A cake of 23 crepes with chocolate hazelnut spread, chocolate whipped cream, and hazelnuts
I had my eye on this cake all summer. Friends kept heading into Oceanside to get a piece of it, their every photo set to stun. A 23-layer cake, really a tower of crepes, stacked one on top of the other, held together with a sweet mortar of hazelnut spread and chocolate cream.
339 North Cleveland Street, Oceanside
Yes to all of it, I thought, following the dessert like a guiding star to Carte Blanche Bistro & Bar. The Oceanside restaurant had the misfortune to open just before the world went sideways. It sits two blocks from the pier in a building so new Google Maps doesn’t know it’s there yet, blessed with an open dining room and large enough patio to feel safe in spite of covid concerns.
Behind the cooking of chef Alex Carballo, best known as the longtime executive chef of Stone Brewing World Bistro in Escondido, Carte Blanche brings together French and Mexican cuisines. It’s the sort of fusion that serves octopus and chorizo hash during brunch service ($15). Or pairs duck confit and mole negro in a trio of beautiful tacos, finished with duck skin chicharrons, smoked cotija cheese, and edible flowers ($13).
Duck confit mole tacos
Considering the elevated concept, established local chef, summery outdoor space, and a stellar cocktail program, Carte Blanche has plenty of appeal to go around without needing a showstopper dessert to lure customers.
But in times like these, every bit helps, and if you’re looking for an excuse to dine out, this cake is it. Carballo tells me he conceived it and several menu items with that intent: to offer customers something unlikely to prepare for themselves at home.
Margarita Ooh La La, with cointreau, guava foam and black sea salt
To wit, the two-day process behind this cake starts with having to make 23 crepes. The cooled crepes then have to be stacked, each layer held together with a hazelnut spread, similar to Nutella, but made with 70 percent Mexico-sourced chocolate, plus cinnamon and chili spice. Crushed hazelnuts are added between layers, as is a chocolate infused whipped crème. The constructed cake sets overnight, with a top layer finished by more nuts, encrusting a chocolate ganache.
Close to the pier in Oceanside
The $13 slice of cake is heavy enough that it should be shared, whether following a meal or a couple hours at the beach. If it’s the former, you can really expect more than a strict French influence to Carballo’s Mexican-inspired dishes, which include the likes of harissa fried quail, huitlacoche-buttered pasta, and duck poutine served over a mix of plantains and potatoes.
And even if you mostly go for the beaches, consider stopping to dine somewhere next time you’re in Oceanside. It has quietly developed one of the best restaurant scenes in North County.