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Candybar: No Just Desserts

I often have evenings where a sweet-tooth craving overwhelms me. One that needs to be fixed right then and there—and then I grumble (I'm a woman of more than one rant) about why on earth there isn't a place designed for these moments, places made for nothing but tucking into a piece of pie, a slice of triple-layer cake, a pudding. Something comforting and familiar. (Something like this strawberry crostata from the Zuni cookbook that my friend Alan makes. Mmmmmm.)



So, last night, my friends and I desserted at Candybar, the new dessert/wine/art lounge in what I suppose is now NoPa. I was prepared for Candybar to be the answer to this conundrum.

Whereas I’m willing to dissect my savory courses—get a little cerebral about them—I think I’ve been trained to think of dessert as something you fall into, like the arms of a lover. (With the best desserts, this happens in slow motion.) But Candybar is aiming for something very different.

Although there’s a small savory menu, the chef Jake Godby comes from Coi, where he was pastry chef. His menu is very Coi. For example, there’s nothing particularly familiar about a rich but silken fourme d’ambert (a blue cheese) panna cotta with caramel dates and sugary-sweet (almost deep-fried?) cinnamon toast points. Or for that matter, a dollop of chevre “cheesecake” (hold the crust) topped with icy coconut sorbet and streaks of nicoise-olive caramel (they blanch the olives, I was told, so they’re not as bitter as you'd expect).

These are not flavors that I could just blithely eat my way through. I had to think, or so I thought.  But then, I realized that thinking actually ruined the whole experience. (Example of thinking: Olives in my caramel! Stomach-turning. Example of non-thinking: The briny quality of the olives actually balanced the caramel. Not bad. In fact, interesting. Just go with it, Sara.) As a whole, I actually enjoyed most everything we had, as long as I didn't dissect it.

But this is my concern. Can interesting be something you crave? But then, do cravings really equal the success of a restaurant? I certainly know I return to restaurants based on cravings all the time. (Pork sugo: Delfina. Burger: Slow Club. Tacos: La Taqueria. Pizza: A16.)

But I honestly love the idea that interesting is enough to keep an experimental restaurant going. I really do. Because it’s only the people taking those risks that will bring us something new and noteworthy. And considering the above list, god forbid I live on my cravings alone.