Food & Drink

The best dessert in Charlotte right now – isn’t a dessert

When you're picking what to order at this busy spot, save room for a dessert that's not on the dessert menu.
When you're picking what to order at this busy spot, save room for a dessert that's not on the dessert menu.

When you tackle the menu at The Stanley, Paul Verica’s long-awaited farm-meets-fancy restaurant in Elizabeth, you’re on your own. The ingredients change so quickly, we can’t tell you from one day to the next what you ought to pick.

The offerings dance around between small plates and full entrees with cryptic names like “Asparagus – as many ways as we could think of.” (That one’s already gone, now that asparagus has vanished from local fields, but it was pale green panna cotta in a bowl of asparagus consomme dotted with asparagus oil and topped with shaved asparagus, pickled-asparagus rosettes and dried-asparagus powder. So yes, they can think of a lot of ways.)

Stanley asparagus plate
Dishes at The Stanley include puzzling names, like "Asparagus . . . as many ways we can think of." In this case: Asparagus panna cotta in asparagus consomme with asparagus oil, shaved asparagus, pickled asparagus and dried asparagus powder. Kathleen Purvis

There is one decision, though, that we can make easier for you: Skip the official dessert list. It’s short, with just a few things. And while they might be delicious, there’s a much better choice for dessert. It’s just not on the dessert list.

To find it, go back to the small-plates section of the menu: Foie gras funnel cake.

The name and even a picture won’t tell you what it is. So let us explain:

funnel cake horizontal
Foie gras funnel cake is funnel cake, with foie gras mousse, rendered foie gras fat that's turned into powder and peaches in several forms. Kathleen Purvis

It’s a funnel cake. Yes, batter that’s been drizzled into hot fat until it’s crispy and golden. The batter is a lot better than what you’d get on Speed Street, but it’s the same general idea.

They put it on a plate, and then they pipe four or five big piles of foie gras mousse under and between the whirls of fried dough. They top it with fruit (strawberries in the first weeks, now “peaches a few ways”), maybe a smattering of edible flower petals.

Finally, they strew the whole plate with white powder that looks like clumpy powdered sugar but is really rendered foie gras fat mixed with fancy-chef magic (tapioca maltodextrain if you really need to know).

The result: The best freaking dessert experience in town at the moment. It’s rich, lush and unctuous, and completely indulgent. You want to pull it apart with your fingers and smear it in the foie gras mousse, mopping until you get every last bit.

Even better? It’s $16, but it’s so rich, you have to share it, which makes it reasonably priced, too.

Seriously: Skip the dessert menu. Just don’t skip dessert.

Kathleen Purvis; 704-358-5236.