Xico in Southeast Portland is known for making regional Mexican cuisine with the freshest possible ingredients—and that extends to dessert. Mindy Keith, Xico's resident pastry chef, is daring and talented, and has a knack for creating unique Oaxacan-inspired desserts.
In the midst of a menu that is brimming with incredible dessert options, Mindy's Woodblock Chocolate Cake ($8) is a bit of a dark horse. The cake sounds deceptively simple, but believe me when I say this chocolate cake is anything but. The presentation alone is stunning: the cake is made in the shape of a flower, then perched atop a pool of cinnamon chantilly and passion fruit ganache, with a jagged piece of sesame brittle emerging from the center of the cake.
The cake is actually more of a torte than a traditional chocolate cake. Made with Portland's own Woodblock Chocolate, this flourless chocolate cake is a perfect little pocket of intense dark chocolate flavor. The texture of the cake is smooth, creamy, rich, and pleasantly dense.
The passion fruit ganache and the cinnamon whipped cream aren't just decorative smears on the plate. The passion fruit ganache—made with passion fruit, more Woodblock chocolate, and 5 types of chilies—is fruity, complex, and just the right level of spicy. The cinnamon chantilly completes the trifecta, with the earthy cinnamon just begging to be paired with dark chocolate and chilies. There's a lot happening in this dessert, but everything on the plate works together to form a simple, cohesive, and delicious dessert.
The moral of the story: when dining at Xico, please be sure to save room for chocolate cake.
About the author: Lindsay Strannigan is a freelance writer and marketing consultant in Portland, OR. She likes kittens, the Portland Trailblazers, tacos, coffee, and bubbly. She hosts the PDX Food Swap and post recipes and photos on her seasonally-inspired food blog, Rosemarried. Follow her on Twitter: @rosemarried