If there’s one thing Troy Guard and Noah French want you to know about their new restaurant, it’s that they offer a savory selection as well as sweets. It’s not just a dessert lounge, despite its sugary, old-fashioned name.
“When Troy and I first talked about the concept, we knew we wouldn’t make any money with just desserts,” says French, the consummate pastry chef with a twinkle in his eye and skill in his hands as he mindfully garnishes a cannoli lookalike delicacy. “Adding the savory dishes gave us our business plan.”
So the two got together to find a space and design a menu, then hired Jeff Hickman to run the savory (that’s chef-speak for anything that’s not dessert) side for lunch and dinner. French handles breakfast and desserts with the help of Kelly McGeehan, the assistant pastry chef and cake artist who sculpts fondant into amazing works of art. With all that talent in the kitchen, it’s no wonder every bite is exceptional. Nothing is mediocre.
The space is as charming as its name. Kamla Presswalls’ large hand-painted mural of a 1900s sugar mill adds an old-time touch to the newly constructed building. With seating for just 28 at tables and counter, this cozy little eatery makes you want to linger after your meal with a confection and a coffee. In warm months, a garage door wall opens for 10 additional seats, making it a sassy sidewalk cafe. A shiny white marble countertop, sparkling display case and vintage glass apothecary jars filled with goodies lend a jewel box aura to the room. And get this: French browses thrift stores for dainty little china cream pitchers for pouring sauce onto his creations.
To be sure, Chef French has a creative side that shows in his fastidious fashioning of pastries. Some of his inventions include red velvet crème brulee, a miniature whole pineapple upside-down cake, apple almond tart, and his piece de resistance, “Noahsphere.” The latter is a tennis ball-size hollow chocolate shell filled with candied walnuts, flourless chocolate cake, house-made marshmallows and vanilla mascarpone cream drizzled with hot caramel poured tableside from one of those cute little pitchers. The caramel melts the hard chocolate soft enough for digging into this sensational sugar bomb.
French, who started his international career in sugar by working the cotton candy machine at his hometown fair at age 12, likes to appeal to childhood tastes. “Peanut butter, chocolate, apples, cinnamon, caramel—I think that’s what people want,” he says. “I don’t follow trends; I do what comes from the heart. I may get inspiration from others, but I tweak it so it’s more my style. When people can’t decide between desserts, then I know I’ve done my job.”
The bistro-type menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner list a nice variety of full meals and small plates. A chingone (bad-ass) breakfast burrito is topped with a slightly sweet sauce that cuts the heat. Lunch offerings include healthy foods like warm kale dip, beet hummus and quinoa salad, as well as Hickman’s take on old-school standbys such as roasted turkey club and a hot pressed sandwich du jour. Dinner includes many of the same lunch dishes and adds beef Wellington, roasted chicken, turkey pot pie and short rib tortellini with gala apples and butternut squash. That’s the winter menu; it will change with the seasons.
Go to Sugarmill for dessert but stay for the savory. And remember: Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.
2461 Larimer St., #101
Denver, Colorado 80205
Catering and custom cakes
Street parking; no reservations taken
Orange Chiffon cake with Lemon curd, whipped cream and fresh citrus
Orange Chiffon Cake
1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
zest of one orange
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
Combine all dry ingredients and orange zest in bowl (except for last amount of sugar) and reserve. Combine oil, water, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl and mix together. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix thoroughly. Start whipping the egg whites, gradually add sugar in stages until whites are stiff. Fold in a third of the egg whites into the other mixture. Fold in the rest. Scoop in into a large sprayed muffin pan, filling ¾ full. Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
Fine zest of 3 lemons
3/4 cup lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter
Combine all ingredients except for butter, and cook on a double boiler. When mixture has thickened and the foam has disappeared, remove from heat and whisk in butter piece by piece. Strain into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons sugar (use 4 for less sweetness)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Whip into medium to stiff peaks form.
Assembly: Slice cake in half. Spread a spoonful of curd onto bottom half. Place orange segments on top and a dollop or pipe whipped cream on top. Place some more orange segments on plate.
Sugarmill Roasted Mushroom Toast
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh mushrooms, finely chopped (we use crimini and button, but any will do)
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 clove of garlic minced
4 ounces brandy
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
The other stuff:
4 hearty (1" or more) slices of really fantastic fresh baked bread, toasted with butter. We like Grateful Bread's Ciabatta loaves. They are rustic and flavorful and toast up beautifully. Take the time to find a product you are proud of, it makes a difference.
2 ounces arugula
2 each Breakfast radish, sliced thinly
Fresh squeezed lemon and extra virgin olive oil
A little more parmesan cheese for garnish
Start with the mushrooms. Use a food processor to rough chop the mushrooms and work in small batches (you don't want to crowd the work bowl because you want the mushroom pieces to move smoothly, too many and the large pieces will stay on the top of the mixture). The best results will be achieved by pulsing the mixture for about two seconds at a time until the desired texture is reached (pieces just smaller than the size of a match-head, if you over-chop the mixture will be watery and pasty.) It is best to remove a bit of the moisture from your fungus to encourage browning and flavor development. This can be done by again working in small batches and placing the mixture in a clean dish towel and wringing it out. Reserve the liquid for a later vegetable stock. Heat a heavy bottomed pot, such as a Dutch oven, over medium high flame. Add olive oil. When olive oil begins to shimmer, but not smoke, add mushroom mixture and sauté until mushrooms begin to brown and become fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add shallots and garlic and sauté another 4 minutes, being careful not to burn the aromatics. Deglaze the pan with brandy and set ablaze. When alcohol is sufficiently burned off, reduce heat to medium, add the fresh herbs and begin to work in the parmesan in small batches, adding the next after the last is fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the mushroom duxelles across the toasted bread. Make a simple salad of radish and arugula dressed with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to garnish the toast. Adorn with some freshly grated Parmesan, and a little truffle oil is a nice touch, if you have some lying around. Serve warm.
Bio: Denver-based Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist covering travel, restaurants, ski resorts and performing arts for magazines and websites. A Denver native, she loves seeing restaurants pop up in unlikely places.