There is really one name for dessert around Portland: Papa Haydns. Since opening in 1978 they’ve become a staple around town for succulent cakes, tortes and pastries. You can imagine then our excitement at being recently invited to an Easter tasting of seasonal and regular tastes available this Spring. SPOILER: I’ve never been so happy in my life. Looking for your new favorite dessert? Read on.
Led by Executive Pastry Chef Jessica Caraccioli who has years experience in some of the most well-known restaurants around Portland, new flavors and twists to classics have been delightfully selected to work with a broad array of palettes and preferences. Their location on NW 23rd is seemingly the most well known due to its location and occasionally needs reservations for dinner – worth it though. The real magic happens in the original North Sellwood location where they handle both the restaurant and wholesale products around town. Some of these treats are available at local grocery outlets New Seasons, Zupans, and Fred Meyer, all of whom are dedicated to fresh, local foods. Having received a background, lets jump into flavor town.
Our tasting started with a quaintly named Easter Special, “The Lime In The Coconut”. Apart from loving the name I quickly found what the commotion is about. A healthy dose of lime curd takes place between layers of coconut cake and Italian butter cream. Shards of coconut line the exterior to present a full texture with a small, edible fondant daisy placed on top. The pedals are sweet and the lemon curd dolloped in the middle turned to be the most surprising items we’ve tasted in a while. To be honest, I tend to shy away from coconut at times as it tends be often overwhelming in other desserts. This then was a delight as flavor returned light and understated. The coconut was bright but never overcame the delicious lime tart paired with it. I found the secret in the fresh lime zest spritzed through the curd. It pairs well with the home-made simple syrup and a slight soak in coconut milk the cake receives before use. Overall the flavors were light, soft to the pallete, and perfect for a nice Springtime enjoyment in the sunshine (or impending rain, depending on the hour of the day).
The next delicious treat was the Café au Chocolate. This is one of the most beautiful and understated desserts tried. At first glance it looks like half the Death Star has crashed into your plate, topped in chocolate and served up for your pleasure. I never liked the Dark Side anyway. Inside we find the true spoils: a dense cappuccino brownie with crunchy croquant (similar to small rice balls) topped with milk chocolate espresso mousse and finished with dark chocolate espresso ganache. That may seem like a lot, and it is. It’s amazing. The texture of the croquant, the light layer of mousse and caramel finish it’s plated with all pair well. Found it a to be a succulent dish which should be had with a cup of coffee or espresso at hand to give a little moisture if (ahem:when) you get overwhelmed by chocolate.
The next plate, simply named “Passion” is likely my favorite. Passion is a treat to the eyes as well as the taste buds. What seemed to be plastic holding up the dessert ended up a solid white chocolate banner, thinly designed to hold the innards in place. Edible, of course, and holding flavor that’s about to blow your mind. Once you break through the mold you’ll find an assault of flavor pounding on your taste buds like the hammer of Thor. From top to bottom first to arrive is a thin layer of passion fruit curd which reminds us of a gel. Digging past the urge to eat all the gel immediately you find more passion fruit flavor, this time in the form of mousse. This mousse in particular is extremely delicate and must be mixed at an exact temperature ensuring appropriate taste and texture. The chef is so precise she prefers to do it herself. In the middle you’ll find a “present” as she puts it, of raspberry cream cheese mousse which seems more frothy than the mousse surrounding it and adds a hint of complexity and twist of flavor to your bite. All of this tops a classic chocolate-buttermilk cake which you’ll want to indulge upon again and again. There is a sweet/tangy balance here that makes each flavor pop wildly. This is an impressive dish to order and will satisfy in more ways than one.
Following the need for a more classic chocolate cake I tried the Raspberry Gâteau. This is a purposefully fallen chocolate soufflé baked with Triple-Sec and Brandy. Can we take a moment to praise the dessert gods? Enrobed with dark chocolate ganache and topped with fresh, local raspberries, this makes for a dense and rich chocolate flavor with a light-touch fruit finish. Tthis is a great substitute in place of a regular slice of cake. It’s fulfilling and enough to satisfy two.
To finish things up I was greeted with a White Chocolate Mint Torte, served beautifully and looking impressive before taking a bite. Take note why: a three-day process is used to ensure each dynamic shows it’s true value. What looks like the most impressively built portion, the exterior shell is an almond sponge cake textured with a distinguishable chocolate “stair” design. It’s beautiful by itself yet shows only one aspect of how this treat comes alive. The cake simply wraps a white chocolate mint mousse topped with a gel that sits atop a medium-bodied brownie. The taste reminded me of biting into a large, creamy Andes mint or mint-chocolate ice cream in cake form. Scrumptious. Another beautifully plated dessert which adds to the overall charm.
Papa Haydens impressed and if the food, led by Head Chef John Mealus, is anything like the desserts this is most certainly the place for your next date night. Both locations will delight whether this is your first or four hundredth meal together. Take a look at their website and drop in to enjoy dinner or a tasty dessert. TheTizz gives our full recommendation and we’d love to hear your own experience in the comments below.