Maybe it’s just an occasional treat.
But during the holidays, a time of parties and get-togethers that almost always revolve around food, there’s no escape. No matter how you slice it, sometimes you just have to indulge in the sweet stuff. The dessert options at these Preston Hollow establishments just might surprise you.
at Garden Tea Room
You may come to the Forestwood Antique Mall hunting for vintage treasure, but you’ll find a treasure of the culinary sort. Tucked in the back of the store, past the sprawling collection of antiques, the Garden Tea Room serves soups, sandwiches and some of the best cake in town — namely, Daniel’s strawberry cake.
The cake’s namesake, Daniel Reyna — a busser turned baker — discovered a passion for baking when he was in sixth grade. His teacher had assigned him a cake recipe, and although Reyna was chastised for making modifications to the original recipe, his teacher was so smitten by his cakes that she started having him bake cakes for her outside of school. Reyna started working at the antique mall a little more than five years ago and says that he likes it because he can choose what he bakes every day and experiment with new recipes.
Reyna occasionally finds recipe inspiration from perusing old cookbooks inside the store. His popular strawberry cake began as a Paula Deen recipe, but Garden Tea Room manager Shari King says, “It ain’t no Paula Deen anymore.”
Customers originally offered suggestions to improve the strawberry cake, and through trial and error, Daniel’s strawberry cake was born. Now that he’s perfected his cake recipe, Reyna says, customers notice if he changes anything, so he has learned to be consistent. King says she believes that’s what attracts so many strawberry cake devotees.
“There’s just the right amount of frosting — it’s perfect,” she says.
The frosting consists of butter, cream cheese, strawberry puree, chopped strawberries, vanilla and powdered sugar. The pink cake is surprisingly spongy and moist without being overly rich. King says that customers regularly drive from all over the city to eat the cake.
Sharon Herndon, whom King and Reyna lovingly dubbed “the strawberry cake lady,” is a retired school nurse who drives from Richardson almost every day to enjoy the cake.
“Even if I go someplace else to eat lunch, I make sure to stop by for the cake,” Herndon says. “It just tastes like good old-fashioned strawberry cake — the cake’s not too sweet, the frosting’s not too fluffy.”
Reyna says he still bakes at home, even when he’s off work.
“I just got a new oven, and I’ve been packing on the pounds because of all the baking I’ve done,” he says, laughing. “My girlfriend definitely never goes hungry.”
Garden Tea Room at the
Forestwood Antique Mall
5333 Forest at Inwood
at Liberty Burger
Whether you come in for the Nooner burger — a burger topped with American cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, ham, hash browns (yes, on the burger), a fried egg and ketchup on a homemade bun — or just a simple side of thick-cut sweet potato fries, you are well aware that this family-owned burger joint cooks a delicious meal. But burgers aren’t the only American staple you can find at Liberty Burger.
The restaurant also has some surprisingly tasty personal pies, all made in-house. Flavors originally included coconut and chocolate meringue, both based on family recipes from restaurant co-owner Gene Street Jr.
“Customers loved the pies, but once we started making apple pies last year for the Fourth of July, everybody started wanting fruit pies,” says George Holwerda, who co-owns Liberty Burger with Mariel Street, Gene Street Jr. and Dace Street.
The customers got what they wanted: The restaurant now serves several varieties of fruit pie, including apple, blueberry and cherry. One bite of the blueberry pie, and it’s easy to see why customers wanted more. The pies come in 4-inch personal tins — perfect for two to split or one to indulge.
Holwerda says that several customers simply come in and order the pies to go. He says it’s best to come before 11 a.m. on the weekend if you’re hoping to beat the lunch crowd and snag a pie before they sell out.
“Low-fat, no cholesterol and no sugar,” Holwerda jokes when asked what sets Liberty’s pies apart. Getting serious, Holwerda says the key to good pie crust is keeping the crust dough cold while you are making it. And the tender and flaky blueberry pie crust shows that the restaurant has mastered the technique. Holwerda says Liberty has a particular cook who specializes in baking the pies and travels between the various Liberty Burger locations to ensure consistency across the restaurants.
Now that fall is officially upon us, customers can also expect to see pumpkin pies on the menu, Holwerda says.
5211 Forest at Inwood
at Neuhaus Café
A Preston Hollow café boasts one of the finest Belgian chocolate assortments in the nation.
“Never mind in just Preston Hollow,” says Mervyn Sacher, owner of Neuhaus Café at Preston and Royal.
Sacher’s been in the chocolate business 32 years. He discovered Neuhaus chocolates while working as a buyer for Neiman Marcus in South Africa. The Neuhaus distributor Sacher worked for at the time suggested that Sacher open Neuhaus stores in the United States. In 1980, Sacher started selling chocolates at NorthPark Center, and he later opened five stores in Dallas. Sacher eventually sold all of the locations except for one in the Galleria, which he ran for 22 years before moving to Preston and Royal in 2004.
“This has been a wonderful location for us,” Sacher says. “It’s better than any of the malls ever were.”
Neuhaus not only boasts chocolates, however. Inside, you will find a menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as a full bar, cakes and pies, and even specialty candies to please the rare individual that is averse to chocolate. However, the chocolates remain the most popular dessert at the cafe, Sacher says.
“The chocolates are a major dessert item themselves. If I don’t have a piece of chocolate after dinner, which I try not to do, I will tear the cupboard to pieces. Even if you’ve eaten a lot, you can always eat something sweet afterward. There’s a certain space that doesn’t get filled — a desire.”
Sacher’s carefully chosen chocolates come in a wide variety of flavors, including coconut, chocolate-covered fruit and nuts, toffee, turtle, pretzel and the popular French truffle, which is imported from France. Sacher’s favorite chocolate? “Different days, different pieces,” he says. “I do like chocolate-covered fruit, especially strawberries dipped in chocolate.” He says that the biggest sellers are the truffles, which, along with Neuhaus pralines, happen to be available in gift boxes for the holidays as well.
5959 Royal, Suite 626 at Preston
at Princi Italia
Tiramisu — the fluffy, light, Italian-born dessert — conjures up images of sipping espresso at a café in Venice. It also happens to be one of Princi Italia’s best-selling desserts.
“Our Tiramisu is very unique because we do it a little bit differently than most people,” says Princi Italia executive chef Kevin Ascolese. “Instead of lady fingers, there is chocolate cake amidst layers of mascarpone cream and dark rum.”
The cake comes topped with chocolate shavings and “leghorn sauce,” the name for a coffee, caramel and sugar reduction that Ascolese says “just makes a great little sauce.”
The rest of the dessert menu, which is all made in-house except for the gelato — and that’s made fresh daily at Paciugo on Forest — rotates seasonally. Princi Italia’s Tiramisu, lemon curd tart and chocolate molten lava cake are all dessert staples at the restaurant, Ascolese says.
“They will never go away; they will be here forever,” he says. “Tiramisu is a dish that people know us for.”
5959 Royal, Suite 707 at Preston
Sweet & light
Whether you’re vegan, gluten-intolerant or just not a big fan of the sugary stuff, these five desserts are sure to appease even the biggest sweet skeptic. Give one of them a chance — you might just find your new favorite treat.
1. Nutty Monkey smoothie at Southpaw’s Organic grill
Bananas, coconut milk and peanut butter are blended together for a delicious treat to sip. Optional additives such as whey protein, fiber and extra fruit add to the health benefits without compromising taste.
6009 Berkshire at Douglas
2. Cheesecake at Be Raw Food & Juice
While rarely synonymous with “light,” Be Raw Food & Juice’s cheesecake is made from cashews rather than cheese and comes in flavors such as chocolate or cookies and cream. And it’s vegan, too.
6005 Berkshire at Douglas
3. Froyo at Yogurtland
Not too many dessert places can boast that their sweets contain vitamin C, calcium and antioxidants, but Yogurtland can. Try the tart yogurt topped with fresh fruit and granola. Four sugar-free flavors, including boysenberry, and pecans and pralines rotate on a seasonal basis.
7700 W. Northwest Highway
Suite 220 at Central Expressway
4. Acai banana berry bowl at Nekter Juice Bar
For a filling dessert with a crunch, try the acai banana berry bowl. It’s acai, banana, nut milk and berries blended together on top of agave granola topped with bananas, blueberries and strawberries.
6712 Snider Plaza
5. Red velvet cupcakes at Sprinkles Cupcakes
Now there’s no excuse not to partake in the cupcake craze: Sprinkles famous red velvet cupcakes also come in gluten-free and vegan varieties.
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