Salty Dreams Are Made Of This

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Chocolate Budino with sea salt and pine nut crust.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Salty-sweet desserts are catching on like they're going out of style and I couldn't be happier. Once limited to French fleur de sel caramels, this delightful taste sensation has now exploded into salted ice creams, truffle fillings, and chocolate desserts near you.

I adore Chocolatier Blue in Berkeley because Chris Blue puts tons of Camargue sea salt into every one of his creations. From pistachio to sweet corn to deep dark chocolate truffles, the flavors pop and send your salivary glands into overdrive. Needless to say, his peanut brittle is also beyond compare--ethereally crispy, buttery, salty, nutty, and completely addicting.
The salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco is now (rightfully) legendary, and has inspired legions of imitators to attempt the same flavor. Personally I think that Bi-Rite's devastating lusciousness continues to reign supreme, but the others I've tried also hit the salty-sweet spot. If you want to kick it up a notch though, or turn an otherwise pedestrian ice cream into a modern marvel, you can always just sprinkle on a pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes or crush a few saltine crackers over the top. Live dangerously and do both--because really, why not.

chocolatier bleu-chili sweet corn and palet d or.jpgEven wine country restaurants are getting into the salty dessert action these days. Martini House in St. Helena pairs its chocolate custard cake with salted caramel ganache and espresso mascarpone. Farm at the Carneros Inn also salts and cheeses up its cherry-hazelnut financier dessert by piling on a cheesecake ice cream and salted caramel sauce. And Estate in Sonoma does a mean chocolate "budino" in a pine nut crust that they drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and dust with sea salt flakes. I say YUM to all, and keep 'em coming.

Chocolatier Blue, www.chocolatierblue.com

Bi-Rite Creamery, www.biritecreamery.com/

Martini House, www.martinihouse.com

Farm, www.thecarnerosinn.com

Estate, www.estate-sonoma.com

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