Hammering Away

Sugar Rush: El Coco at Caracol

Time to break into an interactive dessert.

By Alice Levitt August 17, 2016

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The damage.

Image: Paula Murphy

How did the Pollock-esque mess above happen? What chef in his right mind would serve such an abomination? Let's go back a few steps. 

El Coco didn't look nearly as much like a crime scene when it was served to me at Caracol. In fact, it looked like this.

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El Coco, $12

Image: Alice Levitt

Cute, right? Looks kind of like a coconut, huh? Meet El Coco, pastry chef Ruben Ortega's signature sweet at his brother Hugo Ortega and sister-in-law Tracy Vaught's seafood-focused restaurant. This is one coconut that doesn't require a machete to crack it. All diners need is a small wooden mallet to break through the hollow orb of thin, high-quality chocolate. The process looks a little something like this.

Sugar Rush: El Coco from Houstonia Magazine on Vimeo.

I was tempted to eat the bits that exploded to the floor, but am proud to say that I restrained myself. There is much to be said about the gimmicky glee of breaking what is basically a giant Kinder Surprise filled with something that looks like shaving cream with a mallet. But there is far more to El Coco.

Inside is a blend of coconut butter cream (that airy "foam"), chocolate ganache imbued with coconut and crunchy bits of coconut streusel. There are beachy notes of passion fruit, too, as if coconut and rich chocolate weren't enough. It's a combination that proves to be inspired, transporting and mercifully light. Eating it may look a bit like nibbling on a car crash, but just remember how El Coco looked when it arrived, smile and think of the tropics.

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