Sweet Savant

Dana Cree's stunning desserts at Blackbird

"I didn't want to make beautiful food," says Blackbird's pastry chef, Dana Cree.

In this regard, Cree has failed. She describes her aesthetic as "broken, shattered, piled and lumped," but her desserts ($11) are nothing short of stunning.

Jagged cliffs of brown-butter- and cinnamon-brushed strudel dough hide a scoop of sweet potato ice cream atop cheesecake, cashew-studded caramel, pomegranate molasses and pomegranate seeds. It's a riot of textures--soft, silky, crunchy--and beautifully complementary flavors that sing of fall.

What resemble moss-covered stones are actually nuggets of French toast that have been soaked in sage custard, fried until crisp, and dusted with powdered sage and sugar. They rest on a landscape of apples: three varieties that are roasted, poached or compressed with pickling liquid until shimmering and translucent.

Chocolate Concorde cake is both rugged and refined, with shards of broken chocolate meringue on one face and a sleek pane of chocolate on the other, hiding vibrant Concord grape ice cream and a jumble of raisins. Even her cheese courses are works of art.

Cree landed at Blackbird this summer, and since then she's done more than merely fill the shoes of her talented predecessors; she has raised the bar.

Blackbird, 619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708 or blackbirdrestaurant.com

  • Pastry Chef Dana Cree of Blackbird

    Hunks of fried pain perdu take on the appearance of mossy rocks when dusted with powdered sugar and sage. Their plate mates include potent Gouda ice cream and roasted and compressed apples.

  • Pastry Chef Dana Cree of Blackbird

    In one of Cree's composed cheese courses, honey lavash, fresh honeycomb, raw pistachios and jammy coriander-poached quince surround ash-marbled goat cheese from Indiana's Capriole creamery.

  • Pastry Chef Dana Cree of Blackbird

    There are no grapes in traditional Concorde cake (its namesake is the high-speed jet), but Cree added some to hers in the form of vibrant Concord grape sorbet and a cluster of raisins.

  • Pastry Chef Dana Cree of Blackbird

    Shards of brown-butter- and cinnamon-brushed strudel dough form a dramatic enclosure for sweet potato ice cream, cheesecake, pomegranate and cashews bound with caramel.

  • 1/4
Blackbird 619 W. Randolph St. Chicago IL 60661 312-715-0708

Around the Web

Get the Tasting Table newsletter for adventurous eaters everywhere