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Get in My Belly! Bi-Rite, Shed, and the Advocate

A weekly digest of the Bay Area's best digestibles.

A Bi-Rite sundae with ricanelas ice cream.


As a former baker and unrepentant sweet tooth, I'm of the opinion that dessert never gets enough credit: it's often under attack by paranoid health nuts or dismissed by those whose so-called grown-up tastes equate sweetness with childishness. So this week, in my own very small way, I'm attempting to rectify that. If you're the type scandalized by the idea of dessert for dinner, then you can stop reading now.

But if you're the type who sees nothing wrong with the occasional ice cream sundae for the most superfluous meal of the day, then Bi-Rite Creamery will take good care of you. Its Afternoon Snack is an old favorite of mine—with two scoops of roasted banana ice cream, whipped cream, homemade graham crackers, and caramel sauce, how could it not be? But this week, in pursuit of variety, I swapped in a scoop of pumpkin, a scoop of ricanelas, and hot fudge sauce. Eating it was a deeply pleasurable experience—to eat an ice cream sundae for dinner is to fully embrace all that's good about being an adult. It's the flip side of taxes, rent, health insurance, and cultivating a Twitter "persona."

One of the (many) high notes of my dinner at SHED last weekend was a sturdy slice of pecan spice cake, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's one of those wallflower cakes that won't win any beauty pageants, and that's part of its appeal. When a cake appears with zero frills, it's a good sign that its greatest attributes lie within. Such was the case with this cake, which was generously stocked with pecans and all sorts of warming spices. I refuse to use the "m" word because it's revolting (hint: it rhymes with "joist"), so let's instead say this cake was the very opposite of dry, and so good that I could eat it every night and not get bored. For better or worse, that's not going to happen because I don't live in Healdsburg, so instead I'll just feel grateful to have been introduced.

Excellent dessert No. 3 came in the form of the apple crostata that I ate a few nights ago in Berkeley at the Advocate, a solid and inspired place I hope to visit again soon. For now, I'll harbor pleasant memories of that crostata, which was served warm and crowned with a scoop of crème fraîche ice cream that began melting in an alluring way the moment the plate arrived at the table. The apples were tender, the crust crunchy and pliant, and the ice cream sweet, tangy, and so good it should be sold in pints. People tend to equate apple-based desserts with home and mythical grandmas; I'd equate this one with nirvana.

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