100 Favorite Dishes: No. 29, Heartland's apple cake
Run by chef Lenny Russo, Heartland Restaurant and Farm Direct Market takes the idea of eating locally to heart. The Lowertown establishment changes its menu often, but is constant in its dedication to local farms and culinary artisans. While the restaurant takes its name from the Midwestern fare it serves, the results are far more haute than just plain ol' hot dish.
Compared to Heartland's other flashier desserts like pot de creme or trifle, you'd think the apple cake was far too simple, too plain to warrant the $10 price. We promise you, it's anything but plain.
Heartland presents this unassuming ridged cake planted firmly atop a sumptuous swipe of salted caramel. Granola crumble sprinkled generously on top features oats and pumpkin seeds (with just a hint of savory-saltiness) and crunches with each bite. A paper-thin slice of dried apple rests between the cake and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
From end to end, every bite of cake is moist, almost spongey with small chunks of apple baked into the light and airy batter. Most caramel sauces tend to be too runny or get stuck to the plate after sitting too long -- not this one, it's just the right viscosity with a perfect blend of sweet and salty. The crumble complements each of the elements as it's the crunchiest thing on the plate, softened slightly by the dollop of homemade ice cream that brings all the flavors together. Last, the dried apple disc might be the smallest addition to the ensemble, but the sugars are so condensed in this nearly transparent slice that biting off a little piece is almost like eating candy.
Heartland changes its dishes with the seasons, based on the availability of what can be sourced locally, so keep an eye on the online menu for when the apple cake makes its way onto the list. You won't be disappointed; this Heartland dessert really does take the cake.
No. 43: Grand Café's fondue
No. 42: Saffron's Heart Beets
No. 41: Chatterbox's pork and waffles
No. 39: Broders' quadrucci con pollo