Sweet of the Week: Panna Cotta at The Florentine

Panna cotta is usually right up there with bread pudding as one of the desserts I'd be least inclined to order. I sitgmatize these things as tired and pedestrian, and panna cotta is more often than not just a wobbly, flavorless Jell-O knockoff. But every once in a while, a panna cotta comes along that knocks my discerning socks off and proves that panna cotta can be extraordinary. I had such a revelatory panna cotta at The Florentine this week, punctuating a gnocchi-filled meal on a perfectly delicate, sweet note.

The Florentine's rendition of panna cotta, an essential on most any Italian menu, changes seasonally, but the dessert is always prepared with a delicate hand and simply presented. The current iteration is a vanilla bean panna cotta with strawberries so fresh they practically talk back to you. It's jazzed up with salty caramel and a velvety saffron sauce. It's fun to build different bites with each spoonful, dredging the panna cotta through the caramel with one bite, topping it with strawberries and saffron for another. The panna cotta itself had the perfect texture, not overly jiggly like Jell-O, but firm and smooth like soft butter. It's light, but not so light that I feel like I'm having ice water for dessert, and the rich caramel adds plenty of oomph as well. It's the perfect capper to a night of red sauce and red wine.

Panna cotta
(Panna cotta at The Florentine. Photo: Matt Kirouac)