After all the lamb sausages, duck prosciutto, stuffed dates, spaghetti, brown butter tortellini and spicy seafood stew our table of four consumed at Urbana in Dupont Circle one recent summer evening, none of us expected to have any room for dessert. Still, out of courtesy, we listened as the server rattled off the options: various gelato flavors of the day, locally sourced peach cobbler, and cherry pound cake with lemon curd and…Pop Rocks.
We immediately snapped out of our food comas. Pop Rocks? The carbonated candy of stomach-exploding legend from the Eighties? The same, our server confirmed. “We’ll take two.”
The dessert is the creation of Urbana’s executive chef John Critchley, a former pastry chef, and the restaurant’s sous chef Ben Schnable. “Ben loves to have fun with desserts and wanted to add a sparkling element with popping candy, so I encouraged him to play,” says Critchley. “Then he came up with a really good lemon curd to be a topping for a clafoutis, but that wasn’t working so we decided to spread the curd on cherry pound cake and top with the candy at the very last.”
The Pop Rocks are not called out on the menu, only hinted at in the name, “Sparkling Lemon,” for an element of surprise—a surprise that hits you at first bite. One spoonful of the dense cake slathered in creamy curd and Pop Rocks and your whole mouth is tingling. “We flavor the popping candy with citrus acid and lemon zest to give it that Sour Patch sort of taste,” says Critchley.
Since Critchley took over the kitchen in December, he has been changing the menu about twice a season. So don’t expect the Pop Rocks-sprinkled cake to last into the fall. “I like to change the menu as a way to train the staff and evolve the restaurant,” he says.
Makes me wonder what will pop up next.
Photo courtesy of Urbana