8 Gluten-Free Desserts in L.A. That Even Gluten-Eaters Will Like

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Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 6:00 AM
click to enlarge BIANCA DOUGLAS
  • Bianca Douglas
Picture this: You're on a date, conversation has sparkled, wine has been drunk, food has been shared, dessert has been offered, and you have to say,  "I'm good, thanks."  Or you're with friends, a fragrant hunk of sticky toffee pudding was just delivered, and you say, "This is all you, guys."  It's awkward.  It's sad.  It's just plain unfair.  Being gluten-free shouldn't mean that you have to go dessert-less into that good night.  Yet, when dining out, we the free are often S-O-L.

Sure, pretty much every dessert menu nowadays includes a selection of artisanal ice creams, fancy gelatos and exotic sorbets, but these are generally relegated to the bottom of the page, like footnotes.  Because, it's assumed, nobody is going to order the a la mode without the apple pie.  

Since no one really likes to be (or eat) the afterthought, we've rounded up some great restaurants featuring terrific gluten-free desserts that can take the spotlight in their own right.  Here are eight ways to finish the meal in style.
click to enlarge BIANCA DOUGLAS
  • Bianca Douglas
8. Bignolè (Salted Caramel Cream Puffs) at Hostaria Del Piccolo 
If your Beard Papa's cream puff habit was tragically sidelined by gluten sensitivity, this place is your godsend. Somewhat of an anomaly among Italian restaurants spread across L.A., Hostaria Del Piccolo offers an allergy-friendly menu for all your meat/gluten/egg/dairy-free diet needs. But the most compelling "free" find is on their Dolci menu.  

Executive chef Bobo Ivan uses a simple recipe of rice flour, eggs, and sugar to make the restaurant's signature bignolè. The shells are baked in the oven, emerging almost indistinguishable from wheat-based pastry, and then generously filled with a sweet vanilla mascarpone pastry cream and drizzled with salted caramel. Gluten-free, yes. Calorie-free, no. But they're definitely worth the extra cardio.  606 Broadway, Santa Monica; (310) 393-6633. 512 Rose Ave, Venice; (310) 392-8822.

click to enlarge BIANCA DOUGLAS
  • Bianca Douglas
7. Beignets at Muddy Leek 
This little farm-to-table jewel box kinda looks like it was lifted from Edward Hopper's famous Americana "Nighthawks" painting and set down on a street corner in Culver City.  The menu of elegant, creative comfort food changes seasonally, but one thing remains constant:  Gluten.  Free.  Beignets.  Chef Whitney Flood and his 5-year-old daughter are both gluten intolerant, so he and his wife, co-owner Julie Retzlaff, started making gluten-free desserts for birthdays.  

The beignets became a family favorite and soon quickly gained fans in the restaurant - according to the bartender, one French customer says they taste just like beignets from her childhood.  A mix of rice, sorghum, garbanzo, fava and tapioca flours is combined with eggs, vanilla bean, buttermilk and olive oil to make the dough, which is fried, then rolled in sugar.  Served piping hot with a sprinkling of candied almonds, the beignets have a sweet, crisped outer layer and a moist, fluffy interior perfect for soaking up the cinnamon-milk chocolate sauce.  Heavenly.  8631 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 838-2281.

click to enlarge BIANCA DOUGLAS
  • Bianca Douglas
6. Butterscotch Budino at Osteria La Buca 
Butterscotch budino.  Just thinking about it induces a craving so strong it's pretty undeniable.  Most people know about this luscious dessert, which achieved fame after debuting at Nancy Silverton's Mozza.  Iterations of it can now be found on Italian menus across town, but Osteria La Buca's rendition is one of the best.  

While chocolate lovers will rejoice over Buca's classic with a sinful twist Flourless Molten Chocolate Cake, the budino is their best-selling dessert.  And with good reason.  Their take leans toward rustic simplicity, yet it's refined nonetheless.  Served in a hipster-approved mini Mason jar, topped with a haphazard dollop of fresh whipped cream and salted caramel, this rich, velvety, salty-sweet butterscotch pudding inspires hyperbole.  In other words:  sex on a spoon.  5210 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 462-1900.

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