Smitten Ice Cream Founder Robyn Sue Fisher's Guide to San Francisco Sweets
At Smitten Ice Cream, you get your ice cream fresh. Like, "Oh, you want some of this 60.5% Tcho Chocolate ice cream? Let me just whip up a batch in the next 60 seconds" fresh. That's thanks to owner Robyn Sue Fisher's handy little invention: a mixer that uses liquid nitrogen to quickly and consistently churn smooth ice cream.
The flavors are also fresh, but in this case that means in-season and locally sourced ingredients. For example, in August you can order Sweet Corn with Summer Berries, but in November you'll get a cone of Cinnamon Apple Crisp. So where does the woman who built her own ice cream machine go satisfy her cravings for dessert? To bakeries and restaurants all over San Francisco and the Bay, though she generously she gives them more than a minute for production.
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Chocolate Nemesis from Bar Jules: As the name implies, this is pure chocolate indulgence. It's a flourless chocolate cake, which means gooey, dense, chocolate goodness. A dollop of creme fraiche adds the right amount of tang to cut through the richness.
Blue Bottle's Brandy Cake with Arborio Rice and Almonds: This cake is traditional to Bologna, Italy. It's a moist cake made entirely from arborio rice studded with almonds and doused in St. George Spirits brandy. It's like a baked, amped-up rice pudding that I could eat in the morning, for afternoon tea, or dessert.
Frog Hollow Scuffins: This is the love child of a muffin and scone. It has the dense, flaky texture of a scone but in the shape of a muffin. Using a blend of whole grain flours, the dough is course and nutty. Plus, the scuffin is stuffed with Frog Hollow preserves (nectarine or apricot or plot) for an added sweetness and sticky factor.
Dark Chocolate Caramelized Graham Crackers from Kikas Treats: Cristina Besher's caramelized graham crackers have such a complex nuttiness, which is only further enhanced by the dark chocolate. She'll sometimes even sell made-to-order s'mores where housemade marshmallows are sandwiched between the chocolate covered graham crackers and torched. There's really no comparing this version to the campfire favorite.
Cafe Jacqueline's Chocolate Souffle: This tiny French restaurant sits nestled amidst the Italian quarter and Jacqueline herself has been making every souffle to order since opening the restaurant in the 1970s. The chocolate souffle is meant for two and brought to the table with a liberal dusting of powdered sugar.
Tartine Bakery's Cacao Nib Rochers: Tartine's scones, cakes, and obviously bread are standouts, but one of my favorite unsung items is the cacao nib rocher. Crunchy on the outside but slightly gooey on the inside with a nice crunch and bitterness from the nibs, I always find myself ordering another.
Lumberjack Cake from Frances Restaurant: This cake is loaded with apples, fall spices, and brown sugar. It comes to the table warm with a scoop of maple ice cream. It always transports me to the holiday season.
Creme brulee from the Creme Brulee Cart: The Creme Brulee Cart started out like Smitten, on the streets of SF, and has recently expanded into an actual brick-and-mortar spot. They have the classics—vanilla and chocolate—but also play around with innovative flavors, like The Kentucky, vanilla creme brulee with candied pecans and bourbon butterscotch.
Hopping over to the other side of the bay...
Pizzaiolo's granola is hands-down my favorite. There are so many different flavors and textures and the dash of salt adds a nice counterbalance to the subtle sweetness of the cereal.
Crixa Cakes in Berkeley makes a Walnut Slice that is like a jumbo version of a rugelach. The walnuts are ground to a course meal and mixed with golden raisins, lemon zest and vanilla, all of which is encased in a buttery, flaky pastry.