I admire dozens of chefs, each for radically different reasons.
Johnny Iuzinni is brilliant in his ability to improve existing pastries using innovative ingredients (agar agar, maltodextrin, etc). I look up to Alex Stupak because he is one of a handful of people that are reinventing pastry techniques with science (brand new ways of making ice cream, of creating fluid gels). Michael Laiskonis is a baller, and his refined flavor combinations like pistachio and caramelized white chocolate, or dark chocolate, chicory, and burnt orange are amazing. I love Hedy Goldsmith and her knack for transforming childhood treats into restaurant desserts.
Tonight I had the chance to sample Karen DeMasco's desserts, whose cooking I was told would, "rock my world." I've read about DeMasco for a while, always seeing the same thing: she does simple food, and she does it better than anyone else.
She does make simple food. And she does do it better than anyone else. And it will rock your world.
The first dessert I tried, a sweet corn budino, was spectacular. Budino, by the way, is the italian word for pudding, and is simply a baked custard set with egg yolks. DeMasco's literally exploded with sweet corn flavor and was perfectly complemented by blueberry sauce, fresh blueberries, and an ultra smooth blueberry sorbetto. And for a bit of salt and crunch? Some caramel popcorn dropped around the plate.
The second dessert, a lemon tart, was equally impressive. The tart had a great crust (i.e. super flaky) and was unabashedly lemony (i.e. super tart). The tartness was balanced by buttermilk gelato, and a fun temperature contrast was added with a spoonful of limoncello granita (a lemon liqueur that is frozen and then shaved--think wonderfully flavorful shaved ice). Hiding underneath the granita were sweet, syrupy slices of preserved lemon.
DeMasco's desserts are admirable because they're so damn simple. Lemon and buttermilk. Two flavors. It's almost stupid how good that dish is. Similarly, corn (sweet and popped) and blueberries. Wow.
I didn't have the caloric allowance or stomach capacity to taste the toasted almond semifreddo with bing cherries and cherry sorbetto, or the peach + blackberry crostada with peach swirl gelato OR the chocolate-pistachio tart with raspberries. But I saw all of them pass by the bar as they were headed for their table, and they all looked ridiculously good.
I also didn't even taste anything on the savory side of the menu, but from the desserts and the vibe alone, I'd recommend Locanda Verde as a place to meet up for drinks, for a quick meal at the bar, for a multi-course gustatory expedition, for a great brunch (hello lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and meyer lemon curd!) or for a sweet fix. It would also make a fantastic place for a date (come on, what girl would turn down the peach and blackberry crostada?).
377 Greenwich Street