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BEST RESTAURANT FOR DESSERT

La Belle Vie

Adrienne Odom is nothing short of a genius, and, for years now, she has been dazzling diners with her pastry work at the La Belle Vie in Stillwater, and at the tapas bar Solera in downtown Minneapolis. The one glaring fault of her oeuvre, however, has been that you needed to eat dinner in order to get it. No longer! The lounge at the new Minneapolis incarnation of La Belle Vie is exactly the spot that dessert connoisseurs and amateur pastry chefs have long dreamed of: somewhere you can go and sample the art of the master, unfettered by the distractions of fish and fowl. What to try first? Of course, anything semifreddo, as Odom has lately been pursuing lots of experiments in the world of half-frozen, quasi-foam, quasi-ice-cream desserts. We tried an espresso semi-freddo unmolded from a rectangular mold, sprayed with milk chocolate, standing bolt upright on a brownie, crowned by a white chocolate disc, and surrounded by a moat of smoked chocolate soup that was bridged by a chocolate strap. Ay caramba! It was masculine, deep, powerful, chocolatey (of course), but more than chocolatey, it whispered and cried and shouted chocolate in a dozen ways, it was a whole chocolate opera, or chorus. Then there was the mango tasting platter, with six, count 'em six, tiny mango desserts all presented together. There was a tangerine soup with a mango mascarpone ravioli, which looked for all the world like a square of stained glass submerged in a consommé of sunshine. There was a teeny tiny mango smoothie, topped with cilantro foam. There was much more, but it was lost in the din of argument that erupted at our table, an argument which revolved around whether it would take you 10 years to learn how to make all the elements on that platter, or whether such marvels came not from education, but only from talent. See for yourself: Both those wonders cost $10, which is a lot to pay for dessert, but not much to pay for amazement and wonder.

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