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How a group of Deseret News writers ate 15 desserts — and lived to tell the tale

Mark Twain, as so often happens when it comes to quotes, was the guy who claimed there are no new ideas, and in this case, we plead guilty. When we read about Daily Herald reporter Court Mann's Provo dessert crawl, the Deseret News' Arts and Entertainment team decided to put Salt Lake to the test and do a dessert crawl of our own.

Our rules were simple: we had to be able to walk to each location, our dessert spots had to be local, and we could only eat desserts during the crawl — no chickening out and ordering a sandwich.

Each spot is reviewed by a different member of our team so readers will get a variety of opinions and tastes, with one location for each reviewer, although we (generally) shared the two desserts. Like any crawl, the night started with high spirits and clear heads, but by the end, we were loopy from the sugar and begging for something savory.

1. Eva's Bakery, 155 Main St, (801) 355-3942

Eva’s Bakery may be a hot spot for its quaint location and its savory quiche lorraine, but anyone going just for dessert will be disappointed.

We ordered a chocolate truffle cake and a berry streusel — and, because we were just beginning the night and still liked dessert, two French macarons. The chocolate truffle cake had a pleasant flavor, but it was rather dry and crumbly, making it difficult to share. The berry streusel was the clear winner for everyone in our group. It wasn’t particularly sugary, making it a welcome contrast to the chocolate cake.

The pistachio and vanilla bean macarons were a hit with everyone, and would probably have been a good end for the night if we’d stopped there. Our advice for anyone going to Eva’s Bakery: feel free to get dessert with breakfast or lunch, but don’t go for dessert alone.

Reviewed by Hannah McDonald

2. Martine Cafe, 22 E 100 S #200, (801) 363-9328

With its cozy booths, warm lighting and exposed brick walls, Martine Cafe feels like an upscale neighborhood café Lauren Bacall might have hung out in — if she lived in Salt Lake in 2017. Neither overly hipster nor too nostalgic for a by-gone era, the cafe invites patrons to settle in. No hovering wait staff here.

After some back and forth, we finally agreed on the Grilled Gingerbread and Chocolate Decadence because, umm, duh.

The Chocolate Decadence lived up to its name — a thick wedge of dense, fudgey flourless chocolate cake paired with a scoop of crème fraiche gelato. Although a dark (i.e., not-too-sweet) chocolate cake, the slight bitterness of the creme fraiche gelato offset the decadence of the cake well. A drizzle of berry infused honey added a hint of fruity sweetness, a welcome lift to the density of the cake. This is a solid win for chocolate lovers.

Darling Grilled Gingerbread, how we loved you. This was the only dessert of the crawl that nearly started a fight. For some, love is found with "hello." For us, it was two slabs of hot gingerbread drizzled with salted caramel and a side scoop of brown butter and ginger ice cream. The heat of the ginger in the cake was just right, especially with the addition of the salted caramel and bits of fresh ginger in the ice cream. Our only complaint was that there wasn't enough. Our recommendation? Don't share this dessert.

Reviewed by Cristy Meiners

3. Gourmandise The Bakery, 250 S. 300 East, (801) 328-3330

The quality of the pastries at this French cafe made the extra walking well worth the trip and outdoor seating puts patrons in a serene, shaded flower garden-type setting in the middle of the city.

The strawberry ring at Gourmandise was the surprise knockout hit of the dessert crawl. The pate a choux (fancy French way of saying pastry) baked with almonds and topped with powdered sugar and the fresh-cut strawberries just complemented the chantilly (fancy French way of saying whipped) cream that was fresh and light and just the right amount of sweet. It wouldn’t be hard to eat the whole thing in one go and still feel good afterwards.

Also tried at Gourmandise was the mille-feuille, literally translated as the “thousand sheet” because of its many layers of flaky pastry and custard. It’s a pastry also known as a napoleon, not because of the infamous general/dictator, but because it originated in Naples (who knew?). Regardless, Gourmandise’s version is significantly richer and sweeter than the strawberry ring, with a strong butterscotch flavor to the custard. The fondant frosting didn’t help the overpowering sweetness, and the crusty pastry is hard to bite and/or cut through, making for a crumby mess when you try to eat it. It wasn’t bad, but far from the best treat of the night.

Reviewed by Michelle Bulsiewicz

4. Harmon's Grocery, 135 E 100 S, (801) 428-0366

After walking in the June afternoon heat, gelato provided a cool break from the delicious — but denser — pastries of the last few stops.

Harmon's gelato is a treasure — the prices are excellent and the flavors are better.

The grocery store's gelato case is a colorful display of both gelato and sorbetto, gelato's dairy-free sister. Normal gelato flavors are present, like Italian sweet cream and Stracciatella (which is basically chocolate chip — chocolate shavings in vanilla base) but also more funky ones, like ricotta balsamic and cotton candy (a favorite kid flavor found in almost every ice cream display, but a little more surprising to find among sophisticated gelato).

Our group shared a large container packed with three flavors: chocolate truffle, pistachio and pink grapefruit sorbetto.

The three flavors were vastly different, yet somehow balanced each other out. Some members of our party preferred them separately, while others, including me, found the combinations delectable: the mild pistachio intensified the creaminess of the chocolate truffle and toned down the tart grapefruit sorbetto.

Some acknowledged that the chocolate was yummy, even though they didn't normally enjoy chocolate ice cream, which I, as a chocolate cheerleader, found encouraging. The most polarizing flavor was the sorbetto, which one person politely described as "bright." After so many sweet desserts before it, I found it the perfect refreshing interlude.

The flavors vanished quickly between all of us — a smooth, chilly intermission in our symphony of baked goods.

Reviewed by Ginny Romney

5. Kneaders 28 State St #235 (801) 428-3051

Kneaders Bakery and Café, with 21 Utah locations from Logan to St. George, is a locally owned chain that is a family favorite for many people. This Utah-based company turns 20 this year, and there is plenty to love at this hometown bakery.

The Chunky Cinnamon French Toast served with strawberries, whip cream and homemade caramel syrup is a well-known breakfast staple. But ask the people at the counter and they are quick to point out that the éclair and fruit tart are among the most popular pastries.

The éclair features an egg flour shell with vanilla custard filling, dipped in imported Swiss chocolate ganache, according to the menu. Although light and well risen to a hollow shape, the choux pastry tasted a bit stale. But it was toward the end of the day. The custard filling was very sweet and had a perfect thickness. The dark, shiny ganache strip on the top made a nice finish.

The base for the fruit tart is a shortbread shell, imported from Switzerland, spread with raspberry currant marmalade, filled with imported Swiss vanilla mousse, and topped with fresh fruit and apricot glaze, according to the menu. The Kneaders jam at the bottom provided a nice complement to the slices of kiwi, mandarin orange, strawberries and a blueberry that were placed on the top of the piped mousse. The generous amount of very sweet and heavy mouse along with the beautiful colors of fruit will make a nice addition to a summer meal or picnic.

Reviewed by Caresa Randall

6. Taste of Red Iguana, 28 S State St #110, (801) 214-6350

While most people that wait in the consistently long line outside of Red Iguana do so for the love of smothered burritos, tacos, mole and enchiladas, the beloved Mexican restaurant also has some menu items that offer a sweet antidote to all of the salsa and spice.

And for those who are craving some traditional Mexican sweets but don’t have the time or patience to endure the wait — which is definitely well worth it — head over to Taste of Red Iguana, located at the City Creek Center food court. This eatery provides a sample selection of what customers at the regular Red Iguana restaurant can enjoy.

Here, dessert lovers can either choose between flan or pan de tres leches (three milks bread), or just get both if their stomachs are up to the task.

We started with the flan, a vanilla-infused custard dessert. The flan itself was a bit bland, but it is served with a healthy dose of whip cream and a cherry on top to bring in some additional flavor and sweetness, overall making the dessert enjoyable.

But if the flan didn’t meet expectations, that disappointment was more than compensated by the flavorful pan de tres leches. Although it is soaked in three different kinds of milk, this sponge cake was lighter in texture and did not have the soggy consistency typical of this kind of dessert. The cake was such a delight that one might consider skipping the main course in order to fully partake and appreciate this sweet delicacy.

Reviewed by Lottie Peterson

7. Lion House Pantry, 63 E South Temple, (801) 539-3616

The Lion House, located in the heart of Temple Square, has a warm, comfortable feel, like you're visiting your grandparent's place for dinner. The food looks homemade and is served cafeteria-style.

The Lion House was our last stop on our dessert crawl. With full stomachs, we opted for a slice of both German pound cake and blueberry cheesecake. We had been craving cheesecake since one of our earlier stops on our crawl and wanted to make sure we didn't miss an opportunity to try some before we called it quits.

We weren't disappointed. The blueberry cheesecake had a fresh, bright taste that awakened the senses. The blueberries were both sweet and tangy, and full of flavor. The cake itself was smooth and mild — a nice complement to the fruity ensemble — and the small dollop of cream on top was rich and full-bodied. The thin crust also had a nice texture that was neither too stiff nor too crumbly.

What the dessert had in taste, though, it lacked in presentation. The cheesecake was small and simple, and not the fancy, decadent treat you might receive from a full-fledged bakery. While that could be a disappointment for the treat-seeker looking for flashy sweets worthy of hundreds of likes on Instagram, it could be a delight for the dessert connoisseur with much quieter tastes.

Next up, was the German pound cake, which was thick, but not overly doughy. There was a raspberry jam with seeds and vanilla custard in the center, too, that reminded me of a scone or sweet biscuit. It was topped with rice and toasted almonds, and had a nice buttery crust. The texture was fun and unique, giving it a soft crunch on first bite that turned into a chew.

However, the group was quieter about this dessert. It could have been because we were tired and ready for something that wasn't sweet by the time we made our way to The Lion House, but I suspected it was something else — it's simple and modest taste.

This treat is not for your everyday sweet-eater, but for someone with a more mature palette, who prefers their desserts to taste more like something you might find on a fancy brunch menu and not in a candy store. It might make a good appetizer before eggs in the morning, or eaten with a small glass of juice or herbal tea.

Our two Lion House desserts were solidly good treats, but if you're looking for something more fancy or exciting, I might suggest you go elsewhere.

Reviewed by Brittany Binowski