Never wear your flip flops to work. Ever. Even if you work in a casual office filled with tech dudes who don’t bat an eye at your statement earrings or dad sneakers.
Because the day you do decide to let one fly -- waddling in a stretchy dress that swaths your soft belly with a pregnant heft and the red flip flops that highlight your chipped toenail polish -- is the very day you’ll receive a request to go preview a swanky North Loop dessert bar. And it will require every ounce of self confidence you can muster not to melt into a shame puddle.
Open as of Wednesday, Edwards Dessert Kitchen is in a beautifully revamped building on Washington Avenue and Second Avenue North. The space, with its tall windows and gleaming white marble bar and plush rugs, feels serene, even when full of people in well-made (closed-toe) shoes.
I’m given a lovely sparkling cava by a server, and as soon as I take a sip, there’s a tray of chocolate chip cookies under my nose. I attempt to balance my phone and wallet in one feeble hand while grasping a soft cookie and the stem of a champagne glass in the other. While sighing with pleasure at the cookie (gluten free!) as it melts in an oooze of chocolate and butter on my tongue, I promptly slosh good wine onto the floor and smear sticky chocolate over my fingers. I try to act graciously as the spill is quickly mopped up. I am a Marie Antoinette in flip flops.
As I fold my shame inward, I’m brought a small tub of ancho chili caramel corn, which has a spicy glaze and disappears quickly into my mouth. Sometimes flavored popcorn can get too dusty, with the spices just dumped on top, but these are incorporated into the glaze, making it especially slick. And it doesn’t leave any evidence on my fingers. Considering how on-point this bar snack is, I’m curious to see how the rest of the savory menu shapes up. Oooh, and it looks like they have an avocado lime sorbet! Avocado is deeply underrated in mainstream America for its sweet culinary applications. Guacamole's great, but if you haven’t had an avocado smoothie (as more commonly found throughout Asia) you are missing out.
The next item thrust in my hand is a mocha tiramisu, delicately flavored with espresso powder dusted on top, little crunch spheres of chocolate adding texture between layers of silky mousse. I’m a pot- of-dark-roast-a-day sort of person who likes her coffee extremely strong; this is better for those who like their coffee flavors more subtle.
The mango coconut creme puff was filled to the gills with a rich coconut creme that had a bit of earthy mango jelly, which kept the entire thing from being too cute. I could eat these by the tray. The strawberry and creme bite, a shortcake cookie with swirled strawberry mousse and more glazed berries on top, was perfectly flavored, like a fresh-picked berry. My brain flashed PINK. 1980s Strawberry Shortcake posters! Platinum blonde dolls with plastic muffins scented like cherry! Carly Rae Jepsen songs! Kirsten Dunst in a powdered wig lounging on a velvet chaise!
Edwards Dessert Kitchen features a fancy cocktail menu created by the Tattersall team, but I’m always on the lookout for booze-free drinks that are dynamic and well flavored, as I have more friends that choose a sober lifestyle. The housemade lemonade with yuzu and cherry is better than any cocktail I’ve tried this year, and I'd happily drink a swimming pool filled with the stuff. It has a tart citrus tang that’s enriched with the deep cherry flavor -- it’s complex and doesn’t hit the typical notes of snow cone or pie. It didn’t taste bright red, but instead, a rich burgundy. Served in a lowball glass with perfect squares of ice and thin lemon slice fanning out from the edge, it is absolutely sophisticated.
I hope they gold star this drink on the menu, as I would have never tried it if it had not been handed to me by a cheerful server. Please keep cranking out more sophisticated NA drinks like the cherry lemonade and I’ll be bringing in all my sober friends for an upgrade to cans of LaCroix.
As I stuffed my cheeks with all these delights, most of all I felt grateful that these desserts are not trying to rip off Milk Bar, the infamous NYC bakery that trades in sticky novelty, selling cereal milk cookies and revamped confetti birthday cake. I can usually do a quick scan of a dessert menu and tell if the pastry chef has a well-worn copy of the cookbook on their shelf. Here, executive pastry chef Christina Kaelberer is pushing in a different direction, not pandering to a frappuccino public palate. Nothing I had was excessively sweet, and the flavors were recognizable but deliberately pushed a bit further, like the caramel and Chinese five spice snickerdoodle. The base notes were the standard cinnamon and sugar, but then swam out into the deep end with star anise and dark caramel.
Sometimes interesting flavors are just plunked into a classic cookie without a real consideration of their interplay, but Kaelberer avoids this and really takes the time to develop a richness -- funk even! -- that transforms the sugar high into a deep spine tingle.
My sincere hope is that with the financial backing of Schwan's, they use this location as an actual test kitchen, and crank out some interesting creations. Culinary innovation requires time and money, and I think this collaboration between corporate entity and talented pastry chef could pay off into something truly fascinating. If they even hosted a monthly night where they could showcase new, weird pastry creations or ice cream flavors, I would be there in the turn of a pancake.
Edwards Dessert Kitchen is ideal for well-financed bachelorette parties before they totter off to Sex World for some adult giggles or couples who want to do a quick stomach-settling walk to dessert after a meal at one of the many restaurants in the eight-block radius.
I know I’ll be back some afternoon to read a book next to the sunny windows, sipping cherry lemonade in my Sunday best.
Edwards Dessert Kitchen
200 N. Washington Ave., Minneapolis