A Sweet Time at Parcel 104

The best flan you'll ever eat.

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.

A surprising soup with the flavor of beets.

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.

A crispy nugget of chicken with creamy habanero dressing.

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.

Tangerine risotto.

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.

A glittery, gooey chocolate cake.

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.

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  • omg those houses are gorgeous! what talent!

  • The spicy dressing with the crispy chicken sounds great! And wow look at all those amazing ginger bread houses!

  • Everything sounds wonderful.

    I love the gingerbread houses! What a great display!

  • CARAMEL filled cake???!?!?!


  • Wow, the food sounds incredible. Warm citrus risotto–I need to try and recreate that at home!!

  • Everything looks and sounds wonderful…. but I gotta have the Rosenbaum Desiree Chocolate Port!

  • You sure have been eating at some fancy places lately, but I bet this invitation was one of your favorites, am I right? 😉 I love creamsicles so that citrus risotto sounds amazing.

  • wow! They should give the public free dessert, that would make us want to go there.

  • I didn’t get an invitation…..this is the type of party I like going..
    The candy land is outstanding, Sanchez is master!!

    Happy Holidays 🙂



  • Single Guy Ben: I HAVE been eating too much lately. Hah. Well, yes, all good places, for sure. But I don’t even dare step on a scale until well into January, if you know what I mean. 😉

  • Oh my goodness, that all looks amazing! I will have to check this place out. I felt my pants get more snug just looking at all the goodies!

  • I don’t even think I could make one of those desserts for a party, let alone all of them. plus savory dishes! Sounds fabulous!

  • My current circumstances don’t allow me to enjoy the fine dining I once knew. I’m so glad I can live vicariously through you and your blog! Flan and caramel-filled chocolate cake? It all sounds like heaven.

  • vat a beautiful ginger bread house you have made!! m very impressed!! great work!! rili!! hope ye had a wonderful Christmas!! 🙂 wishing you and yours a very happy new year 2010!! 🙂

  • I love Parcel 104. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the Bay Area. They have a superb brunch, among other things. Once, in my naive days, I brought a Bradley Ogden cookbook with me to the restaurant, in hopes of scoring an autograph. Sadly, he was not in the kitchen. But I have seen several San Francisco 49ers dine here. Their practice field is just minutes down the road in Santa Clara. And Carolyn, your private meal sounds heavenly, and yes, your photos do those dishes justice! Beautiful!

  • I came across your blog as I was looking up “gingerbread pagoda”

    I’m really surprised, because that pagoda was actually mines and a classmate at PCI. Sadly enough, the structure didn’t hold out as well as we hoped, but we ended up winning 5th place. :]

    I know it’s been a few years, but I’m glad I came across this blog because it brought me back to my nostalgic times at the PCI. Thank you!

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