Bigger isn’t always better, despite what some fast food junkies might argue. Although it’s always nice to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, sometimes the smallest bites pack the biggest punch — especially when it comes to desserts. With that credo in mind, Fish Restaurant’s Pastry Chef Susie Ieronemo has been churning out a steady stream of bite-size desserts — or as she likes to call them, dessert dim sum.
Dim sum has been a regular part of Fish’s menu for some time now. Tapping into the restaurant’s French-Asian vibe, Chef Nico Romo puts an upscale spin on the traditionally dirt-cheap Chinese dish. Diners can choose from options like crab rangoon with plum sauce, frog leg wonton with citrus Boursin cheese, and caramel pork belly on a steam bun. Then a few years ago, Ieronemo decided to jump on the dim sum bus.
Far and away their most popular dessert selection, the dessert dim sum changes seasonally, with eight options priced at $2 a pop. The summer menu features a beignet, truffle, crème brûlée, “Susie’s s’more,” cheesecake, sorbet, pop tart, and brownie.
“I’ve always loved doing small little things pretty much in anything in my life,” says Ieronemo, who grew up in Illinois and studied baking and pastry at Johnson & Wales University before graduating in 2003. Working in such a small format is challenging, but she loves doing it.
“It’s a catch 22,” she admits. “It’s more time-consuming [to make], but it’s more fun because there’s so many more things that you can do with them. For me, it’s more interesting to do a bunch of different dim sums than the same desserts over and over again.”
Ieronemo often starts with classic desserts and then puts her own spin on the dish. This season’s brûlée, for example, is made with unglazed doughnuts from Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts on King Street. “I try to basically take a really popular item and throw something in there that people aren’t familiar with,” she says. “I fit flavors in wherever I think they’ll work best.”
She’s also driven by the seasons, which can present another level of challenges. “We all know that Charleston is a little hard for fruit,” she says. “Charleston doesn’t really create as much fruit as produce. I try the best I can to do what’s local and then work off that a little bit.” Working in an Asian flavor is also difficult. “We don’t grow jackfruit here and stuff like that, so we just have to finagle those flavors in there somehow,” she says.
It’s all about experimenting, although sometimes it doesn’t work out according to plan. One flavor combo that was an utter failure: peanut butter and passion fruit. “I got a lot of strange looks,” she laughs. “That didn’t go very well.”