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Sweet Veggies: Local Chefs Reimagine Dessert 

Wednesday, Aug 22 2012
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Since this seems to be the summer of fruit soups in San Francisco, it follows a certain logic that it would also be the summer of vegetable desserts. Local chefs right now are sneaking veggies into the last course, and it just might get you to re-examine your relationship with the so-called healthy part of the meal. Hate beets? You won't after trying them candied in the sunflower tart at Bar Tartine.

New to the dessert menu at Zaré at Fly Trap is the Zaré artichoke heart, a collaboration between chef/owner Hoss Zaré and pastry chef Mina Kacos. Their idea started out as a cake, morphed into a tart, and has since evolved into a more creative presentation: The whole artichoke heart is poached in simple syrup and spices such as black cardamom and clove, then served with trimmed leaves still attached. Instead of butter and mayonnaise, the leaves can be dipped in lemon gelato and almond pastry cream. A streak of hard caramel made from the poaching liquid offers a faint earthiness, as do the candied sage leaves and fennel seeds.

Chef Mark Richardson offers a whimsical vegetable dessert at Seasons Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel. "Ice Cream Meets the Garden" is a trio of flavors meant to mimic a tomato-basil salad, with scoops of heirloom tomato, basil, and balsamic vinegar ice cream. Each is garnished appropriately, including two tiny cherry tomatoes on top of the heirloom tomato scoop, the subtlest flavor of the three. Combine them all on your spoon for a perfect balance. Richardson says he's played with vegetables in ice cream before, but in main courses, like a sweet pea ice cream he's served with crab.

It's not as hard to get those five-a-day as it used to be.

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Tamara Palmer

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