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Dominique Ansel Bakery Gingerbread Pinecone: I still haven't tried a cronut, but I have tried some of Dominique Ansel's desserts in the past, mostly through special events held at his New York West Village Kitchen location. While some were exceptional, namely a pea and carrot dessert modeled after a baby's first word, others have actually been quite bad (like the pie night a few years ago). There is a relatively short line at his first bakery and restaurant in Los Angeles at The Grove, so I opted for a seasonal treat: the gingerbread pinecone, which is a domed dessert toped with 60 or so hand cut dark chocolate petals, individually placed and then dusted with powdered sugar. The dome has a thin glossy chocolate coating and is layered with a spiced nutmeg cake (that has some crunchy bits for texture throughout), a ginger mousse, and a speculoos ganache. There is some true artistry that came together to make this beautiful cake, which actually tasted fantastic and is better than 80% of all fine dining desserts I've had in restaurants. It's rich but not at all heavy, with an expert combination of textures (the crunchy bits in the cake, the softness of the ganache, the crisp petals). And the bitterness of the chocolate offsets the mild sweetness of the cake interior. Overall, it's an impressively well balanced, delicious spiced winter treat that is quite possibly the best start to 2018 I could hope for (snack-wise). 4.5/5.0

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