Serious Eats: Sweets
First Look: Fall Dessert Tasting Menu At Michael Mina, San Francisco
Lincoln Carson wants to make a "cacophony of food." He wants to bring energy to the table. And he wants you to stop ignoring dessert.
Well, thank goodness. How many times have we been to a restaurant, even the otherwise exceptional ones, and got the sneaking suspicion that dessert was an afterthought? That someone had to pull themselves away from the savory side of the menu to put together a staid affair of chocolate cake and unexceptional fruit tarts? (A changing roster of ice cream flavors does not a seasonal dessert menu make.) Not at Michael Mina. The first class restaurant gets a first class dessert menu to match.
While you can order many of Carson's desserts à la carte, the best way to enjoy dessert here is with the 6 course tasting menu. Tasting menu doesn't mean a steady pace of uniformly sized dishes, rather four courses "dropped" (Carson's word) on the table. Some are meant to be shared. Some are as light and simple as a walnut toffee croquant. Some are more elaborate; multi-bite confections meant to be explored.
Take the Tiramisu, the original red-sauce Italian restaurant version of which is one of Carson's guilty pleasures. Carson makes a soft sponge cake and soaks it in coffee brewed at two times normal strength. The cake is frozen then soaked with more flavor, namely a mix of brewed coffee, espresso, and benedictine rum. The outside of the cake is sprayed with Valrhona Opalys White Chocolate, a creamy white chocolate made with a high percentage of milk solids that's specially designed for coating. The chocolate coating gives the cake the impression of having a hard crust, though the first bite reveals it's perfectly soft. "I like to add surprise," Carson explains. "I like to make your expectations different from what you get."
Like the surprise of cutting into the Peppermint Bombe, which from the outside resembles a plain, smooth chocolate cylinder. Put your fork to the cylinder and you'll find the chocolate gives way to fresh peppermint ice cream, and that ice cream to a capsule of liquid chocolate that bursts, mingling with the minty ice cream and the crunchy crumbled cookies beneath.
When asked about his dessert philosophy, Carson says, "It's always an evolution. You're always trying to move forward, to not do the thing you did yesterday. I don't know that I can do anything better than this but come back in a year. Maybe we will."
We'll be back. But in the meantime, check out the slide show above to see all the fall desserts at Michael Mina.