When you get invited to a dessert tasting, you say yes, right? And when the pastry chef is the much lauded Taria Camerino, formerly of Sugar Coated Radical, you will even brave a miserably rainy day and lousy Decatur parking to make sure you get there.
These days when you enter No. 246 in Decatur, you're greeted by a lovely array of Camerino's baked goods in the window. If I lived in Decatur, I can promise you her gorgeous brioche would be on my weekly shopping list! These sweet treats are available from a pastry window on weekends only.
Upon joining Ford Fry's team, Camerino was flummoxed...how exactly do you do Italian desserts right when the Italians don't tend to eat dessert after a meal? Her solution was to take a cue from the culture and combine smaller desserts with digestion stimulating cocktails.
246's new dessert menu now offers small desserts and matching cocktails for very reasonable prices ($4-7) that practically beg for sampling.
Pistachio Cannoncini are cannoli's lighter, unfried cousin. Their mascarpone filling was creamy bliss that paired perfectly with a Biscotti Spumanti (housemade vanilla vodka, faretti biscotti, lemon juice and prosecco). The drink had just the right balance of sweet and the bite of the prosecco's effervescence. I love that the drinks and desserts are so petite. It lets you have a great little combination of flavors without breaking the bank or leaving stuffed.
My favorite dessert was definitely the flourless chocolate cake with citron, paired with a Harvey Darko (Ramazotti Amaro, maple syrup, Red Hare Watership Brown ale). Flourless chocolate cake is often dense. Fudgy and tasty, yes, but also heavy. Camerino's was surprisingly creamy and delicate, and the pleasingly sour topping offered a pleasing counter-point to all of that sweetness. Beer cocktails are rare, and the Harvey Darko made for an interesting pairing. I'm not a huge beer fan, but I enjoyed the nuttiness of the beer with the rich chocolate.
Panforte, a spiced fruit and nut confection, paired well with landaff cow's milk cheese and offers a great option for those with less of a sweet tooth.
I've heard much of Camerino, and even sampled her pastries elsewhere, but it wasn't until this event that I realized a) just how quirky she is b) how important ethics are to her. The quirkiness was on full display with her brightly colored knee-high socks, which are apparently part of her "uniform." The ethics come to life via her sourcing of ingredients. Whenever possible ingredients are directly sourced. Currently she's using Colombian chocolate and sustainable vanilla. So not only are her desserts incredibly tasty, but you can feel good about eating them, too!
With items I haven't yet tried like a super thick Italian hot chocolate and Italian meringue ice cream in flavors like fresh mint, I know I'll be back before too long.
129 East Ponce De Leon Avenue
*Full disclosure: Although my meal was comped, I always endeavor to offer my unbiased opinion of the experience!