The topic of the day is restaurant desserts, inspired by some questions posed by a Buffalo friend who knows my vulnerabilities only too well.
"Which desserts do you think restaurants do best?," she asks. "Is here anything you avoid dessert-wise when eating out?
"Is it OK to ask if the desserts are made in-house, or where they are made if not?
"When sharing a dessert, can you ask the server to cut the cake and split it up, or have them do that in the kitchen instead of at your table? And if you ask for two forks, shouldn't they automatically bring an extra plate, too?"
Here are my thoughts: The desserts that restaurants do best are the ones made in-house, so it's definitely all right -- even smart -- to ask where they come from. Some local bakeries supply restaurants and the desserts are worthy, but do you really want to pay $6 or more for something that you could pull out of your own home freezer?
That fact would seem to eliminate almost all the cheesecakes that show up. Don't get me wrong, I love cheesecake as much as the next guy, but I seldom order it. I know they are beloved of the restaurateurs who buy them because they usually sell -- eventually. (This dessert has a long shelf life.)
Other red flags: I tend to avoid Flourless Chocolate Cakes because, frankly, I bore easily. FCCs were great when they first appeared on menus several years ago, but then restaurants (and food service suppliers) caught on and now you can't escape the darn things. "Watch it -- here comes another flourless chocolate cake!"
Tiramisu used to turn up everywhere, too, but now I'm not seeing it as much. Hurray! Let's give that dessert some time off for good behavior.
Also let us all approach the Creme Brulee with caution. Some are made carefully in-house -- try those. But a lot of creme brulee makers seem to be going through the motions these days. I do enjoy it when the chef uses some imagination and provides a tasting selection of flavors on one plate. That's fun, and desserts are supposed to be fun and glamorous. Otherwise, why bother?
About sharing desserts: Sure you can ask the kitchen to cut them for you. And, in a fairly upscale restaurant, it will probably oblige.
You can always divide them up yourself, but you'll need the utensils, maybe a spoon or knife, and an extra plate, to do the honors. The server should see what you're doing, maybe take over, or at least provide accordingly.
If the server doesn't, speak up (nicely), for goodness sake. After all, you're paying for it.
Oh wait a minute -- there was another question, too. I saved it for the end.
"Are there any places that you specifically recommend that diners try to leave room for dessert because it's so darn good?"
Gee, I thought you'd never ask. That will be the subject of next week's column. As always, I urge you to send in your own suggestions -- all the better to give my memory a jog and make sure I don't miss something good.
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