Santa might get a little heftier this month. The pastries for sale where he's in residence at the Children's Museum of Richmond come from master baker Scott Davison of downtown's culinary hybrid, Aurora.
Still fairly incognito at the corner of Grace and Fourth streets, Aurora continues in the nightclub tradition of its predecessors. During the day, however, the magic isn't on the dance floor, but at the front in glass cases filled with pastries — delicacies that begin their life at 2 a.m. with Davison's arrival.
While the sandwiches at lunchtime are better than average, it is obvious that the star attractions at Aurora are desserts, served free with lunch. Davison tells us his history in culinary training, international awards, cooking for two Ritz Carlton hotels, a U.S. embassy and catering for the Russian oligarchs. As we choose our pastry selections to go, Davison lovingly explains the history and process of each, the melting points of chocolate and confection, and the alchemy that makes them magical. There is no doubt where his passions lie. Here's a sampling from his sugary workshop:
A layered affair, with creamy mascarpone, and coffee-infused cake, the flavors are delicate but the cake is a bit dry.
This rich chocolate confection is topped by a decorative pistachio garnish, as pretty as it is decadent.
This German-style strudel marries cooked apples with undertones of lemon in a puff pastry crust. The apples are nondescript, without the tang of a local Stayman or Granny Smith, but Chef Davison prefers canned apples that maintain their integrity in the strudel. I'm not sure I agree.
These bite-sized cheesecakes layer a sweet and creamy filling over a flaky shortbread crust topped with a bright raspberry.
Reminiscent of holiday fruitcake, these crunchy shortbread cookies are studded with dried fruit and topped with a light glaze.
The custard is thick, creamy and lemony, and the crust light and flaky. But the sugary piping is a bit hard, perhaps indicating its age.
These delicately sweet shortbread cookies are filled with apricot jam.
Two flaky hazelnut cookies sandwich a layer of raspberry jam before being dipped in chocolate.
The name says it all — delicious. One of Davison's best creations, this bar cookie features layers of almonds and dried cherry trapped by rich caramel over a chewy shortbread crust.
401 E. Grace St.
Cafe: Coffee and pastries
Mondays-Fridays 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Lunch: Sandwiches and salads
Mondays-Fridays 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Lounge: Small plates and bar
Thursdays-Sundays 5 p.m.-2 a.m.