6 Sweet Indulgences

1. Pigs in Mud

at Insalata’s, San Anselmo

When Heidi Krahling opened Insalata’s back in 1996, she wanted to feature a fun dessert for kids. Pigs in Mud, which consists of a rich chocolate pudding topped with a pig-shaped shortbread cookie in a dollup of whipped cream, had been a menu item at one of her previous restaurants. “Nobody remembers how it came together,” Krahling says. “We’ve never touched the recipe; ain’t messin’ with a good thing.” She suspects the dessert’s popularity is due to the fact that parents can’t resist finishing their kids’ leftovers. For Valentine’s Day, Krahling is contemplating adding two heart-shaped cookies to the pudding and calling it “Love Mud.”  $7, Insalata’s, 120 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, 415.457.7700

Recommended wine pairing: zinfandel or ruby port

2. Black Tie Cake

at Sweet Things, Tiburon

Sharon Leach and Marsha Lasky have been making the Black Tie cake at their Tiburon bakery, Sweet Things, for 25 years. “It started out as our Black Magic wedding cake with white frosting to replace the chocolate,” explains Leach. “Customers eventually started ordering them as sheet cakes; these days we sell about 2,500 a year.” What makes them special, says Leach, is white chocolate mousse filling between the three cake layers. The newest versions are cupcakes (regular and bite-size) with chocolate shavings on top. From $42 for a cake, $1.20 for a bite-size cupcake, Sweet Things, 1 Blackfield Dr, 415.388.8583

Recommended wine pairing: A slightly sweet champagne or Graham’s Six Grapes Port

3. S’more Pie

at Buckeye Roadhouse, Mill Valley

Rumor has it this famous and much-loved dessert was created by then chef Cindy Pawlcyn in the early ’90s when, instead of bringing all of the supplies for making s’mores on a family camping trip, she turned them into a pie. The result was so good it ended up on the restaurant’s menu and has stayed there for more than two decades. Today’s version has been tweaked slightly by executive chef Robert Price, who added a bit of honey to the crust recipe and uses a higher grade of Belgium chocolate. It must be working, as they sell more than 10,000 slices a year. $8.95, Buckeye Roadhouse, 15 Shoreline Hwy, 415.331.2600

Recommended wine pairing: 20-year-old Graham Tawny

4. Chocolate Tasting

at Murray Circle, Sausalito

For the ultimate in chocolate, Murray Circle’s pastry chef, Ethan Howard, came up with the Chocolate Tasting, consisting of roasted white chocolate pot de crème with a persimmon salad, candied almond and a white chocolate meringue; a chocolate pecan torte with Douglas fir sabayon and cranberry-orange ice cream; a gingerbread mousse with a toasted chocolate marshmallow and chocolate pilsner tuile; and a warm spiced hot chocolate (not shown). But don’t get too attached; Howard changes everything (but the chocolate) according to the season. Despite the fact that it’s the relative new kid in town dessert-wise, Murray Circle sells more than 1,000 of these tasty treats a year. $19, 601 Murray Circle, Fort Baker, 415.339.4700

Recommended wine pairing: Madeira or port with the darker chocolates and a riesling or other dessert wine with the lighter chocolates

5. Torre Di Cioccolate

at Frantoio, Mill Valley

No butter, no cream … but lots of chocolate is the secret behind this delightful confection. Seventeen years ago, when executive chef Duilio Valenti set out to make a dessert incorporating the restaurant’s famous artisan extra-virgin Frantoio Olive Oil, he created the Torre Di Cioccolate and hasn’t touched the recipe since. Valenti knew people would love it simply because it’s chocolate. “The fact that it’s made with an olive oil base makes it much more healthy and lighter, and it leaves people happier than the standard butter-based, over-the-top, exceedingly rich chocolate cake does,” he says. “It’s contemporary healthy Italian food, which leaves you feeling happy and satisfied.” $7.95, Frantoio, 152 Shoreline Hwy, 415.289.5777

Recommended wine pairing: Brachetto D’Aqui Rosa Regale, Banfi, Piemonte

6. The Best Bread Pudding

at Whipper Snapper, San Rafael

Owners Bill and Debra Higgins tasted a variety of fruit-based Latin/Caribbean-inspired bread puddings while living in Florida before moving back to the West Coast and opening Whipper Snapper in November of 2008. Once here, Bill (former chef and co-owner of Cha Cha Cha in San Francisco) and his kitchen staff worked to create their own version using chocolate, asking family members and friends for their opinions until it came out right. Aptly named, the dessert features a traditional bread base with a side of berries and mint drizzled in a chocolate-caramel sauce. It was an immediate hit with customers — to the tune of about 5,000 servings a year, and always peaking in February. “We’ve been known to have people waiting out front for us to open, just to get the warm bread pudding,” says Bill. “We think it’s popular because it’s a homey comfort food.” $8, Whipper Snapper, 1613 Fourth St, 415.256.1818

Recommended wine pairing: Saddleback Cellars cabernet sauvignon or Ramos Pinto Collector Porto Reserva

Mimi Towle

Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.