By Tara Mahadevan
By Ian Froeb
By Ian Froeb
By Kaitlin Steinberg
By Gut Check
By Ian Froeb
By Ian Froeb
By Gut Check Guides
"So, Ian, tell me what's bothering you this week."
32 Maryland Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63108
Region: St. Louis - Midtown
"French Riviera" flight...$6.95
Milk chocolate semifreddo...$7.95
Flourless chocolate cake...$8.95
Chocolate pot de crème...$9.95
It's the heat, Doc. It's killing me.
"It is hot."
I'm hot. Like, all the time.
"You should go somewhere it's not hot."
That's the problem, Doc. I can't go anywhere else. I have to stay in St. Louis and review restaurants.
"I find that small, light meals are best during this time of the year."
That's all well and good when you can eat at home. But I have to visit actual restaurants, you know? Like, appetizer-salad-entrée-dessert restaurants. I would love to review ice cream parlors all summer, but it's not practical. "Sorbet is light and refreshing." You try stretching that to 1,200 words.
"We're not here to talk about me."
It's hard to enjoy a meal when it's 105 degrees. Sure, the restaurants are air-conditioned, but the moment you step back outside, your stomach bloats to twice its normal size. You don't want to touch a piece of food for days. I guess it's my fault, though. No one forced me to review a soup joint a couple of weeks ago. Soup! In August! The week before that, a churrascaria. Endless meat! What the hell was I thinking?
"You're too quick to blame yourself."
At any rate, Doc, the point is: It's too hot to enjoy eating.
"Come on, Ian. There must be something you've enjoyed lately."
There's this one place.
"Tell me about it."
It's called Bissinger's: A Chocolate Experience
The name's a little pretentious, I agree. But this is Bissinger's, a St. Louis institution. A few months ago it moved from its old Central West End location by the antique shops on McPherson to the redeveloped Maryland Plaza.
"Still the Bissinger's we all know and love, though, right?"
Actually, it's gotten a makeover. The dining room is very sleek and modern. There aren't tables, exactly. You sit in upholstered seats on either side of these funky coffee table-like things. On the other side of the dining room is a display counter with Bissinger's goodies.
"Sounds like a great space."
It is a great space. Small, but there's patio seating. You can sit outside and watch drunken college kids get soaked when they stumble too close to the Maryland Plaza fountain.
The restrooms, though.
They might be in a different zip code. It's one of those setups where you have to leave the actual restaurant and enter the building in which it's located. Then you have to find your way around a few corners and down a couple of hallways to the restrooms. A sign directing you would be helpful. But yeah, otherwise, the space is great.
"So you order a few truffles or filled chocolates and eat them at the funky coffee tables?"
Well, you could do that, I guess. But there's a menu of desserts developed by "chocolate sommelier" Gretchen Morfogen. It's organized from light- to medium- to full-bodied, so you can gauge how filling your dessert will be. It's a nice touch, especially since you're probably going to eat here after lunch or dinner somewhere else. That's what I did both times I visited.
"I hope you ordered something from the light-bodied menu, given how hot it's been. Especially if you'd already eaten dinner."
You'd think so, Doc, but everything on the menu sounded so delicious, I kind of lost my head for a second there and ordered the chocolate cheesecake, made with Bissinger's 60 Dark Chocolate. Oh man, was it tasty. Rich, moist, with just a slight tang from the cream cheese.
"This was a full-bodied dessert, I assume."
Scarily enough, no. The cheesecake was medium-bodied. So was the chocolate pot de crème. This was like the silkiest custard you've ever eaten, and it was served with two chocolate truffles as dense as neutron stars.
Wait. Damn it. I used that neutron star simile too soon. Because a couple of the full-bodied desserts were even denser than those truffles. The mascarpone "brique" almost was a brick: this block of rum-soaked chocolate cake and cream cheese. Just fantastic. Nothing I ate at Bissinger's was cloyingly sweet, but this was especially subtle.
And then there was the chocolate terrine, a "pâté" of chocolate. It was smooth, but so incredibly thick and deeply flavored I imagined I was eating the purest, partly melted chocolate. Four of us shared this, and we couldn't finish it.
Can I tell you something, though?
You know which full-bodied dessert most impressed me? The flourless chocolate cake. I mean, here's a dessert you've been able to find just about everywhere for years. At this point, when it's good, it's boring, and when it's bad, it's like eating compressed cocoa powder. But Bissinger's flourless chocolate cake not only managed to be rich and dense, but also incredibly moist like a really great brownie.
Can I tell you something else?
Now, this is Bissinger's, right? The chocolate is impeccable. I mean, how many times have I said "rich" during this session? And milk chocolate is so unfashionable these days. In most supermarkets you'll find gourmet chocolate bars with labels bragging how much real cacao they contain.
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