Saturday, May 27, 2006
Ciocolat has always had a soft spot in my heart when it comes to cafes. This particular place, located so close to the heart of the UC Davis campus, is a gem in itself partially due it's wholly unacademic appearence. You'll find no beaten couches and college garage bands here. No, instead a few quiet students on their laptops, professors conversing, and local Davis residents gathering for tea and sweets. The facade is quaint and welcoming, the inside contemporary with shadows of French influence softening every line of architecture and decor you see. At night, simple strings of white light make the little cafe light up with a romantic and soothing glow.
The food here is sparse but decent, stuff that you would find at expensive bistros but you'll be paying a fraction of the price. The menu consists of only a few items; BLT's with basil mayo, red onion, and hickory-smoked bacon on focaccia, and their wild mushroom lasagna for example are sure to please. The last time I went I ordered their soup of the day. Now unfortuneatly, restaurants have led me to believe that soup of the day is usually synonymous with the word "crap," yet I continuously order it anyways. I regretted my decision imeediately, but gosh darn it, I loves my soup.
Did I receive my synonymous soup? Oh no, no! Not this time! I was presented with a gorgeous butternut squash soup, swirled with creme' fresche and parsely, and a slice of fresh focaccia on the side. It was mind blowing, I actually unraveled secrets to the universe. Example? Seven angels can dance on the head of a pin unless they've been drinking. (Then they're just passed out on the couch, or eating 7-11 nachos the next day.)
Of course, there was a downside. My friend's Seasonal Green Salad was, while tasty, a bit disturbing. I know they have to hand crumble feta over the damn thing, but seeing thumbprints stamped into every piece is just a bit, oh, gross to me. Chef's should put their mark on their food, but not in such a literal manner. It's unappealing and unappetizing.
They also serve high tea. A decadent four course meal, consisting of fancy little sandwiches, white chocolate and raspberry scones served with lemon curd and red currant raspberry jam, followed by an assortment of desserts, and ending in fresh berries with chantilly creme. This is only served Friday and Saturday from 2-4:30, so set aside some time. You'll need to make reservations for this breathtaking event.
This time, however, I went specifically for the desserts. I dragged my partner in crime, Rob, with me. For someone who was hesitent to come, he was more than pleased once he saw the dessert case, filled to the brim with a few dozen assortments of truffles, cakes, tarts, and other orgiastic little bits.
The Blackberry and White Chocolate Mousse was definetly calling out my name. A large tier of white angel cake, a layer of an unidentifiable sweet cream (honestly, I really have no idea what it was 'cause I ate it so fast, but seconds please!) and a thick layer of blackberry mousse. The whole thing covered in piles and piles of white chocolate shavings! It was embarrassing salivating all over the display case. Towel please?
My eyes started to tear up after one bite. The play of flavors and textures between the cake, mystery creme, mousse, and white chocolate was bliss. I honestly don't think I have ever had a cake this good in my entire life. When I die, I want to be re-incarnated as this cake.
I pretty much threw a tantrum when Rob insisted we trade. He gave me his Orange Chocolate Mousse Cake. This was a beautiful orange mousse, sitting on top of a small layer of chocolate cake. Sounds great no? Yeah, well I thought it would be great too. The orange mousse tasted like whipped cream mixed with Orange Extract, and it totally overpowered the cake which could have been missing all together and you really wouldn't have known the difference. Given, though, I can see other people enjoying this, but I myself shrug it off with indifference.
Now while Ciocolat is overall a great place, there are downsides. The people working there, while friendly, seem slightly reluctant to be there. They don't seem to know a whole lot about what their selling, and their coffee is way to watered down. The staff could use some tasting and training to make them a little more excited and knowledgeable about what they are offering to the customer.
Overall, I give Ciocolat a 4 out of 5. Ciocolat is a pleasant, sweet, and calming exprience, and I plan to go again. My advice to you if you go? Try not to make too much of a scene when inhaling your cake.
301 B Street
Davis, CA 95616