Dessert First

Crepas de Cajeta at Barrio Cafe

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Café was nominated twice for the James Beard Award for serving up authentic Southern Mexican cuisine, and she's won a lot of awards locally, too, in a city known for its Mexican food. To do this well, your food has to be truly incredible, and lucky for us, hers is -- including dessert.

It's tough to pick just one from the four desserts that Barrio Café offers, but after much debate, we landed on Crepas de Cajeta, crepes with goat milk caramel and vanilla bean ice cream. This may sound like a simple treat, but in Chef Silvana's hands it's anything but.

What makes this dessert so delicious? Find out after the jump...

The crepes themselves are cooked perfectly with the right thickness, the right soft texture, and the right delicate flavor. They would make a great simple breakfast with only butter and sugar. In fact, visit Barrio Café for Sunday brunch from 11-3 to try one of their three (far from simple) savory versions: pollo, chorizo, or mariscos.

Ok, so the crepes are good, but they're hardly an indulgent dessert on their own. What about the sweet stuff on top? Fans of goat cheese will not be able to get enough of this cajeta sauce. Made with goat milk, this caramel has that unmistakable tang. While the flavor's not for everyone, the goat milk adds depth that just can't come from a cow; while most caramel tastes mostly like sugar, sugar, and more sugar, cajeta has a distinctive nutty, savory flavor that the sugar works to tame and balance.

The Crepas de Cajeta are topped off with vanilla bean ice cream, strawberry slices, powdered sugar, and pecans. But, these aren't just any ol' toasted pecans. Barrio Café has a special way of preparing them that richens the flavor. They start by coating the pecans in a type of meringue. Then, they dust them with powdered sugar and bake them. The end result isn't quite toasted or candied pecans, but something right in the middle.

This all adds up to one great dish. Although deceptively simple, the Crepas de Cajeta will leave you wondering how they made everything just so. The caramel isn't too sticky, the crepe isn't too dense, and the way the pecans are prepared makes their flavor match the cajeta. At $10, this isn't an everyday dessert, but it's a special sweet I'd happily return for again and again.

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Dominique Chatterjee