Sweets for Sweethearts

A short dozen divine desserts for Valentine's Day sharing.

Compiled by Roger Downey At home or on the town, the American dessert scene is not what it once was. How many of us whip up an apple pie, even when company's coming? How many ask to look over a restaurant's dessert menu only to curl a superior lip and call for decaf, black? But around Valentine's time, a meal out doesn't feel quite complete without at least a little something sweet. We sent out a call to our many correspondents asking for their nominations for Seattle's most romantic, shareable desserts. Ms. Frisbee: the envelope, please. . . .  Canlis Simple, elegant, classic—that's the Grand Marnier soufflé ($12) as interpreted by Seattle's simple, elegant, classic restaurant, 55 years old and still going strong. Served with a dollop of mild custard sauce, it's really not a portion for two, but if all you need is an airy puff of sweetness to top off your meal, you can't do better. 2576 Aurora Ave. N., 206-283-3313. QUEEN ANNE Earth & Ocean Pastry whiz Sue McCown likes to keep her fans on their toes; even the restaurant's signature parfait ($8.50), with its net-stockinged-leg cookie garnish, gets a monthly makeover. For February, McCown offers romance-bent couples the Kama Sutra: hazelnut sponge cake interleaved with caramel toffee and smooth chocolate. 1112 Fourth Ave. (in the W Hotel), 206-264-6060. DOWNTOWN Icon Grill Icon's brand of extreme comfort food reaches its apotheosis in the warm Granny Smith apple pie ($7.75), a megaslice of sweet-tart apple filling laced with cinnamon and brown sugar, topped with crunchy ground walnut streusel, and topped again with real vanilla ice cream. And caramel sauce, if you can take it. 1933 Fifth Ave., 206-441-6330. DOWNTOWN The Kingfish Cafe Laurie and Leslie Coaston's sophisticated-soul restaurant received more nominations for more different desserts—coconut cake, lemon cake, strawberry shortcake—than any other on our list. Leading the pack was the red velvet cake ($7.50), which owes its color and subtle flavor to cocoa and its superb texture to the cream cheese in the batter. 602 19th Ave. E., 206-320-8757. CAPITOL HILL Hiroki One of Seattle's most superb eating experiences, Hiroki Inouye's green tea tiramisu ($4/slice) is delicate, flowery-fragrant, only subtly sweet, and just filling enough. You can sample it (or buy a whole cake for $40) at the master baker's Wallingford outlet shop, but it's also available at Saito's (downtown), Fort St. George (International District), Lux (Wallingford), Mashiko (West Seattle), and other discriminating Asian restaurants. 2224 N. 56th St., 206-547-4128. WALLINGFORD Mae's Phinney Ridge Cafe It's only a cinnamon roll—what's all the fuss about? Well, for one thing, this cinnamon roll ($3.50) weighs more than three-quarters of a pound, is the size of a small toaster oven, and, in addition to its own supernal stickiness, is drizzled with tooth-threatening sugar icing. We suppose you could eat one all by yourself, but you won't feel as guilty if you do it à deux. 6412 Phinney Ave. N., 206-782-1222. PHINNEY/GREENWOOD Monsoon In general, Western and Asian tastes in dessert do not mesh terribly well, but Monsoon's banana cake in coconut sauce ($5) is a remarkable exception. Unlike the West's banana bread, this cake is more like a succulently gelatinous pudding, rich in banana flavor but not cloyingly sweet. Nor is the creamy coconut sauce; it just adds a hint of exotic perfume to the humble, comforting slice of cake. 615 19th Ave. E., 206-325-2111. CAPITOL HILL The Pink Door Though it isn't always available, it's worth calling ahead to see if the Door is serving its lavender panna cotta ($6.50). The Italian answer to crème brûlée and flan, panna cotta is a pudding made with milk, heavy cream, a bit of gelatin, and whatever flavors the pastry chef prefers. The taste of culinary lavender, intensely soothing and delicate, is a perfect complement to panna cotta's silken texture. Each bite travels from plate to spoon to (your valentine's) mouth like a sweet cloud. 1919 Post Alley, 206-443-3241. PIKE PLACE MARKET Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Some desserts are designed to be eaten while strolling. When you venture inside the First Avenue outpost of this national chain, a gallery of candy apples awaits you, as does a vat of melted chocolate large enough for several people to simmer in: a kind of Willy Wonka Jacuzzi. A good choice for newbies is the "tiger butter" apple ($6.80), a sweet green specimen dipped in peanut butter and milk chocolate, then drizzled with white chocolate. Eat it slowly; otherwise, between the two of you, it won't last much longer than a few city blocks. 1419 First Ave., 206-262-9581. DOWNTOWN Tango El Diablo ($8.50) is never going to win a beauty contest; it resembles a pastry replica of one of those 2001 obelisks, crashed to Earth and cracked open on your plate. But of all the molten-chocolate desserts nominated for this feature, the Diablo got by far the most recommendations. It's so rich it almost demands to be eaten by two; to eat a whole one with someone else looking on would seem . . . well, a little obscene. 1100 Pike St., 206-583-0382. CAPITOL HILL Teapot Vegetarian House Mr. Wong's famed mango tofu "cheesecake" ($6.50) sounds a little like a culinary joke until you taste it. After you taste it, vegetarianism seems a viable prospect. Somehow the tofu, usually so neutral and loafy, has been frothed into something like air pudding, with which the mango flavor melds with eerie grace. 125 15th Ave. E., 206-324-2262. CAPITOL HILL rdowney@seattleweekly.com

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