"Dear Janice: Are there any places where you would specifically recommend that diners try to leave room for dessert -- because it's so darn good?"
That's the question from last week (when we talked about dessert etiquette) that I saved for now, when I have more space to answer.
Making these choices takes more courage than I have sometimes, if it comes to that. It is hard to choose from the many places in Western New York that serve calorie-worthy stuff -- as I am sure readers will remind me. (Feel free to make use of the email address below; I'm happy to share your culinary favorites.)
Meantime, I am going to dive into the best desserts right now. Oh, what a wonderful image!
The Halvah Parfait at the Falafel Bar, 3689 Sheridan Drive, Amherst: An amazing combination of tahini (sesame seed paste), honey, whipped cream and meringue that is whipped up and semifrozen before being served with creme anglaise (custard sauce).
The genius stroke here is the use of meringue to lighten the mixture. For those of us who really don't care for Halvah (the sesame confection that's wrapped like a candy bar), this dessert is a revelation.
Rice Pudding at the Towne Restaurant, 186 Allen St., and many other Greek restaurants. I prefer the Towne's a teeny bit because I first tasted this dessert there 101 years ago and fell in love. I had been moved to try it because, as a kid, I loved A.A. Milne's poem of the same name featuring a temperamental little girl named Mary Jane. I was fascinated by the accompanying E.H. Shepard sketch of her midmeltdown -- she had been served too much rice pudding, you see.
But that is silly. You can't have too much rice pudding, and you can now find it all over Western New York. I like a raisin or two in there and lots of vanilla (easy on the cinnamon).
Do you notice a certain theme emerging here? Many of my favorites don't seem to require the use of teeth. Let us now move out of the mushy department and try something heftier.
Layer cakes at Vino's, 1652 Elmwood Ave. You can see them as soon as you enter this small restaurant. Gorgeous creations under see-through domes are displayed atop the bar. Co-owner Kathleen Cangianiello bakes them every day. That means the cakes are fresh and moist, with plenty of frosting, too. If available, try the coconut.
And the near-legendary Peanut Butter Pie at Schimschack's, 2943 Upper Mountain Road, Sanborn. This one will stay with you for a while. I mean, a mixture of crunchy peanut butter and cream cheese is not exactly a puff of air. And yet, and yet -- it is rich and sweet and oh so good. Nice to savor while gazing at distant Toronto.
Send your favorite dessert suggestions, and your dining-out questions to longtime News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.