Friday, August 04, 2006

Perfecting Pastry

Sad ending #1
An utterly average dessert that costs $10.

Sad ending #2
A huge dessert that is way more than a single serving.

Sad ending #3
When the only thing remotely fresh on the dessert menu is a mint or strawberry garnish on the invariable assortment of chocolate cake, bread pudding and creme brulee.

Happy ending #1
Way back in my expense account days, I once had a decadent late night meal at a restaurant in Seattle. The place was swank and dark and the food over the top. After dinner, dessert sounded terrific, but frankly I didn't have room for it. I wished I could just have one spoonful, not realizing I was saying it out loud, the waiter responded, "let me see what I can do". He came back with a soup spoon full of lusciousness. Exactly what I wanted.

Happy ending #2 & #3
While I was never a huge fan of the restaurant Cypress Club, there was one thing I always looked forward to when dining there. I absolutely adored their dessert sampler, which included miniature versions of just about everything on the dessert menu. And at Jardiniere I used to order the "cookie plate" which now is the Bonne Bouche Platter and includes a creme brulee, an opera cake, cookies, petite tarts, fruit jellies, chocolate truffles and candies. All in petite form, of course, have a nibble and pack up the rest. Yippee!

Happy ending #4
Finally, a favorite restaurant of mine in North Beach, Jianna (sadly long gone) used to serve "Small Desserts"; they cost between three and four dollars each and were no more than three or four bites of decadence. They didn't offer a monstrous slab of cheesecake for a table of four to share, but a petite single portion. Just enough to leave you with a sweet taste in your mouth. How I wish other restaurants would do the same! Recent developments indicate they just might.

A number of prominent pastry chefs are embracing a concept called the "pastry flip". In the Chronicle food section a couple of weeks ago there was an article (including recipes) about the desire to make fruit the main emphasis and the decadent part--and then the cake, the pudding, the mousse, etc. becomes the garnish. I think this is just great. Quite often my dessert recipes are for "fruit-centric" treats. Not that I don't like chocolate, but sometimes something that captures the fleeting seasons and elevates fruit to something ethereal is even more satisfying especially at the end of a big meal. I do hope more restaurants will consider smaller portions, lower prices and more fruit. If they do, I promise not to skip dessert.