Blogging and writing is for me a compulsion. People often ask me how I find time. I honestly don’t know: with a full-time career, two young children and community interests I don’t have much idle time. But if you want to do something badly enough, you will find a way. And there are short moments when as a blogger I get to live the sweet life, which makes it all worthwhile. This was my experience recently when I visited Micasa Dolci.
If you haven’t been to Micasa, then you are missing out on something special. It is an elegant modern patisserie cum cafe set along Ren’ai Road. I had seen several Facebook and food blogs post beautiful photos that seemed almost too artistic too be true, so had wanted to check it out for same time. And then I was given the opportunity when I was one of a select group of bloggers invited to participate in a taste test of several of its signature items. It was fun sampling the dishes in thus way, kind of like a never-ending dessert buffet shared with other food lovers. It also meant I sampled several dishes I might not have thought about ordering. Like I said, I was living the sweet life and enjoying each and every mouthful of the experience. And there was a lot of sampling to do!
First up, was an unexcepted surprise. Our host suggested we try a Micasa Dolci specialty: half-baked Castella honeycake (NT$300). I must admit that at first glance the cake, sort of like a deflated souffle, did not really inspire much enthusiasm. But my, was it a surprise. Once cut, the golden honey filling mixture oozed out revealing a delightfully frothy and delicious sauce.
I thought this might taste undercooked and gluggy, but it was soft and warm and sweet. This might not look like much, but it is a surprise in the same guilty way of steal a bite of Grandma’s cake before it has fully cooked: sometimes you just can’t resist temptation. Although it was not plated as such, I would suggest eating it warm with a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream.
Then onto rolls. I was never much of a Swiss roll fan before I moved to Taiwan. Of course, they don’t call them Swiss rolls here but it is the same concept: a light sponge filled with flavoured cream. We tried two different varieties, the first of which was made with black sesame (NT$350). I love black sesame. It reminds me of European marzipan, but with an Asian twist. And paired with fresh cream in this roll, it was simply divine. I also loved the black and white contrast, sort of like a yin/yang taiji symbol. Fitting for a desert that combines East and West.
Then we tried the chocolate roll, topped with chocolate ganache (NT$420). This was also very good, but to my mind not quite as stellar as the black sesame roll. Or maybe my taste buds were just biased because I tried the black sesame roll first. Maybe next time I could try eating them the other way around.
Next stop was Strawberry Mille Feuille (NT$180)It is hard to find a good mille feuille: there is an art to getting the layers just right. I loved the rich, custardy patisserie cream used in between the layers. But I did find the pastry sheets a little tough to navigate: they were fresh and crunchy, but a little too thick for perfection. Maybe this is just me, because I can never seem to eat this dish elegantly — once again I managed to get pastry crumbs and icing sugar all over me.
Then a spectacular pyramid of a dish arrived: Sabayon (NT$300), which consisted of bitter caramel gelato on a bed of candied almonds and banana, topped with sabayon. This was kind of like a banana split for grownups. I had been secretly hoping that Jennifer would provide tastings of Micasa Dolci’s ice creams: it was a hot summers’ afternoon and I have a weakness for ice cream. A major weakness.
I want to report that this was a sumptuously rich, luxurious desert. But our bloggers were bitterly divided on this dish. Or rather, I should say, divided over the bitterness in this dessert. The gelato was pointedly bitter, in a double shot of Starbucks espresso kind of way. Paired with the sweet sabayon and bananas, this highlighted the bitterness of the ice cream. Now I like a bit of bitterness in my food. I enjoy strong tea, bitter gourd, Chinotto softdrinks …. you get the picture. But even I found this dish a bit of a challenge.
But it was a challenge that I found oddly attractive. While other bloggers moved onto other sweet treats, I found myself stealing a few additional bites, trying out new flavour combinations. Would the gelato be as bitter if I paired with just the candied almonds (a bit better), or the bananas (still a sharp contrast), or the sabayon sauce (yum for the sauce, not a great contrast)? My verdict: I suggest the bitter caramel gelato for those who like strong and innovative flavours, perhaps on its own, on top of tiramisu or even in a Chinotto spider.
Did someone say homemade ice cream? More iced treats to follow, this time a plated dessert plate including matcha ice cream, chocolate fondant, raspberry sauce and fruit (Molleux Au Chocolat, NT$280). I thought this a slightly odd combination as it was part summer, part winter. The chocolate and raspberry combination was something I would expect to see in the depths of winter, especially as this was served warm to allow the chocolate to ooze out. (Micasa, I discovered, specialising in oozey desserts.) This was solid, lazy day chocolate for lovers of all things rich. Good thing that there was only a small, scone-sized disc.
The matcha ice cream was also comfortingly good. It was neither too strong, nor too weak and clearly freshly made. Jennifer said that all of their ice creams are handmade on the premises from scratch, a labour intensive process as they can only produce the ices in small quantities. Small take home packs are available: her pastry chef hand ladles the ice creams into cardboard takeaway containers.
The most spectacular dish was to come – a plate of sorbets and mille feuille with fresh tropical fruit (Lychee Mille Feuille NT$350). At first, I nearly missed the ices, which were hidden amongst the fresh lychees, mangos, dragon fruit and kiwi fruit. Then I spotted the pale-pint passionfruit sorbet, two scoops of mango sorbet and then finally the lychee scented mille feuille made with coconut ice cream. We all went momentarily silent as we stopped to taste each bit.
I loved the fresh mango sorbet, so fresh and tasting of pure Taiwan choice mangos. The passionfruit sorbet was deliciously refreshing as well, slightly tart and a good foil to the fruit. Unexpectedly, I discovered the mille feuille combined layers of passionfruit gel with the smooth coconut-based ice cream. Despite it being a frozen desert, the mille feuille layers were still flakey, which added a nice crunch and texture to this desert. Overall, and outstanding and innovative summer dessert that combines the best of Taiwan fruit with European influences.
This Cocoa Crepe (NT$350) tasted as delicious as it looks. The thin chocolate crepe was filled with a rich mascarpone cream, and covered with warm berry sauce and topped with ice-cream. I found myself unable to a third helping. This would be delicious on a cold winter day.
I loved this chocolate and caramel ganache cake. It tasted as rich as it looked, so this is definitely a wicked treat to enjoy in moderation. And there is a hint of something different, with the top of the cake topped with caramel and sprinkles of salt. Yes, salt. Just enough to give it an unusual and less sweet salted caramel taste, but not enough to confuse the palate. The name gives the secret ingredient away — Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake (NT$180).
Finally, cheesecake (NT$160). This was simple, unadorned, smooth, velvety cheesecake. Jennifer described it as Japanese style, yet it was more substantive than sponge-like Japanese cheesecakes such as Uncle Tetsu’s. But neither was it as rich as a slab of New York cheesecake. It was light, but not too light, sweet, but not too sweet, creamy, but not too creamy. In a word, it was just right. Simple and perfect.
Micasa Dolci has an elegant storefront along the tree-lined Ren’ai Road, not far from Taipei City Hall and the front entrance to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial. And it is only a few doors down from Beijing Do It True at number 462 Ren’ai Road Section 4 (110台灣台北市信義區仁愛路四段462號, phone 2345 7669). It is a lovely address to take refuge on a hot summer’s day, to enjoy a luxurious afternoon tea and pampering with some girlfriends.
Taiwanxifu participated in an arranged desert tasting at Micasa Dolci.