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Sound Bites: Beyond lava cake, some St. Louis restaurants explore new takes on classic desserts

The apple cake dessert: creme fraiche semifreddo from Sardella
Sauce Magazine | Greg Rannells
The apple cake dessert: creme fraiche semifreddo from Sardella

When’s the last time that something on the dessert menu surprised you?

"Chocolate lava cake is ubiquitous, you can go to any number of restaurants and find that or a crème brûlée or a cheesecake on the menu,” Sauce Magazine art director Meera Nagarajan said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s particularly creative or different.”

On this month's Sound Bites, St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter sat down with Nagarajan and Niche Food Group executive pastry chefs Mathew Rice and Sarah Osborn. The restaurants they work at include Sardella, Taste and Porano. They discussed the final course, the dwindling number of restaurants providing unique dessert options and some of their favorites.

"Not everybody puts a lot of importance on [dessert] but for different reasons,” Nagarajan explained. One of them is the cost of a full-time pastry chef. 

“An executive chef can come together and have a few good desserts in them, but it’s not something they’re going to think about all the time,” Rice said. “And for me, it’s all I think about.”

Rice is interested in new versions of classic desserts, like s’mores. “A new version of that would be like a graham cracker ice cream with a milk chocolate magic shell, homemade graham crackers, and a swirl of homemade toasted marshmallows,” he said. Rice described the process of maintaining all of the flavors but with “different temperatures and textures.”

At the moment, Osborn’s desserts are also tapping into nostalgic tastes. “I have a chocolate ganache with peanut butter pretzel crust and banana sorbet,” she said.

Unique dessert menus present creative culinary opportunities for restaurant patrons, as well as pastry chefs. “Everything I think of, I think about it in terms of the restaurants and we figure out which place would be the best home for it,” Rice explained.

“[Desserts] really display their focus on the food. From the first thing that sits in front of you when you walk in, to the very last thing you walk away with being the dessert,” Osborn said. “It speaks to the commitment to the food of that restaurant.”

Also on this month’s Sound Bites, we talked about Sauce Magazine’s three entries on its monthly Hit List, which highlights new restaurants in the area. They were:

Egg, 2200 Gravois Ave

Wicked Greenz, 16 N. Central Ave.

Vietnam Style Steak & More, 6100 Delmar Blvd

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards,Alex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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