First Look: Dessert Flights at Swoon, San Diego

Finale

Brioche pain perdu with strawberry preserves, peanut butter powder, and grains of paradise maple syrup. Surprise! It's gluten-free (made from Cup4Cup gluten-free flour).

Erin Jackson

With a new artisanal doughnut shop downtown and the opening of Swoon, a dessert bar in North Park, the sweet life in San Diego has never been better. On Friday and Saturday evenings, Swoon features a 3-course dessert flight, showcasing seasonal ingredients that are expertly spun into elegant and imaginative sweets.

Co-owner David Lamm teamed up with friend Ian Smith and sous chef Evan Shaffer to pull off the inventive concept, where diners can sit at a bar in front of the exhibition-style kitchen and watch each course get prepared and plated. The flights change weekly and have included everything from blood orange panna cotta to matcha gelato. I stopped by for the strawberry flight ($16 for three courses, plus an amuse bouche). The tasting started with a strawberry frozen yogurt with two crunchy carrot elements, and finished with an elevated take on PB&J, topped with maple syrup infused with grains of paradise. Click through the slide-show for a closer look at each course.

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Dessert flights are available Friday and Saturday evenings, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. The menu is typically announced a few days in advance on Swoon's Facebook page. If you're there outside of those hours, try one of the a la carte desserts. Like the flights, the menu changes weekly. I struck gold with this carrot cake ($7) with cardamon-carrot ganache, carrot chips, carrot crumbs, and a genius touch: cream cheese panna cotta standing in for the frosting, which Ian says he doesn't like. The substitution makes the cake a touch less sweet, and the contrast between the moist cake and silky panna cotta is a refreshing change. Twelve more slices, please.

Another must-try anytime of the day are the chocolate chip cookies, pre-packed in paper bags by the register. They're crisp and buttery, with a strong undertone of molasses (and also happen to be gluten-free). You can also pick up a pair at nearby Carnitas' Snack Shack (check the menu for updates).

Swoon

3139 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104 (map) Facebook page