and you get to cry out, "Oh my god! It's pecan pie!"
That's what happened when I dove into a bowl of Pecan Praline Rice Pudding ($2.75) from Loving Cup. This Polk Street shop takes the specialist approach to cooking, offering riffs on just two items: frozen yogurt and rice pudding. Their rice puddings are always exceptional. They have the right consistency—just softer than al dente rice is suspended in a thick and creamy pudding. Every pudding starts with a base made from non fat milk, arborio rice, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla bean. (You could have fooled me that they don't use cream.)
I tried the pecan praline on a whim (I always take advantage of the fact that you can try flavors before buying them) as I've been going through a heavy pecan praline phase that doesn't seem to be losing any steam. I was expecting pieces of praline studded throughout a typical vanilla pudding base, but what I got was so much better. The pudding itself has taken on the flavor of pecan pie. Somehow that white pudding tastes of brown sugar and caramelized, toasty pecans. There are some pieces of pecans, but not enough to disturb the classic creamy texture. It's pecan praline-flavored pudding, not pudding with pecans and praline. It's the perfect treat for these pre-summer days in San Francisco: cool for those moments of sunshine, and comforting for when the wind blows.