Sweet of the Week: Butterscotch Pudding at Stella Barra

Can we talk about pudding for a minute? This is quintessential comfort food at its finest. From a velvety soft texture to its sultry smooth, borderline cloying flavors, it personifies what it means to be innately comforting. And yet, it is criminally overlooked for other attention hogs like doughnuts and ice cream. Such a satisfying Americana confection deserves better. And surprisingly, a California-based pizzeria is the one to save the day. Stella Barra is not only one of the greatest pizza openings in Chicago in quite some time, but the Santa Monica-based pizzeria also serves up some of the best pudding in the city. And I'm not just saying that because Chicago's pudding scene is woefully barren. The pizza is top-notch, but the butterscotch pudding comes dangerously close to stealing the show.

Butterscotch pudding
(Butterscotch pudding)

After a meal of fried Brussels sprouts, Burrata, and pizzas (please note the plural), I was not in the proper mindset to consider dessert. But then I remembered that I am me and that's impossible. The modest dessert offerings at Stella Barra are simple, rustic, and blissfully comforting. The butterscotch pudding arrives looking like a tiny jar of foie gras mousse, and had I ordered this earlier in my meal I probably would have smeared it on some crostini. But one spoonful in and you quickly realize how revelatory this stuff is. The texture, firstly, is sublime. It's as soft as satin, but not too goopy and over-whipped. It still has some body to it, making just a little bit go a long way. The butterscotch flavor is heavily pronounced, melding notes of caramel and butter together in one divine dish. There's a thin, glossy layer of salted caramel on the upper patina, which serves to accentuate the flavors and bring it all home. Comfort food at its absolute finest.

- Matt Kirouac