Who says you can’t have your art and eat it, too? My favorite piece in Walker Art Center’s Sculpture Garden is the iconic Spoonbridge & Cherry, rising from a pool. And my favorite dessert at Walker’s 20.21 café is the Spoon, Cube & Cherry, rising from its own pool of sour cherry sauce.
I’m not alone. It’s the restaurant’s best-selling dessert — the one causing whiplash to fellow diners as it’s delivered to your table. The one out-of-towners, to whom word has traveled, have pre-decided on before even glancing at the menu. The one birthday and anniversary celebrants demand to commemorate the occasion. On a recent Friday evening, 12 out of 50 people ordered this signature sweet, reports pastry chef Corinne Sherbert (great name for someone who turns out her own housemade sorbets daily, by the way). Since most couples share a single dessert, she says, that means virtually half the crowd bypassed Corinne’s six other fancy options in favor of the mini-Spoonbridge.
It’s been on the menu ever since the inception of the café, which is under the domain of überchef Wolfgang Puck. In fact, it was developed by his executive corporate pastry chef expressly for the restaurant’s opening.
Sherbert wasn’t around at the time; she signed on rather recently, after stints at Solera and La Belle Vie, first as a line cook — which had been her training, until an opening arose at the pastry station and an astute manager, who’d observed her skill and dedication, lured the young lady from stove to oven.
Since joining 20.21, she’s found even more reason to love her niche. “The regular menu is very corporate,” she says, drawing on Wolfgang’s established recipes in other locales. But dessert is different. Declares Corinne, “I’ve got great freedom; I can do whatever I want” — except, of course, remove Spoon, Cube & Cherry from the menu or risk mayhem by its avid fans.
It represents not only sublime eating, but a test of skill and patience on Corinne’s part. (That’s why they get to charge $7 at lunch and $9 at dinner for this complex fantasy.)
“There are a lot of steps to it,” she says in the understatement of the week. First, she constructs a box of tempered, pedigreed dark chocolate with 64 percent cocoa content. Next, she pipes it full of rich, dark, eggy chocolate mousse. Then it’s set on a pool of cherry-Port wine sauce she’s already prepared and reduced until syrupy. Now, she picks up the blowtorch to give the box “a little bit of a glaze.”
Next comes a sprinkle of German chocolate cake crumbs to keep its ice-cream topping from sliding askew. (That vanilla ice cream is also prepared daily by this multi-tasking pastry chef.)
Stay with me; that’s not all. To top that, she bakes a thin chocolate cookie, called a tuile, and while it’s still warm, twists it around a rolling pin to achieve the shape of a spoon bowl. Finally, the coup de grace: A cherry she’s fashioned of marzipan is added, attached to a vanilla-bean stem. At last, it’s time to eat the art.
Walker Art Center, 1750 Hennepin Ave.