The fancy pants Upper West Side restaurant Dovetail has always had a fantastic dessert program. The original pastry chef, Vera Tong, who now owns Park Slope's Du Jour Bakery, often featured interesting takes on classic desserts that left a lasting impression on me.
Michal Shelkowitz, who took over in 2010 has continued to build the program and take it in new and exciting directions. As recognition of her work she received an invite to compete at the 2012 Star Chefs International Pastry Competition in New York.
Shelkowitz says she enjoys Dovetail's focus on local produce, as it fits with her tendency to mix savory and sweet components in classic desserts like carrot cake. The beet red velvet cake ($14) exemplifies this style. Local baby beets (provided by Dovetail's forager) are used to give the cake its deep red texture and also to bring a bit of vegetable flavor into the dessert. Shelkowitz said she tried nearly ten different recipes with varying amounts of beet, beet purée and other ingredients. Her work has paid off: the cake is pleasingly moist.
For every unusual savory component in the cake, there's a more traditional sweet ingredient that keeps things grounded, such as the sour cream frosting between the red cake layers. The colorful and crunchy housemade beet chips provide a beautiful garnish and additional texture, while tart drops of beet purée are balanced by dabs of classic milk chocolate ganache. These are evenly distributed around the plate along with a small amount of tapioca powder.
When Dovetail's forager brought in some great local strawberries, they were added to the dish along with freshly spun strawberry ice cream.
Although the beet red velvet was my favorite overall dessert of the evening, the single best dessert component was the salted caramel mousse from the dessert of the same name ($14). The caramel flavor is incredibly strong, almost burnt. On top of the mousse is a tiny creme brûlée-like layer of caramelized sugar—the perfect compliment to the silky mousse.