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The evening began with Course One, a pineapple panna cotta with raspberry gelée. (Photo by: Jessica Maida Photography)
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Course Four, a chocolate indulgence (Photo by: Jessica Maida Photography)
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Course Two, a lavender and honey cheesecake (Photo by: Jessica Maida Photography)
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Course Three's joconde cake with Biscoff mousse and cherry syrup (Photo by: Jessica Maida Photography)
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Sweet Fix owner Amanda Robinson, left, keeps an eye on the dessertiers. (Photo by: Jessica Maida Photography)
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The Branch House set for the evening (Photo by: Jessica Maida Photography)
For several reasons I attended the four-course "after dinner" event at the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design last Thursday; one of them was because the Tudorbethan fantasia setting is the closest Richmond can get to "stately Wayne manor," and I swear it must have a Bat Cave. The evening was brought to us by Sweet Fix, the creation of Amanda Robinson, who in 2008 received the Arts Innovator recognition of the Theresa Pollak Prize for Excellence in the Arts for her work then at Gallery5. After champagne offered in glasses stacked within a wonderful white shelf, we adjourned to the grand room of the Branch. Here we got our heaping helping of goodnesses while surrounded by architectural renderings of Virginia structures that figure in the 1933 Historic American Buildings Survey.
The desserts were inspired by the place, and kicked off Sweet Fix's new, seasonal dessert series. Their ingredients and the wine pairing are below. For me, no gourmand by any stretch, they were all scrumptious but some more scrumptious than others.
Course One went with a Colliano Peneca Rebula sparkling brut from Slovenia. The light, refreshing dessert mingled pineapple panna cotta with raspberry gelée, and was accented with passion fruit curd, fresh mango and coconut meringues. Of the four, this rated first with me.
Course Two's liquid partner was viognier from the McManis Family Vineyard of California. The dish, a lavender cheesecake, incorporated honey, fresh lavender, honeycomb, white chocolate ganache and Honey Creamx.
Course Three was paired with The Ned pinot noir from New Zealand. Alone, this wine tasted too heavy for me, but served as a perfect complement to the dish: a Biscoff mousse prepared inside of a joconde cake cylinder accented with black cherry Crème Chantilly, crispy lace cookies dipped in chocolate and cracked pepper, and served with with cherry sauce, cherry pop rocks and cherry cotton candy.
The final and fourth offering was paired with Verso Rosso Salento from Italy. This dish brought together both hot and cold. Under this chocolate dome, guests found a torched, frozen salted caramel custard. Piping hot chocolate ganache was poured over the dome to reveal the caramel custards, and was accented with caramel truffle and chocolate milk crumbles. This finished a close second with my appreciation.
All this, plus the charcuterie and cheese board sponsored by Mosaic Catering, was accompanied by entertainment from Chris Cunningham; after all that dessert, I wish we could've cleared the tables and enjoyed a brief dance party. Energy wouldn't have been a problem, except there would've been the sugar crash. But, there was coffee.
John Kerr and Beulah Frances Gould Branch, with their son and two daughters, lived in this magnificent place during the winter festivals from Halloween to Valentine's Day. Kerr, a banker and broker in the days just before income tax, built this massive house in part to hold the family's art and décor collection. The extraordinary exterior is essentially an envelope over a concrete superstructure – the place is designed like a fireproof vault.
If you're sad that you missed out on this ticketed event, watch Sweet Fix's social media. At least two more Dessert Series programs are in the making; the summer event will be sometime in July or August at a local brewery, and then a December soirée will occur at the Paisley & Jade warehouse. Robinson says she'll work with a local mixologist (or two) and turn the warehouse into a science lab for the evening's experiment in molecular gastronomy.
Now that's what I call the sweet science.