Versus: The Cake Mom Used to Make

Taking stock of West Seattle's cheesecake factories.

The Dish: Bakery Nouveau owner William Leaman is the former pastry chef of Salty's on Alki. When he left to become the head baker at Essential Baking Co., Jane Gibson inherited his spot. When Leaman lured her to Nouveau ast year, Gibson's son, James, took over the head pastry-chef position vacated by his mother.So which Gibson's cheesecake is best? And does good cheesecake run in the family?The Rivals: Salty's on Alki, 1936 Harbor Ave. S.W., 937-1600.This is where you go for cheesecake when you want something super-decadent, as in "I won't eat for two days after I eat this cheesecake." This is serious dessert. It's not just the cream cheese and sour cream that make their Grand Marnier Cheesecake ($10) so sinful, it's the extra egg yolks and white chocolate mixed in to really give it that extra padding.The cheesecake is assembled on an Oreo crust, covered in dark chocolate, and served with raspberry sauce and vanilla anglaise. This is one of Salty's most popular desserts; they make about 150 of them a week and sell 10 to 15 a day (not counting weekend brunch). The cheesecake is certainly a good dessert, but the taste of the Grand Marnier and white chocolate gets lost in the richness of it all. Though at $10 a slice, this can easily serve two.Bakery Nouveau, 4737 California Ave. S.W., 923-0534.Like Salty's cheesecake, Bakery Nouveau's Chocolate Mocha Cheesecake ($4.50) also has a chocolate-cookie crust and is dipped in chocolate. The difference is that this cheesecake retains the cream cheese's tang without being overpowered by the other ingredients. The mocha flavor is abundant but not obnoxious; the texture is light and velvety without being too dense. Also, Bakery Nouveau's portions are the perfect size. You'll be able to polish off an entire slice without feeling as if you just ate a whole cheesecake.The Champ: As we found out, a good cheesecake is not only about flavor; perhaps the most important quality is the texture. A cheesecake too dense can be overly filling and heavy, leaving its consumer weighed down by ingredients. What's worse is when the flavor is also bogged down by the heaviness. That's the only problem we found with Salty's rendition, which ultimately led us to crown Bakery Nouveau the victor. Of course, not everyone will find a too-rich dessert a bad

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