A friend is coming later this month to take care of Miguel while I go on a trip to ‘The Southland.’ It’s wonderful when a friend can cover cat caretaking because I get a visit with them beforehand as well as enjoy the peace of mind knowing Miguel has an empathetic companion while I am away. I also like the opportunity to be an ambassador to my new home town, even in my absence, so I started to put together a little list of the best places I’ve found in town so far satisfy dessert cravings when they strike. As the list developed it occurred to me that it ought to be shared here on the blog.
I have lived in my Southern Sacramento neighborhood for not quite two years now. I am sure there are a number of great places that I’ve missed, but it will be my pleasure to go on more dessert reconnaissance missions and report back.
Somisomi – https://www.somisomi.com/ is a chain with 18 locations in California and 5 more on the way. They are also in Texas, Nevada and Washington state. Watch out San Francisco and Palo Alto, you are getting your thrill next with new stores opening soon. There are two in my area – Sacramento, next to the city college campus, and in Elk Grove. Their soft serve is delicious, and the flavors are not too sweet. The taiyaki fish-shaped waffle cones are so good. This “Upside Down Ah-boohng” as they call it, pictured below, is a chocolate and matcha swirl, and I chose custard as my filling for the taiyaki. The next time I went I chose the nutella filling and that was such a tase treat that I will probably never choose anything else again. The swirl options change weekly.
Gunther’s Ice Cream – http://gunthersicecream.com/ Long may Gunther’s wave. Its neon sign has a brief cameo in the movei Ladybird. Gunther’s is in a cute mid-town neighborhood that reminds me of the older neighborhood in Edgemont near where I grew up. It’s always a pleasure to take a 15 minute drive over there, often in twilight, to pick up our ice cream. My go-to is the 50/50 Fruit Freeze. Mango-Vanilla-Raspberry. The fruit brings out the best in the vanilla. Wonderful. They close at 9:00 pm. A lot of other restaurants and cafes in the area proudly tout the fact that they serve Gunther’s ice cream.
The Real Pie Company – https://realpiecompany.com/ Their Lemon Meringue Pie is crazy good. You have to be very organized to buy a pie from them because pre-orders must be made 48 hours in advance, and it doesn’t seem like they ever have whole pies sitting around for you to pick up as a walk in. I just play pie roulette, and drive down there on a Sunday afternoon to see what slice I can get near closing time. Scoring a mini lemon meringue pie (2 slices in a six inch round) on my first trip there definitely qualifies as beginner’s luck. I have to go back to let you know how the fruit pies are, but they have been sold out when I have gone. I can report that their Dulce de Leche, Butterscotch Banana Cream and Chocolate Cream pie were all top notch, but the lemon meringue is still my favorite so far.
I Love Pie – https://ilovepiebakeshop.com/ I love the sentiment. This dedicated pie shop is over in Carmichael, which although not a huge drive it is a bit of a schlep for me, so I have not gone over there for an in person visit. I will make the pilgrimage at some point soon. Around Thanksgiving, I was gifted a mini apple pie and it was perfect. Excellent crust. They do pie baking classes also, mostly for children, but they do occasionally have an adult themed class like their upcoming National Rose Day pie baking class. You can pre-order their pies by 12:00 pm the previous day or take your chances and by a pie in the shop.
Callendars – https://www.mariecallenders.com/store/sacramento/ I have a soft spot for Marie Callendars from way back. In Los Angeles, there were several of their coffee shop style restaurants and I have memories of good meals, a not so great date, and a number of pie runs at the holidays. That there is a Callendars ten minutes from where I live now and they still sell really good pie makes me happy. (Dutch Apple a la mode and Sour Cream Lemon are my favorites.) And two months out of the year – February and October, usually – they do a great ‘Buy a Whole Pie for 8.99 or 9.99’ special. In the Bay Area, Heidi’s Pies was about all we had. In SF, I liked Chili Pie on Baker, but they closed up and went out of business even before the pandemic. I have mentioned I had to drive down to San Mateo to get a Heidi’s Pie. Now my nearby Nugget Market brings in a steady stream of Heidi’s Pie’s for sale – the same Heidi’s as down in San Mateo. I am pretty spoiled, though, with other options and never thought that Heidi’s crust was as good as Callendars.
Speaking of The Nugget Market, they and the Bel Air grocery store closest to where I live also offer satisfying desserts in their bakery aisle. Nugget makes a top notch tiramisu and the Bel Air bakery section makes excellent brownies.
SOME OF EVERYTHING
Rick’s Dessert Diner – https://www.ricksdessertdiner.com/ This place is dessert insanity, and I love it. It has the inside décor of a 50’s diner with shining surfaces of chrome and cherry vinyl, but I have never sat to eat my dessert there. The pandemic pattern seems to be just to pick things up and bring them home. My go-to is the Heath Bar, which is a super-rich, graham cracker crusted pot-de-crème to fudge-ish bar with the toffee notes that give it its name. But there are about 40+ additional options to choose from on any given night, including 5 or 6 gluten free cake choices. Their pie is not as stellar as at the specialty pie places (crust is chewy) but at Rick’s the cake is king. The cakes are very tall and rich with buttercream and ganache and you can also buy them whole if you don’t want just a slice.
They even have cannoli, but we do not have to stop the presses. They don’t compare to the New York/Connecticut variety, so the search still goes on for a California cannoli worth an Est!Est!Est! I have not visited Rick’s many times that I can say conclusively what is the best ever and what is merely very tasty, but I look forward to further experimentation.
On a cannoli side note, there is a well-rated pizza place with a couple of locations in Sacramento, Giovanni’s (they cutely call themselves the 6th Borough for NY style pizza) that claimed strong bona fides for its cannoli, including that it is always filled to order and not left in the shell to get soggy. I was excited by their claim and understanding that it’s the pre-filling that invariably makes a cannoli worthless. So, I did order a cannoli from the Land Park location near me. It fell short in the oddest way. The filling was actually right, which was a wonderful find, and for that reason came closest to top cannoli I’ve encountered in the state of CA in my 30+ years here; BUT they were somehow done a dirty trick at some formative point and must have been sold cannoli forms the thickness of a fat knitting needle because the shell that I was served was so skinny that there was no filling inside the cannoli shell, just a dollop piped at either end. Not right at all. I’ve thought about going in and having a heart-to-heart with them about this, but I am trying to not lean in to being too pushy in my advancing years. But they were SO CLOSE.
Selland’s Market Cafe – Everything at Selland’s is good. It’s an amazingly consistent place for having such a large menu, but the thing that draws me in is their High Hat cupcake. The cake portion is chocolate, with a tall meringue dollop that has been dipped like a bonnet ice cream cone from the SC Boardwalk in chocolate ganache frosting. Uniquely delicious. Because you order your food at a counter and there is usually a wait at dinner time, you’re going to buy that cupcake along with your main meal because you are not going to worry about not having room (you will make room), only that they may possibly run out of HHCC’s if you don’t secure one in advance. Their chocolate mousse bar, lemon cheesecake bar, and tiramisu in a jar are also very lovely.
Is anybody ready to drive up to Sacramento for a visit yet?
Sure, my doctor advised I should not be eating so much sugar either, but if I’m going to have a dessert, at least I know it’s going to be good!