Luna Restaurant & Catering
5620 S. Perry St.
Pastry Chef Taylor Siok
About the chef: Originally from Spokane, 25-year-old Taylor Siok studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York after high school. He went on to work at Apple Pie Bakery and later got a job at restaurant Daniel, where he worked his way through the stations. With little room left for promotion at his age, Siok learned about an opportunity to help open Jeremy Hansen's Common Crumb bakery and decided to come back to Spokane. He's been the pastry chef at Luna for about four years now, where he takes his experience in classic French cuisine, as well as mentorship from influential chefs he's worked with, to find inspiration for his desserts.
"I've kind of come to love taking really traditional desserts and making them a little bit more modern and fun," Siok says. "They're classics for a reason, I mean they're great, but why not put your own spin on them?"
Featured dish: Passion fruit baked Alaska ($9); layers of almond biscuit, passion fruit curd, vanilla gelato and hand-piped meringue are finished with a 151-proof rum flambé
How it's made: Traditionally, Siok says, a baked Alaska might be served in more of a roulade, but as served at Luna now, the dish is displayed in a long, thin rectangle with crisp, cleanly sliced edges, served atop spoon swipes of passion fruit.
First, the almond biscuit — "it's dense, kind of close to brownie territory" — is placed in a sheet tray and frozen, then a layer of passion fruit is added and frozen, and then the gelato goes on top and the whole tray is frozen again. Each day, Siok and Luna staffers hand-pipe meringue, made when possible with eggs from Luna's chickens, atop the portions that will be plated up and served throughout the day.
Chef's thoughts: While he's tried out other flavors before, passion fruit could have staying power: the flavor combination will remain on the dessert menu at least through fall. "Passion fruit is one of my favorite flavors," Siok says. "Our gelato is really, really rich and that vanilla with some acute acid is super satisfying."
His inspiration came at least in part from a visit to a now-closed restaurant in New York called DBGB that was under the same company as restaurant Daniel.
"I had more than one really incredible meal there... They had a baked Alaska on their menu but you had to ask for it," Siok says. "It's such a nice show when they come out, when they brûlée it in front of you, and it was really kind of a special experience. I like to recreate special experiences when possible, and it seemed like the right time."
Our thoughts: Before you dig in, your server lights a tiny carafe of 151 rum on fire, pouring blue flames over the meringue tableside. As the small amount of alcohol burns off, it adds more brûléed effect to the light torchwork that's already caramelized some of the sugars before the dish hits your table.
Maybe it's some primal instinct in all of us, but the fire took what is already a pretty plate and made it mesmerizing: My guest and I couldn't take our eyes off the flickering blue light (even as he was also presented with another scrumptious staple on the menu: the coconut cake).
In every bite, there's a subtle softness from the almond biscuit, and tart passion fruit curd that cuts through both the sweet, creamy vanilla gelato and the airy meringue, with great balance between the contrasting flavors. That first bite eaten just after the flames go out also treats your mouth to a contrast of temperatures, with the slightly warmed meringue and cold gelato playing on your tongue. The finish is the slightest taste of rum, which complements all of the elements.
Chef's local dining recommendations: Italia Trattoria (144 S. Cannon St.), Central Food (1335 W. Summit Pkwy.), South Perry Pizza (1011 S. Perry St.)