Chefs Divulge Their Favorite Desserts for Dessert Day (and Month)

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With October being National Dessert Month and National Dessert Day taking place this weekend on October 14, we thought it fitting to poll chefs on their quintessential desserts. Pie and ice cream amass the most votes, along with some other straightforward classics, such as crème brûlée and French macarons. We also have the lowdown on new creations at Telegraph, Floriole Cafe & Bakery, and State and Lake Chicago Tavern. 

What’s your quintessential sweet?

Nathan Sears (Vie, Chicago): My favorite dessert is apple pie. I grew up eating my grandpa’s and it was always homemade and so good. Now my wife makes it and my favorite still carries on.

Leigh Omilinsky (Cafe des Architectes and Le Bar, Chicago): I love cake, but not frosting. I like when things are buttery and caramely. I have a sable recipe that I will eat until I feel sick, and then I’ll probably eat more of it. But honestly, I think a proper French macaron is a beautiful thing and quite possibly one of my favorite foods.

Joncarl Lachman (HB Home Bistro, Chicago): I love custards and almond desserts. My favorite dessert that we make at HB is the Advocaat pudding with kletskopje (which are classic little crunchy almond cookies).

Patrick Fahy (Chicago): A properly made crème brûlée; nothing fancy, no wacky flavors. Classic.

Jill Barron (MANA food bar, Chicago): I love making tarte Tatin, a French apple tart made with puff pastry. It is yummy, apples cooked in butter, brandy and sugar. I also make a ton of variations on it, with pears, quince, peaches, plums. Crispy pastry, lush caramelized fruit. I am really not a chocolate person, caramel rules!

Sandra Holl (Floriole Cafe & Bakery, Chicago): Pie is my favorite and it is a toss-up between apple and peach. I like it served warm with vanilla ice cream. It has everything you could want in a dessert: sweet/tart fruit filling, crunchy, slightly salty crust and I love the cold of the ice cream with the warm pie.

Melissa Trimmer (Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Chicago): My favorite dessert is ice cream. It has so many nuances and flavor combinations. I can pretty much think of any sweet flavor or flavor combination (a handful of savory ones as well) out there and know it would be delicious reincarnated as ice cream.

Mathew Rice (Nightwood, Chicago): I really like simple vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce, or hot fudge cake with vanilla ice cream and warm fudge sauce. So, I like fudge sauce.

Stephanie Samuels (Angel Food Bakery, Chicago): I scream for ice cream!!!

Paul Fehribach (Big Jones, Chicago): That’s a seasonal question so I’ll start with spring: lemon meringue pie, and do I really have to explain what’s so awesome about lemon meringue pie? Summer for sure is strawberry shortcake; it’s quintessentially the fresh fruit and home baked goods dessert, and if you’re lucky enough to have a good local dairy, the cream you’re whipping to top it with is the best, richest cream of the year as the cows are out on the greenest, most abundant grass they’ll have all summer. But most importantly, it’s the strawberries. You have to be willing to do what is necessary to get great strawberries to be rewarded. In the fall, it’s apple pie, which I prefer with a streusel topping for textural contrast and, if you get it browned just right, those roasty-toasty Maillard reactions that leave you feeling all warm inside. Great while the temperature is dropping. In the winter, hands down it’s pumpkin pie. I have a tradition of my own on Thanksgiving each year, and that’s that I start with breakfast, and by the end of the day, I’ve eaten at least one whole pumpkin pie myself. The bonus of course being that pumpkin pie counts as a vegetable, you just have to eat two slices of pie to get one serving.

Susan Goss (West Town Tavern, Chicago): I might be the only person I know who really doesn’t enjoy sweets. I rarely eat dessert, almost never order it out and really only have an urge for something sweet about once a week, usually during the afternoon. That being said, I am very fond of our lemon chess pie at West Town Tavern. It is tart enough to have more than one dimension, has more texture than a custard pie but is still a silky bite, and the crisp, dry pie pastry adds a lovely counterpoint to the lemon filling. It is simple, honest and straightforward. It is satisfying without being filling. It also has a real history. Probably brought over by British settlers in the 1700’s, it is a true American lowcountry pie. It has been a favorite on our dessert list here and before at Zinfandel Restaurant.

New desserts to indulge in

Caramel apple pie at Telegraph

Telegraph (Chicago): Caramel apple pie, cheddar cheese crust and tuile, hazelnut streusel, cinnamon whipped creme, vanilla sauce – Pastry chef Katie Wyer makes a slightly different variation of homemade apple pie for her family at Thanksgiving every year; this is this year’s variation! It’s inspired by Garrett’s cheddar cheese and caramel corn popcorn mix, which she gets every time she takes the train back to her parents’ house in Geneva, IL. It also celebrates the classic (and awesome) Midwestern combination of cheddar cheese and apple pie. She does a cheddar cheese pie crust, with a cheddar cheese surprise at the bottom of the pie. The apple filling has caramel, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and hazelnut streusel in it. The uniform crust – not a lattice crust! – gets topped with even more caramel, vanilla sauce, cinnamon whipped cream and cheddar cheese crisps. We serve it paired with a delicious Oktoberfest beer.

Floriole Cafe & Bakery(Chicago): Gingerbread cookies - Spicy, spooky, spectacular gingerbread is back. Cut into adorable shapes and decorated with white icing and sparkling sanding sugar, you’d think they’re just for kids. Really, these spicy treats are a delectable snack for anyone who loves gingerbread.

State and Lake Chicago Tavern (Chicago): Sage apple fritters - Hot sage apple fritters served with maple ice cream, caramelized apples and a cider beurre blanc. The apples and cider are from Mick Klug Farm in Paw Paw, Michigan.

compiled by Matt Kirouac


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