Whenever my sister Jen and I got straight As on our report cards, our parents would take us to the Chart House in Cardiff. I don’t know how or why this became a tradition, but the Meanleys are swordfish people and, well, we are creatures of halibut. Kidding. Another draw was the thick slices of warm bread and—remember salad bars? We would each order the same entrée and split the famous Mud Pie.

Pastry chefs will shoot me down for writing this, but desserts were made for sharing. That’s when people really talk about what they’re eating. There’s praise for the presentation of the dish, the inevitable show of guilt about a broken diet, a concentrated dissection ("What’s in this layer?"), and sudden attention to fork etiquette.

Desserts bring people together, and though they may seem a simple thing, Senior Editor Archana Ram proves this month sweets are anything but. From profiteroles to pie, a lot goes into this little course. She combed Instagram, interviewed pastry chefs, and systematically taste-tested for months, ultimately filing a 6,000-word magnum opus on the 73 best desserts in San Diego (and nary a Mud Pie on there!). By the end, you’ll not only be scheduling your next coffee date at a bakery, you’ll have learned what art, skill, and talent—not to mention childhood memories, family traditions, and cultural influences—get baked into a single petite ramekin.

Archana also produced the female chefs’ roundtable this month, a Q&A she began coordinating in September 2017. What came together is a history of San Diego’s food scene through a woman’s eyes, beginning in the mid-1980s. It’s also a frank discussion about industry challenges, with confessions of missteps and tales of sacrifice. I couldn’t put it down—the first time I read it, I was late for a meeting I was leading. (Not a straight-A student move!) These days my family has drifted from the Chart House, and we’re often trying to cut down on sugar. But this issue will persuade anyone to say, "Yes, you may bring me the dessert menu."

 

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