4: Butterscotch Budino at Mozza.
There are many, many reasons to spend time at the glorious food complex that is Mozza on the corner of Melrose and Highland. The fennel sausage pizza. The porchetta (!). Salumi Thursdays. The pizza classes. The myriad bowls of pasta at the Osteria. The many incarnations of the stunning gelato. The gingerbread pigs. (One could go on.) But maybe the best dish on the menu, or at least the one that would engender the most uproar if it was ever removed, is the butterscotch budino. Pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez's dessert is neither ground-breaking nor anything assembled from foams or wacky foodist techniques. Basically it's just a butterscotch pudding, albeit an extraordinary one.
In Narvaez's hands, the pudding — which at Mozza goes by the appropriately Italian name of budino — is more a study in caramel than it is an ordinary pudding. Topped with a thick strata of salted caramel and a spoonful of whipped crème fraîche, the dish also comes with a few rosemary-pine nut cornmeal cookies. Again, both a simple cookie and far more than the sum of its parts.
The caramel in both the pudding and the topping play off each other, with the tang from the crème fraîche and the zing from the salt preventing the dish from becoming too sweet or cloying. The rosemary cookies both provide a bit of savory crunch and give you something to concentrate on so that you don't eat the pudding in one long series of repeating spoonfuls.
You can make the dessert at home — the recipe is on the James Beard Foundation's website — if you're feeling particularly ambitious. But really, part of the fun of this is eating the dish after a pizza or a plate of meatballs, spooning up the golden dessert in the happy orange-themed atmosphere of Nancy Silverton's restaurant.
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