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100 Favorite Dishes 2013: No. 95 Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club

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This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. Just as Katharine Shilcutt did before her, and Robb Walsh before that, Kaitlin will eat and learn as she goes, compiling a list of the 100 dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in Houston. It's a list of her personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston food-scape. It's a list to drool over.

I love sweet potatoes in any form. At Thanksgiving, I stuff my face with scalloped sweet potatoes, and whenever I see sweet potato fries on a menu, I order them, even if it costs extra to sub them for regular ol' potato fries. I can make a meal out of a steamed sweet potato, even without any garnishes, sauces or side dishes.

I was pleased when I saw sweet potato gnocchi on both the lunch and dinner menus at Brooklyn Athletic Club. Ah, another way to consume my beloved tuber! I was beyond pleased once I finally tasted the exquisite dish.

The gnocchi is less firm than the potato gnocchi to which I'm accustomed. It's more like a solid sweet potato pudding, and in spite of the fact that it's a savory dish, the gnocchi retains a bit of the sugar that makes sweet potatoes so delicious. The sage and parsley cream sauce bathes the gnocchi in rich and earthy flavors, accented by caramelized mushrooms, and apple slices that add a bite of acidity to the otherwise sweet and creamy dish. It's topped with simple fried leeks for a nice crunch.

This dish is wonderful not just because it features sweet potatoes so prominently, but because the flavor combination of the potatoes, cream, apples, sage and mushrooms is so unexpected -- and so divine. Cream, of course, goes with just about anything, but mushrooms and tart green apples? Sweet potatoes and fried leeks? Yes, and yes!

The only problem with the dish is that there's a little cream sauce left behind once you finish all the solid items on the plate. It's a pretty flat plate -- not conducive to drawing the sauce into a puddle to scoop it out or drink it. If you're like me, you could just slurp it up off the plate, but you might get some funny looks from the people around you. Trust me. I would know.

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