The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

In The Pastry Kitchen At North Pond

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 29, 2012 4:00PM

For the last couple of weeks, the spotlight has been fixed firmly on Chef Bruce Sherman and his freshly-minted, long-awaited James Beard Award. But there's another star in the North Pond kitchen—Pastry Chef Greg Mosko. Given the intricacy and precision of their creations, some of us think pastry chefs are tweezer-wielding crazy men, pasty white from accumulated powdered sugar and a profound lack of sunlight. Mosko, a gregarious, tattooed bear of a man, totally blows that stereotype out of the water.

Like everything else at North Pond, Mosko's desserts are seasonal and change constantly. But even seasonal ingredients don't have to be predictable. Some of the special touches in his desserts are so small that they'll be gone in one bite - you might not even notice they were there. On the other hand, you'd certainly notice if they weren't there.

Consider his peanut powder, one of the toppings for the "Dark Chocolate, Peanut" dessert. It's not even mentioned on the menu. When Mosko mentioned "peanut powder," we stupidly envisioned someone pounding on peanuts with a big skillet. Yeah, not so much. Mosko makes his own peanut butter and then dehydrates it into a powder. This process results in a fine white dust with an intense peanut flavor that instantly disappears on your tongue in a salty cloud.

Mosko, who is an alumnus of the French Pastry School and a three-year veteran at North Pond, took us step-by-step through the creation of three of his desserts. You can watch the process in the photos, but some common threads tie them together. He loves linear designs, and the rectangular plating of the first two desserts echo both his personal aesthetic and the vertical woodwork of the restaurant. At least to him, his desserts often make a sort of internal ethnic sense - the "Mango, Coriander" includes a variety of tropical and middle eastern flavors (including a meringue made with Aleppo pepper).

As intricate as fine-dining desserts often look, with their swirls, loops and scoops, each one is created quickly, step-by-step. Most of the actual work in the process is done in prep, as each tiny ingredient is made in-house, by hand. At service, Mosko or one of his assistants assembles the plate just like you see in the pictures. When it comes out to you, it looks like an obsessive-compulsive painter spent two hours on it, but in reality he can plate the dish in mere minutes.

If you head in to North Pond in the next few months to try to catch some of Sherman's fame and flavor, don't skip dessert. If you have a date to impress but don't want to spend a fortune, schedule a late-night visit just for pastry. At $11 a plate, the desserts aren't cheap - but with the level of craftsmanship in each dish, you'll think it's a bargain.

North Pond is located at 2610 N. Cannon Drive.