Love at first bite

February 11, 2009

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


No one can know whether Saint Valentine had a sweet tooth, but if he did, he would revel in the indulgence associated with the holiday bearing his name. 


Bakers, candy-makers and chocolatiers around the world have been busy as the celebration of love and romance inches closer. One of them has made Columbus a little sweeter place since August, when he first arrived from Florida. In a kitchen on Military Road stocked with sugar and spice and everything nice, Mark Goodyear has been expanding his dessert repertoire.  


After, the Monday lunch rush at Table of Plenty, the Phoenix, Ariz., native puts the finishing touches on delicate tulip-shaped cups made of chocolate.  


"I''ve always loved food," he says, filling the cups with creamy white chocolate mousse and topping each with a raspberry. "It may have started years ago when I worked in a bakery department of a grocery store. I worked the night shift, making doughnuts. I really enjoyed it. And every now and then I''d get to write ''Happy Birthday'' on a cake for a customer," he chuckles. Mark found his way to Possum Town with the help of native Columbian Marty Wages. Both men worked with McDonald''s Corp. in Florida and are experienced in the food service industry. When the weakening economy forced a downsizing, Marty returned to Columbus to work with his sister, Margaret Ann Borland, in her eatery and specialty catering business. Mark joined the exodus to Mississippi.  


Table of Plenty, located directly across from Military Hardware, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and handles catering for events small and large, so there is plenty to do. One of their more recent menu items -- sweet roasted red pepper cheese salad with Bulldog Bite -- is one of Mark''s signature dishes.  


Margaret Ann, Marty and Mark share culinary responsibilities, but, says Marty, "We all have our little niche. Margaret Ann specializes in soups and gourmet salads -- her chicken salad is famous! -- and most of the catering. Mark makes great homemade breads, cooks and specializes in the desserts ... and I''m the talker," he adds with laughter.  




A little hot air  


"I started out baking breads," explains Mark, indicating fresh ciabatta nearby. "It was a huge hit. Then I started with desserts, and one thing led to another." Stretching a small white water balloon to make it more pliable, he outlines the interesting process of making the chocolate dessert cups.  


"You melt the chocolate of your choice -- it can be milk chocolate, dark chocolate, semi-sweet or bittersweet," explains Mark, who typically prefers the Ghirardelli brand. "Also melt some white chocolate and swirl -- don''t mix -- it in with the other." 


After blowing up the petite balloon to the size he prefers for the cups, Mark dips the lower half into the luscious chocolate, gently tilting the balloon once to each side, forming the tulip-like "petals."  


"It''s best to use white balloons," he advises. "The dye from colored balloons can leach into the chocolate." 


Mark puts the dipped balloon on parchment paper, holding it upright a few seconds, allowing it to set. "After you finish dipping, just put your tray in the freezer for about five minutes. After you take them out, just pop the balloon and remove it. I filled these cups with white chocolate mousse, but you can even fill them with fresh fruit." 




Have a heart  


The heart-shaped chocolate cake the baker has created appears decadently delicious enough for anyone''s valentine. Filled in the center with white chocolate mousse, it''s also drizzled with a white chocolate ganache and topped with chocolate-covered strawberries. Cupcakes with traditional buttercream frosting and chocolate candies round out the sweet treats on display. 


Mark, who is largely self-taught, shares some of the inspiration for his emerging role in the commercial kitchen.  


"I think I''ve always wanted to find what made me special," he says of the culinary talent he''s cultivated. "I just try to do something new every day; I do love a challenge." 


His advice to other would-be chefs is, "If you have a desire, I''d say try it." He concedes it helps to have something of an artistic flair to turn out specialty desserts, but "if you can''t draw or paint a picture, that doesn''t mean you can''t create desserts. Just get out there and do it."  


Note: For more information about any of the desserts shown, contact Table of Plenty at 662-570-1748.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.