For a long time, Gale Gand (Tru) and Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate) have been the pastry queens of Chicago, and few have graced the firmament they inhabit. Over separate dining experiences in the last few months, I think I've finally found two heirs to the throne.
Elizabeth Dahl at Boka—who matches savory and sweet goods like blackberries and corn or buckwheat, and sorrel and blueberries—is so good, she actually outshines her more than competent savory cooking boss, nine year vet of Charlie Trotter's, Giuseppe Tentori. Going back to a restaurant is generally an occupational hazard for me, as I rarely have time to cover all of the new stuff opening in town. That said, ever since I had her corn flan with blackberries, I've been dropping by and sending friends to Boka for dessert whenever I can. Of course, I'm not the only one who sees it this way, as she recently won Chicago's local version of the James Beard awards, aka the Jean Banchet award for Best Celebrity Pastry Chef.
While Dahl's been around a few years now, Stephanie Prida of one one sixtyblue is a straight up newcomer to the scene. She made her bones in the suburbs at Soul in Clarendon Hills, was lauded by Tribune food reviewer Phil Vettel, and promptly stolen away by Michael McDonald, the new top toque at one sixtyblue. Last month, she blew me away with a three layer shooter of cranberry soaked tapioca pearls, spiced apple cider, and granny smith sorbet, a tart, sweet, spicy smack across the tongue. Her sticky toffee pudding is a threat to your fillings, while her smooth whipped panna cotta is multi-layer deconstruction of chocolate and coffee that reminiscent of a similar dish I loved at the French Laundry five years.
It remains to be seen whether these women inherit the mantle from Gand and Segal, but one thing's for sure: Their futures looks sweet.