It’s not uncommon to see avant-garde dessert combinations on gourmet menus. Some work. Others baffle. I attended a food truck fair at which a chocolate bacon lollipop tasted like fried breakfast meat smothered in Hershey syrup. A glossy South Beach server once scolded me for not appreciating the budding chef’s maple syrup-soaked foie gras. She concluded that my palate “wasn’t mature.” Candied liver, anyone?

But don’t get me wrong. In the hands of a masterful culinary artist, the oddest combinations can be so dazzling, your palate oozes metaphors. At Mancini Modern Italian in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Executive Chef Claudio Sandri’s chocolate ganache is a salacious slab of Denzel Washington in Mo’ Better Blues. It’s an orchestral dessert with its rhythmic, black lava salt interludes, each creamy bite leading to long, unexpected finishes. The first offering one salty twist; the second, two. Whatever happens, you want more.


As a cook, I know it’s easy to lose a delicious dish to a cluttered idea, but never underestimate the power of editing your ingredients until you know when it’s just right. A good edit can transform a distractingly loud dish into a delectable score.

Check out Chef Sandri’s divinely simple, salty ganache recipe. And for all you psychedelic pastry chefs who want to dramatize your menus . . . just don’t add bacon.

Chocolate Ganache (serves 8-10):


  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • 16 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • 3 ounces dry dates
  • 3 ounces graham crackers
  • 3 ounces toasted walnuts
  • 1 ounce melted unsalted butter
  • Black lava salt


Pour heavy cream into a pan and warm over medium heat. Do not boil. After the heavy cream warms up, turn the fire off and add rum and chocolate. Stir constantly until the chocolate is completely melted then set aside in a bowl.

Place dates, walnuts and crackers inside of a food processor. Pulse and grind until a paste is formed. Combine paste with the melted unsalted butter, then set aside.

Line medium-size mold with plastic wrap. Press paste into the bottom of the mold. Pour ganache on top of crust until mold is filled.

Place in refrigerator overnight.

Slice, and sprinkle with black lava salt.

If you’re in town, check out Mancini Modern Italian at 401 E. Las Olas Blvd., Suite 150, Fort Lauderdale, Florida; call 754- 200-8602, and tell them Dinkinish sent you!

Dinkinish O’Connor is an award-winning writer. Her food sojourns have taken her everywhere from the shanty town bistros of Kingston to the gnarly vineyards of Bordeaux. She has written for Wine Spectator, Condé Nast Traveler, The Miami Herald and other publications. Dinkinish received her sommelier certification and hosts innovative wine tastings. To see what’s happening in Dinkinish’s sumptuous, little world, check out Gourmet Squatter,  a blog that explores how to sip high on a low budget.