If you needed to borrow some sugar, Santa Clara’s Parcel 104 was the place to be last Friday night, where the sweet stuff was on display in full force.
The restaurant’s pastry chef, Carlos Sanchez, hosted a select group of guests — including yours truly — for a decadently sweet holiday dessert party. Sanchez, who is also trained in the savory side, is now doing double-duty as Parcel 104’s chef de cuisine, too. So, he threw in a couple of savory courses just to keep things especially interesting.
The party got started with a demitasse of golden beet soup. Eggnog-like in color and very rich, the soup is deceptive. The creaminess hits you immediately, and then the sweetness of the natural sugars of the yellow beets powers through.
Next, a signature salad from Sanchez — a crispy nugget of flattened, breaded moist chicken atop seasonal greens with thin slices of pear, orange and persimmon. A Ranch-style creamy dressing with the heat of habanero woke things up, and added a perfect counterpoint to the sweet, refreshing fruit.
Slightly warm citrus risotto followed. It was like a creamsicle in your mouth. Unlike rice pudding, where the grains are cooked until they almost break down, this dessert risotto was done al dente, giving it a more interesting texture.
That was followed by one of Sanchez’s most popular desserts — coffee flan. Even the so-called flan haters at my table went nuts for this version. This was no wiggly-jiggly flan. It is extremely firm and dense, yet out-worldly smooth. Take a spoonful in your mouth, and it’s almost like foie gras terrine in texture with an unbelievably unctuous quality.
Lastly, caramel-filled chocolate cake that was all aglitter with gold dust and served with an ajillo pepper ice cream. The velvety ganache gave way to gooey, thick caramel and a crunchy chocolate-cookie crust. The pepper in the ice cream was subtle, giving it a floral quality and a mere tickle on the back of the throat.
The cake was paired with the wonderful and unusual Rosenblum Desiree Chocolate Port. It’s a lusty, full-bodied blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and chocolate that’s pure pleasure to kick back with.
Just as he has for the past few holiday seasons, Sanchez once again created an elaborate gingerbread house display that now graces the lobby of the Marriott, the hotel where Parcel 104 is located. It will be up through the end of the year, so do come by to see it.
It took Sanchez and two assistants nine hours just to craft the landscape of this magical candy land. Students from the Professional Culinary Institute in Campbell created the gingerbread houses that are quite detailed.
There’s a pagoda with a red licorice roof, a pink cupcake house, a cookie structure made up to look like a miniature pet store, and teeny snowmen and penguins all over the place.
If for any reason you’re not in the holiday mood yet, one look at this will definitely put you in one.