[Photographs: Niko Triantafillou]
[This article first appeared in Serious Eats NY] Despite the glamourous modern interior and seemingly intimidating open kitchen, North End Grill is a quite comfortable restaurant. That’s a theme extending from sleek, plush leather booths to a delicious but unfussy dessert menu from pastry chef Tracy Obolsky.
Two of my favorite desserts—on a menu packed with many superb offerings—both feature whimsical takes on childhood favorites. The Popcorn Sundae ($9) is the very embodiment of a fun elevated comfort food dessert. Your first clue? The tall sundae glass it’s served in.
The sundae is packed with the flavor and aroma of popcorn, from the popcorn-flavored ice cream to the chunks of financier made with popcorn flour. Salted butterscotch sauce is drizzled down the sides and some black pepper whipped cream tops it all off.
The chunks of popcorn financiers softening in the ice cream is a winning combination, like a brownie sundae transformed entirely into popcorn. And salted butterscotch plus crunchy candied popcorn is reminiscent of an old candy shop’s buttercrunch. This is what a great elevated comfort dessert looks like: something that works on an immediate level, then delights even more as you think about it.
Obolsky’s Creamsicle Pie ($9) with vanilla whipped cream and candied orange is another take on a childhood favorite, but like the sundae, it’s no simple popsicle.
Things start out similar to a good key lime pie with a crumbly, buttery graham cracker crust, but there’s a sweeter vanilla Bavarian cream in lieu of the standard lime curd. To balance all that sweetness, Obolsky adds a generous layer of bitter marmalade just above the crust. Get the two components in one bite and boom, you have creamsicle.
A thin layer of orange gelée and some candied orange slices add a citrus dimension and some pretty aesthetics. Despite all the layers, some vanilla flavored whipped cream reminds you that this is still a proper pie.
Ice cream and pie lovers: engage.
About the author: Native New Yorker Niko Triantafillou is the founder of DessertBuzz.com his photographs of desserts and pastry chefs have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Dessert Professional Magazine. He is an unabashed foodie nerdling. Follow him on Twitter at @DessertBuzz.