In Happy Endings, we travel the part of the globe that says "Dallas" in search of great desserts and great places to eat them.
It's opening weekend for Chef Beck Blythe at the "permanent pop-up" restaurant Kitchen LTO, which is reincarnated every four months with a new chef. Upon learning this, I'm instantly curious. I never had a chance to dine at Central 214 when she was running the show there, but I remember Beck for her pink chef's coat and outspoken personality from the series The Naughty Kitchen. With all the buzz surrounding the chef and the restaurant's turnover, I figured the place would be packed, even on a Sunday night, when I ventured out to Trinity Groves to get my next sugar rush.
Crickets. Tumbleweeds. No-man's land.
That may change when word gets out about Kitchen LTO's pumpkin "latte" dessert. As Dallas' beautiful foliage changes from drought-brown to dead-brown, many of us seek out the ubiquitous flavor of fall: pumpkin. We're often left disappointed by the slimy sludge of Pumpkin No. 5 left at the bottom of our coffee cups. Fortunately, this is not so with Chef Beck's playful spin on the classic autumnal beverage.
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Her pumpkin custard dish is creamy and rich, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, but not overly sweet. The crowning touch is the scoop of vanilla ice cream, which you can pretty much never go wrong with. It's like eating pumpkin pie filling out of a latte cup, with none of that pesky pie crust to get in your way. Given the reputation of Chef "Butter, Booze, and Bacon," I was surprised that the dish wasn't drowned in a caramel drizzle or a buried beneath a foot of whipped cream, but that's not a complaint. Maybe this somewhat restrained style is the result of the "finesse" that the chef says she has developed over the years.
It may be officially fall, but it's still too hot to order an actual latte. How to reconcile this confusion when placing your drink order? Request the Tom Fallins. I know, I know -- not everyone appreciates the cheeky wording. (If you're one of those people, just pretend it's a "fall-inspired Tom Collins.") A mixture of Barr Hill gin, lime, allspice dram, and a touch of pear syrup, it's not at all sweet and leaves a pleasant burn on your tongue. Pair this cocktail with your dessert and you're in business.
Those who are enamored with Beck's celebrity chef status will be pleased to know the Naughty Chef is very much a visible part of the restaurant. Touches of her trademark pink hue are found throughout the restaurant, from the flowers to the bartender's tie. Perched at the bar, one is close enough to hear Beck dish gossip with the kitchen staff, get a peek of her pink heart-print pajama pants, and hear the chef herself call "Latte up" moments before dessert arrives.
It's a good thing I didn't allow myself to be tempted by other alluring items on the menu. Chances are, after a helping of deviled eggs and a chicken-fried ribeye, there wouldn't be any room for dessert. Stopping by for the "latte" as the main event is probably the only way I'd ever be able to appreciate it fully -- and sitting at the bar, listening to Shirley Bassey belt out "History Repeating" over the sound of the deep fryer bubbling away, it definitely felt like I was doing something right.