Why Part 2? Because we haven’t talked about desserts!

They’re so sneaky and cryptic with their menu descriptions at AQ. When we ordered dessert, the menu simply said, “textures of chocolates, lavender, walnuts, honeycomb,” but what came out was this artfully constructed…I don’t know what to call it…cake situation? There was definitely cake on the plate. It was this super-springy chocolate spongecake that made my dining companion close his eyes and nod in appreciation. Again, me with the gluten-free thing; I couldn’t eat it. It suuuucks sometimes. But I did give the spongecake a little squeeze, and the texture was phenomenal. I’m a baker. I can squeeze something and know it’s the bomb dot com.

Then, laid over the spongecake were these… mousse strips. How you arrange chocolate mousse in strips over spongecake is well beyond my culinary expertise—which might quantify exactly how much culinary expertise is actually happening in my general vicinity. (I’m not as cool as I seem.) But then there was honeycomb and candied walnuts and a little sorbet, and by the time we took in all the components, I wasn’t at all surprised that something so fun came from the AQ kitchen. They are full of surprises.

The other dessert, a gluten-free gift from the chef, didn’t actually make my list of faves. There was a dacquoise that sat atop a bed of crushed pistachios. On top of the dacquoise was rhubarb in Peychaud’s bitters, a little sorbet, and a fried strip of rhubarb.

It was adventurous, seasonal and fun, but somehow everything in that dessert was really yummy together except the rhubarb. And I love rhubarb. In this context, it just turned me off a little. The texture was a bit too chunky for the delicate dacquoise; the taste of the ‘barb hovered around too-tart. However, the presentation was lovely. And AQ still managed to run away with my heart, a little at a time, over the course of the meal.

Finally, and probably because it piggybacked on my already full list of amazing cocktails that I began drinking at Bourbon & Branch (a speakeasy my date took me to in order to sauce me up before dinner—smart), the Manhattan at AQ finished off my drinking in such a great way.

AQ makes fucking great Manhattans. And they serve them with some kind of cured or wine-soaked or gift-from-the-aliens cherry that is nowhere near akin to the maraschino varieties that get swirled into the drinks at less-classy establishments. Don’t even pretend that you would have expected that in a place like AQ; I just wanted to clarify.

The cocktail is made with a cherrywood-infused bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Angostura bitters. Fantastic.

Oh, and speaking of bitters…we’ll talk more about that next week. I’m revisiting our old friend from local bitters company Five by Five, and I’ll tell you about a really great cocktail you can make at home. Until next time!

Jen Cartier misses Chico! However, she has taken to the great beyond (er...The Bay Area) to be some kind of chocolate maven while simultaneously figuring out how the hell to navigate her long-ass work commute, and still kick ass at raising three munchkins, loving one soon-to-be husband, and keeping one rascally Brittany Spaniel in the damned yard. She loves Nutella, red wine, and American Spirits. She takes her dog along on runs to wear him out (sometimes he shits in someone else's yard - bonus!) and also to balance her own general consumption of all the fine tasty things life offers, ciggys included. Follow her blog at riceflourmemoirs.com