Dessert Tasting Menu at Compose // On Storytelling


Summer, Woods, Kentucky, Chocolate

Great food writing does not depend on the sophistication of your palate, or the restaurants on your “been there” list. Like all writing, it’s about mining the raw places. Where you're most vulnerable, impassioned -- that's where the story is.

You can experience much of the human condition by the dessert tasting at Compose. You just need to pay attention. The pastry chef, Micah Phillips, does not work with mere flavor pairings (the stuff of cookbooks, manuals). With fiction writing, I remember: No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader. These are meticulously executed dishes of deeply-felt time, place, story. I have never experienced desserts of such ambition, audacity, and lyricism. I’ve just added a few words on each dish, though each could stand as its own miniature monument.

Cheese Course: shaker blue cheese; durian sorbet; honey gelee; honey vinegar; summer truffle jam; toasted buckwheat; chervil; oats
Confronting a nightmare and finding it gentle.

Palate Cleanser: rose meringue; mangosteen, lovage, and yuzu mousse; yuzu, sake, and matcha sorbet; cucumber and celery jam; chameh melon
Goodbye at the airport, her smell still on you.

Pandan: soy and lapsang jam; pandan custard; pandan and almond cookie; pandan, tamarind, and adzuki bean cake; banana, cilantro, and pandan ice cream; candied matcha; coconut and mangosteen cream; candied sesame; jasmine meringue
Leaving a luxurious Hong Kong department store, entering a rainforest in the clouds.

Milk: milk jam; milk gelee; milk cookie; milk snow; burnt milk gelato; milk crisp
A baby's palate awakens.

Summer: watercress, pea wort, apple soup; pea and grass custard; ube ice cream; whipped jackfruit; rhubarb and hibiscus jelly, dehydrated peas; yogurt and lavender cream "shell"; pea; mousse; pea tendrils
Eating fruit in the grass, a stubbed, bloodied toe.

Woods: chaga and birch cremeaux; blackcurrant, oak, and chinese mushroom jam; caramel shiitake parfait; dark malt and beer cookie; pilsner malt and coffee cookie; crispy argan oil; porcini mushroom bark; porcini sugar; bronzed fennel
No plans at dusk, leaves and bugs and sticks underfoot.

Kentucky: smoke pecan praline; buckwheat and rye pancake; vanilla cavendish tobacco cream. buckwheat funnel cake, bourbon gelee; pecan sugar; maple sugar, bluegrass ice cream; malted barley praline; whipped apple balsamic vinegar; maple sap
Addictive, masculine, muscular. The Marlboro Man has come to town.

Chocolate: caramelized white chocolate; kalamata olive oil cake; crispy chewy chocolate; yeast ice cream; chocolate veil; chocolate brown butter cocoa nib soil; maple cookie; caramelized olive; caramelized yeast; olive salt
A wrong turn on the highway. Salty, fermented characters in the dark.

Mignardises: maple butter with freeze-dried vanilla crumbs
Ease. Butter meets crumbs. Cake.

Many thanks to Annie Kwah and Joann Kim for the pics.