Perfect apple desserts are a rarity. Too often, high expectations are met with watery fruit, a flavorless crust or cloying sweetness. Perfection, however, is attainable, and if that's what you're seeking in an apple tart, look no further than the torta di ricotta at Venue, 3609 West 32nd Avenue.

Sugar High: Torta di Ricotta at Venue

Venue's pastry chef, Katie Doxtater, has several dessert mainstays on the menu, but she likes to add new ones  -- the apple tart, for example -- as seasonal ingredients change. "It's the perfect time of year for this kind of dessert," she says. "The change of seasons into winter makes me want comfort food. I can't think of anything better then apple pie with a twist."

But that twist doesn't really hit you until you take the first bite and wrap your mouth around a filling made with still-crisp Granny Smith apples cooked with brown sugar and apple juice. The pie is topped with an airy concoction of ricotta cheese whipped with cream, vanilla and citrus zest and a drizzle of apple juice reduction that brings all the elements together. The syrup is simultaneously sweet and tangy, which makes the apples pop and the creamy ricotta melt in your mouth.

What really takes the tart over the top, however, is the pastry shell, which Doxtater likens to a struesel. It's light and crisp, with a salty component that plays off the sweet of the apples. "Cold butter," she confides, "is what makes it so good."

But the torta di ricotta won't be on the menu forever, so take advantage of the nip in the air and get one now.

Torta di Ricotta: $8.00

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