by Laura Owens
Breakfast is basically dessert, but in the mornings, and the whole meal. Don’t @ me on this because I’m right; I have the ‘Breakfast Connoisseur’ title and I love dessert. So, on my past journeys through downtown Salem and its restaurants, I have come across some amazing desserts and some not so good ones.
Here’s what I discovered and tasted along the way!
Pan-Crepes at The Blue Fez
I went to the Blue Fez, which is a Moroccan-inspired restaurant on Washington Street, in that little square where the iconic Samantha from Bewitched statue is.
Now I loosely call the dessert here pancakes because that’s how it was described to me. In reality, they’re like a mix between pancakes and crepes, rolled up into tubes, and then deep-fried. After being dipped in hot delicious oil, they are coated in cinnamon sugar, drizzled with honey and chocolate sauce, and decorated with dried mango, dried cranberries (i.e. craisins), and whipped cream blobs.
These pan-crepes are super crunchy and soft and just plain delicious. They are akin to churros, but wholly individual and are not at all like churros. It was a little oily, as anything fried is, but also fresh. The dried fruit was the perfect addition because it cut through the richness of the pan-crepe and the drizzles with something super sweet and concentrated with fruity flavor. All of the components on the plate worked perfectly together and complimented each other.
Beignets at Opus
Beignets. I’m just going to come out and say it. There’s no reason to tiptoe around these fluffy deep-fried pockets of doughy and chocolatey goodness dusted with powder sugar. The beignets at Opus are filled with Nutella, and what can truly be better than that?
Opus in on Washington Street, the main thoroughfare of downtown Salem, and has a very eclectic feel, with an underground area for music and other events. But, back to the beignets. They were large, face-sized large, and absolutely stuffed with Nutella. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream, the dessert was the perfect mix of hot dough, gooey chocolate goodness, and cold vanilla creaminess.
I was with a couple of people when at Opus, and the waitress recommended that we get two beignets. I was under the impression that you could choose how many you got on a plate, but no! We got two plates with two giant beignets. I must say, I wasn’t complaining because they got one and I got the other all to myself.
Tres Leches at Howling Wolf Taqueria
Howling Wolf in Salem is the only location that has a dining area, along with the regular take away station. It’s on the corner of Derby and Lafayette Street, and the atmosphere is down to earth, and the food is good. It’s the perfect spot for a quick lunch or a relaxed dinner.
For dessert, they have a pretty traditional Mexican dish: tres leches cake. It’s a simple white cake soaked with three forms of milk, heavy cream, sweetened condensed, and evaporated milk. It’s supposed to be super rich and creamy, slathered with thick ice cream-like frosting and whipped cream. Personally, I was not a fan of the Howling Wolf’s version of this cake. I thought the cake was soggy, but the frosting was really good.
Neapolitan Doughnuts at Ledger
This bank-turned restaurant is also on Washington Street. Ledger has such a personality when you walk in, the open floor plan with the little touches from its previous life, the ceiling with its filigree design, and the large marble bar. Everything about the place breathes life.
I spent dinner at the bar with my family, and had a great time, especially with the bartender who was taking care of us. He was amazing and was so nice and funny. We had talked with him for a bit and we were very excited for dessert because our dinner and appetizer were amazing, obviously, dessert would be just as delicious.
And it was. We ordered the Neapolitan doughnut, which was leftover from the morning’s brunch, and the gold bar financier. When the desserts arrived, there was an extra little cup of something. It was a cup of their brunt vanilla ice cream. It was a gift from the bartender because we had talked about the many ice creams, sorbets, and sherbets that Ledger made in house. Safe to say that all three were amazing and absolutely delicious.
The doughnut was a strawberry dough, filled with a classic vanilla pastry cream, and frosted with chocolate sauce. I don’t have any words to describe the doughnut besides amazing. The combination of flavors and all the different elements of the doughnut itself worked perfectly together and tasted fantastic. The financier was a browned butter cake, some raspberry jam, honey meringues, and turmeric sherbet. Now turmeric sherbet doesn’t sound good but trust me, it was literally the most delicious thing ever. It was spicy, as in spices, creamy, and so flavorful. The financier was also amazing but paled a little in comparison to the sherbet. The sherbet definitely stole the show for that dessert.
Now, onto the burnt vanilla ice cream. The first flavor you get is a toasted marshmallow flavor with a touch of creaminess from the vanilla flavor. As you eat more of the ice cream, the flavor evolves into this smoky burnt caramel, but not too burnt that it tastes acidic. It has a good balance between that brunt smoky flavor and the vanilla marshmallow flavor. As a baker, I started to wonder how Ledger did it, and I eventually asked. The chefs cold smoke the cream before they make the custard base, which adds that smoky burnt flavor without actually burning the base. Revolutionary.
Fatties at Goodnight Fatty
When one talks about dessert in Salem, one can’t not mention Goodnight Fatty. This gourmet cookie place first started as a pop-up shop in an alley off of the square where Old Town Hall is. They recently opened a second, more permanent location near the Commons. For those who don’t know, Fatty’s serves three cookies each night of the weekend, with flavors that are constantly changing and rotating.
The cookies were freshly baked and still warm and gooey. The peanut butter cookie didn’t have a super-strong peanut butter flavor but was sticky like peanut butter. It had white chocolate chips and chunks of KitKat baked on top. The mocha cookie was very chocolatey, enhanced by the coffee they added, with white chocolate chips. I liked this one best with some ice cream, the mix of hot chocolate cookie and cold vanilla ice cream was out of this world. And lastly, the butter almond was soft and chewy, topped with slivered almonds. It had a strong almond flavor, which sometimes can be off-putting, but worked amazing in this cookie.
Goodnight Fatty has also just opened a Good Morning Fatty, with little morning buns called Chubbies. They have a cinnamon roll one with cream cheese frosting, a spicy one with eggs, peppers, and cheese, and a regular one with eggs, peppers, and cheese, just without the spice.
Carrot Cake at Finz
On Pickering Wharf, Finz Seafood sits with a huge selection of seafood and sushi. A little known fact is they also having amazing desserts. They have a deconstructed carrot cake that is divine, and to die for! It’s a little personal carrot cake sat in a bed of warm cream cheese frosting, and for the life of me, I cannot figure out how that was made, but it’s absolutely delicious! It’s finished off with a drizzle of caramel sauce and candied pecans placed perfectly on and around the cake. The cake is a bit cold, which plays nicely with the warm frosting, and the flavors of the toasted and candied nuts goes wonderfully with the rest of the dish.
I really have nothing else to say about dessert in Salem. The restaurants in downtown Salem have amazing food and have amazing personalities. I would say take a dessert tour through downtown Salem and try all of the dessert, but that might be a bit too much. Maybe next time you’re in downtown Salem, try a dessert you haven’t had yet, and be amazed.
Laura Owens is a senior at Endicott College studying English Language and Literature. She is a self-taught baker and loves to read, with a collection of over 740 books!