Best Twin Cities Valentine's Day desserts

Sweet treats for your sweetheart

There was no dessert in memory that we swooned over more in 2012-13 than the perfect tres leches cake at Harriet Brasserie in Linden Hills, and to date, no one else's take on the Spanish dessert has managed to unseat it. Topped with a little lime zest, toasted shredded coconut, and made with thick, fragrant coconut milk as one of its three saucy elements, this cake has a celestial lightness that cannot be overstated. It's so far from the over-saturated, overly gummy, overly sweet cake that usually springs to mind when you hear the whisper of the words "tres leches" that it will make a convert out of the biggest haters — unless you don't dig coconut, in which case this cake is not for you.

Butterscotch Budino at 112 Eatery, $9

Greg Awada, co-owner of Zamboni Pizza in St. Paul, has publicly admitted to having something of an addiction to the butterscotch budino at 112 Eatery, stopping by once a week for the decadent sweet-and-salty Italian custard. But he's far from being the only local who has succumbed to its charms. Served in a rustic little canning jar (long before everyone else was doing it), the creamy dish starts with an egg yolk-rich custard base flecked with vanilla bean, then a thick layer of house-made not-too-sweet butterscotch sauce, and a dollop of creme fraiche decorated with a few scant flakes of pink sea salt. One might think a crunchy component would be disruptive on the impossibly smooth landscape of the budino, but truthfully without the finishing salt this dish would be one tragic brushstroke short of a masterpiece. Even though it's a re-interpretation of someone else's work (the recipe comes from Nancy Silverton of La Brea Bakery), you simply cannot call yourself a true connoisseur of Twin Cities desserts until you've had this one.

Bananas Foster meets flaky pastry in Patrick’s Bakery’s banana tarte flambée
Benjamin Carter Grimes for City Pages
Bananas Foster meets flaky pastry in Patrick’s Bakery’s banana tarte flambée

Buttermilk Panna Cotta at La Belle Vie, $10

Prior to tasting this complex, wholly enjoyable example from La Belle Vie's pastry chef Diane Yang, we fully admit we believed savory ice creams were on their way out. But the toasted coriander ice cream — full of sharp, exotic flavor but ultra-rich in texture — has us rethinking, well, everything. And it's just one component of this sophisticated last-course dish, in which a smooth and satisfyingly wobbly buttermilk panna cotta is topped with coconut water espuma, a deft and subtle foam, resulting in a truly special dish from an enormously talented culinary voice. Want to be surprised and delighted? This is the place to make your reservations, without reservation.

Check out the sweet treats from Patrick's Bakery...

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