You only fall in love vehemently as a 14 year old. Before texting and Instagram, picking a Valentine consisted of spending the better part of math class scribbling sweet nothings and doodles onto a piece of weathered loose-leaf paper and folding it with origami precision—with the hope of delivering it to her locker while she re-applies Dr. Pepper flavored chapstick in her Goo Goo Dolls themed mirror. The note asks her out to the carnival that is in town. When she agrees, you spend the better part of the night trying to win her an over-sized monkey with googly eyes. You ride the Ferris wheel, the scrambler, the zipper; her laugh makes you dizzier than spinning in the Tilt-A-Whirl for the third time straight. When you see a group of classmates, everyone collides into a teenage cluster. Then, not unlike throwing darts at balloons, your heart pops as she walks away with Jason—holding a cinnamon-soaked elephant ear. Few lessons are more important than making sure your datenight is riddled with dessert.
Nobody in town is sporting an elephant ear on their menu, but churros are still fried dough dusted in cinnamon and sugar. Originating in Spain and Portugal, the popular street snack has caught on big at pubs who serve mostly fried fare. The Backyard Public House goes a bit beyond the fryer. Their menu is loaded with fun takes on tacos, sandwiches and poutine … but don’t dare to miss the opportunity to grab a beer, a basket of churros and their amazing brown sugar bourbon cream cheese.
If you’re a cheese lover, nothing speaks dessert like an exceptionally made cheesecake. I once saw my father eat an entire Cyrus O’ Leary’s cherry cheesecake like it was his duty. I only fell in love with cheesecake when I had the good stuff. If anyone in Spokane is underrated in the dessert category it is the sweet-tooth team over at Europa. Everyone knows they have great Italian food, but swing in and try something from their dessert window. My suggestion is the insane White Chocolate Dipped Raspberry Cheesecake.
If raspberry isn’t really your kind of fruit, you’re in luck. You live in Washington State. We have locally sourced apples on par with the best in the world. Few cultivate local products into masterful creations better than executive chef Molly Patrick at Manito Tap House. Slow cooking down sweet cinnamon coated apples in a cobbler covered with a snickerdoodle crust and topped with butter pecan ice cream is nothing short of remarkable.
If you want the apple but are weary about ending Valentine’s Day with something that heavy, chef Molly’s other establishment, The Blackbird Tavern + Kitchen, is serving up Apple Curry Donuts. Sometimes even a respectable palate like my own can’t imagine what curry in a donut tastes like. Let me help you: it tastes like love with a touch of shame if you dip it in the vadouvan caramel that accompanies it: a short and sweet exclamation point to your amazing dinner.
If you love caramel but need more than a donut’s worth, your only job in life is to roadtrip over to Coeur d’ Alene and take in some of that end of winter lake scenery at The Dockside. Make sure to park at the resort—just so you don’t have to walk too far after shoveling down one of their world famous Gooey Sundaes. They have created an entire menu full of caramel infused, hot fudge covered goblets packed full of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or any other sweet ending you can find.
I was hoping I could get through this without mentioning my love for peanut butter. Now that we’ve opened Pandora’s box, we might as well give up one of the best kept secrets in town. People are flocking to Gilded Unicorn for the underground mystique, shareable small plates and their creative craft cocktails, but few know of chef Adam Hegsted’s Frozen Peanut Butter Pie, completed with chocolate crust and fudge topping, whipped cream and sea salt. A must try for anyone as crazy over peanut butter as I am.
Speaking of me—my favorite topic—I couldn’t do date night desserts without checking into my long-time favorite restaurant Clover. If you’re wanting to impress that foodie in your life, take them to dinner here and cap off the night with Cindy’s Chocolate Pot du Crëme: a light coffee and chocolate infused cream layered custard with vanilla, whipped cream and a crunchy house made biscotti. A chocolate treat for the couple who seeks the unconventional.
Did someone say chocolate and unconventional? Well then, I saved the best for last. Chef Jeremy Hansen’s speakeasy-vibe Hogwash Whiskey Den in the Cracker Building offers a house made chocolate torte that could make headlines by itself, but a close friend and bartender there showed me a little secret on the menu: the option to add bacon and eggs. Call me crazy, but the combination of rich creamy chocolate, salty crispy bacon and the buttery sunny-side egg yoke was a magnificent trick that I haven’t seen pulled off anywhere else in the Inland Northwest.