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The standard desserts at restaurants.

We had a celebration this weekend and off we went to a really nice restaurant which is not something we do often. The main meal was really good with had surf and turf. Dessert time came around and I already knew what would be offered even before seeing the menu.
It seems to be standard fare at most restaurants even high-end to offer, a dark chocolate cake, creme caramel or a cheesecake. What happened to the concept of an offering of french pastries, or a homemade in- house dessert instead of the above choices or a baked Alaska, or peach melba, or crepes Suzette?
Fancified desserts do not seem to be in many restaurants. I can buy the standard fare anytime I would love to have something exceptional.
PS-I am very thankful to have food it is a blessing.
What would you like to see after a great meal?

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  1. baked Alaska, or peach melba, or crepes Suzette?

    ~~~

    i have worked in fine dining all my life, 20+ years, and those desserts were out of fashion long before my time. that being said, many of the pastry chefs i have known made some incredible looking and tasting plates.

    many places don't have the budget for a true pastry chef, which is why cheesecake and lava cakes are all over the place. most anybody can follow a recipe and make them. a place that serves surf and turf doesn't sound like a very creative kitchen to me.

    i prefer cheese rather than sweets as my last course anyway.

    32 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      Perhaps I am old fashioned. I do understand that food is expensive and that a pastry chef is a luxury.
      I was very happy with my surf and turf, I don't really care for finicky food and obscure ingredients. I am in my 50's, the desserts are all relative to my food experience, it would be nice to see them back on the menus especially when you are paying for an expensive meal, the desserts are always a big letdown. As well I love a cheese platter but desserts can be lovely as well.

      1. re: Ruthie789

        As silly as it sounds, food does go in and out of style, just like fashion and music, and those desserts you named have been out of style for decades -- probably longer than I've been alive. I've never seen them on a menu anywhere, from high end to low end, even at places famous for desserts.

        Nowadays you're more likely to find a rich brownie sundae, bread pudding with some kind of bourbon or whiskey-based sauce, creme brulee, some kind of fruit cobbler, house-made ice cream and sorbet, or the ubiquitous cheese plate in addition to dark chocolate cake and cheesecake.

        1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

          I agree and disagree, they are rarely on menus but can be found at French restaurants and I was making a point that the emphasis on food styling is made on the main meal and not on the dessert.
          What urks me is that the creme brule is not homemade, but such fuss is made over offering it to you. In a mid-range restaurant I am quite happy to get the standard offering but when paying for an expensive meal, I find it quite a slight, to get the standard fare. As for the old fashioned out of date desserts I am not limited to wanting them, I just want to see the same attention paid to desserts as the main meal, something homemade, or a dessert that is a house special, not a Costco one.

          1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

            "Nowadays...rich brownie sundae..."
            ---------
            Blah.
            ==========
            "...bread pudding with some kind of bourbon or whiskey-based sauce..."
            ---------
            Blech.
            ==========
            "...creme brulee..."
            ---------
            Yes, if it is classically done.
            ==========
            "...some kind of fruit cobbler..."
            ---------
            Yawn.
            ==========
            "...house-made ice cream and sorbet..."
            ---------
            Meh.

            ------------------
            Cheese platter, chocolate cake, cheesecake? Depends. Maybe, unlikely, probably the chocolate cake if it is a nice fresh chocolate ganache tart or a special cake rather than a dime-a-dozen one (definitely no). Still unlikely overall.

            1. re: huiray

              I should have added brownie sundae and bread pudding to the list of desserts I am so over! Bread pudding in particular is something you make at home to use up old bread. And then eat for breakfast :) putting a rich butter/sugar/booze sauce on it doesn't make it a restaurant-worthy dessert for me.
              On the other hand - a seasonal fruit cobbler/crisp/shortcake with some interesting spicing or homemade ice cream in a creative flavour - I would be happy with that. In fact they can offer lava cake and creme brûlée as well, I only need one interesting option!

        2. re: hotoynoodle

          What's wrong with Crepes Suzette? They're one of the few desserts I would eye with interest.

          1. re: huiray

            Amen.

            However, as hotoynoodle mentioned in an earlier post, he/she was never taught how to make it in culinary school. Something I find fascinating.
            Of course it would require the restaurant hiring a chef who's making crepes and then flambaying them as ordered. Time consuming.
            How many have had the opportunity to order a zabaglione, prepared in a copper bowl, and served in a tall glass? Those are the things I miss.

            1. re: latindancer

              my city doesn't allow open flames at a table, not even candles, so there is no table-side flambe service.

              could i make baked alaska or crepes suzette? certainly, i was taught to make crepes and meringues etc., but those desserts are from the days when men still wore hats!

              this is dessert in 2012, in boston:

              Composition of Concord Grapes
              Maple Quatre Quarts, Tahini, Elderflower $12.00

              French Butter Pear
              Malt, Walnute Crème, Labne Ice Cream $12.00

              Kouing-Aman
              hazelnut Gelato, Smoked Salt, Vermont Crème Fraiche $12.00

              Rooibos Poached Quince
              caramelized white chocolate, chicory, horchata ice cream $12.00

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Sounds like an interesting selection to me, with no cheesecake or chocolate in sight!

                Sorry to hear about the no open flame policy. I, for one, love candlelight dinners.

                1. re: vil

                  this is the current dessert menu at one of my favorite boston restaurants, with wine pairings listed beneath each item.

                  ~~~

                  Desserts
                  Composition of Concord Grapes

                  Maple Quatre Quarts, Tahini, Elderflower $12.00
                  Garitina, Brachetto D’Aqui, Italy $12.00

                  French Butter Pear

                  Malt, Walnute Crème, Labne Ice Cream $12.00
                  ’06 Jorge Ordoñez & Co. Moscatel, Málaga “Victoria 2”, Spain $18.00

                  Kouing-Aman

                  hazelnut Gelato, Smoked Salt, Vermont Crème Fraiche $12.00
                  ’03 Chateau La Rame, Sainte-croix-du-mont, Bordeaux $12.00

                  Rooibos Poached Quince

                  caramelized white chocolate, chicory, horchata ice cream $12.00
                  NV Rare Wine Co. Boston Bual Madeira $19.00

                  Miso Dark Chocolate Crèmeux

                  banana ice cream, golden miso, cashew butter $12.00
                  NV Alvear Pedro Ximenez, 1927, Spain $15.00

                  Chocolate Coulant

                  inspired by Michel Bras
                  coconut cocoa nib ice cream $13.00
                  Sandeman 10 Year Tawny $12.00

                  Cheese Selection

                  “Plateau de Fromages”
                  traditional and untraditional accompaniments $ 24.00

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Coulant is...gasp!...molten chocolate cake :)

                    Sounds like some interesting flavor combos, though.

                    1. re: babette feasts

                      "Coulant is...gasp!...molten chocolate cake :)"

                      Now THAT is too funny!

                      1. re: racer x

                        lol, yup. and is the most popular dessert there, by about a million to one of everything else. :)

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I have no doubt about that. Seriously, people love their molten chocolate cakes. In fact, one of the current media darling pastry chefs in Seattle just opened a molten chocolate cake shop. It does seem "so ten years ago" to me but hey if it works for her and she can build a business around it, why not?

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Wouldn't that then suggest that patrons prefer a basically old-fashioned dessert over those other more "modern in-fashion" desserts? :-)

                            BTW isn't it correctly "Kouign-Amann", not "Kouing-Aman" as given in your earlier post(s)?

                            1. re: huiray

                              the google shows two spellings for this breton pastry.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Ah -- thanks. I remembered the PX and had a Malaga once, but thought it was more expensive than before. Should have realised that the port was different and that there was no d'Yquem pairing.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        Have you seen Mad Man, apparently men in hats are still intriguing and possibly in vogue!

                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          oh, i have the super wicked hots for roger sterling, lol. but he mostly has martinis as dessert. :)

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            There does seem to be a lot of drinking on that show. How about a thread on vintage cocktails!

                  2. re: hotoynoodle

                    "many places don't have the budget for a true pastry chef"

                    Not arguing, I just don't understand this comment. My college food service has a pastry chef.

                    1. re: PotatoHouse

                      and your college likely employs hundreds of people. many independent restaurants have very small staffs and it's a very slim-margin business, with payroll being a major chunk of costs.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        No, actually it is a small college in a small Maine town. They have a total staff of about 75 people, including office and teaching staff.

                        1. re: PotatoHouse

                          Many years ago I attended the same type of college.
                          The food served was outstanding, by university/college standards, and we used to remark about how many didn't know what good food was until they went off to this college.

                          1. re: latindancer

                            I worked in the food service for a while and it amazed me how many of these kids, away from home for the first time, ate their vegetables. Of course, many of them were farm kids so vegetables were a normal part of their diets growing up.

                            1. re: PotatoHouse

                              Interesting.
                              Those same farm kids were, most likely, used to eating (3) very large, nutritious meals a day and they weren't going to change their habits.
                              Every Sunday night we'd have filet mignon dinners, complete with baked potatoes, fresh vegetables and huge salads and homemade bread.
                              The chefs would go out and actually pick apples and blackberries and whatever other fruit there was available to pick and make gigantic cobblers with ice-cream. The food really was a highlight of my college years :).

                              1. re: latindancer

                                Sounds like dessert was part of the highlight. Fresh fruit cobbler what a great idea and so simple to make.

                  3. Many places, even high end, buy in desserts now which tends to bring a uniformity. Not necessarily a bad thing in itself as some of the catering wholesalers are producing quite good stuff.

                    If I was able to wave a magic wand, then it'd produce a savoury, on the dessert list - much as you'd have found in the late 19th/early 20th century. It is a complete rarity these days - last time I can recall seeing a savoury listed was on a cruise about 20 years back.

                    1. I'm going to break it to you gently here, but surf and turf is no longer considered a fine dining option, and probably hasn't been since the early 1960s. Many mid-range restaurants (which this probably is) buy their desserts pre-made at places like the Restaurant Depot, where all you need to do is plate and serve. Unless the restaurant is a very high end one, it is rare, though not completely unheard of, for them to have a pastry chef.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: roxlet

                        You are not breaking anything to me. We went to a steakhouse and a very good one.
                        As for the pastry chef, I am well aware that not every restaurant has one. I would just like to see better quality desserts for high prices.
                        As for all the comments about being outdated, so be it. I wonder if the Culinary Institutes bother to teach desserts of the like if they are so outdated. I almost hesitate to post anything about restaurant food on this website, I really find a strong thread of food snobism throughout.

                        1. re: Ruthie789

                          this has nothing to do with snobbism. i went to culinary school, and no, i was never taught those desserts. they were relics of another time. and this was well before the food network and tv personalities running around fake tv kitchens.

                          as mentioned upthread, i have also worked in fine-dining all my life. i have never worked anyplace that bought desserts rather than making them in-house. the pastry chefs were wildly creative and the plates were amazing.

                          when i worked for a high-end steak-house, where the check average was $100+pp, desserts were all made from scratch, but were standard "american" fare, like carrot cake and chocolate layer cake. those diners were looking for staid, not whimsy.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            "I went to culinary school and no, I was never taught those desserts."

                            I suppose it depends on the school attended, but I know a few pastry chefs who were taught the basics in french cooking/baking, having attended culinary schools in France.
                            Flambe technique is just one basic that is learned. All of the pastry chefs I know, that have been taught in those regions, know how to make a baked alaska or a crepe suzette....regardless if they use it in their profession.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              My initial thread mentioned that I thought homemade in-house desserts were lacking and also I mentioned the fancier ones because you hardly ever see them anymore.(I was not expecting a flambayed dessert at this restaurant). Our desserts the other evening were $8.00 for a chocolate cake that was bought and I find that disappointing and it happens quite often. It is very rare to have a spectacular dessert and often if there is one, it is of a minute scale and proportion.

                            2. re: Ruthie789

                              I hope you stick around Ruthie, from one relative newbie to another.

                              Last time I checked, steak & seafood combo plates could be found at high end steakhouses.

                              I think you have a valid point regarding tiring of seeing the same selection of desserts. I think others have very ably addressed why that is, though, even at a good steakhouse. Just from my own life experience, the more meat & potatoes people I know (and I say that without judgment - not everyone likes the same things & how boring it would be if we did) also tend to prefer the more standard desserts described.

                            3. re: roxlet

                              "I'm going to break it to you gently here, but surf and turf is not longer considered a fine dining option"

                              It doesn't appear, in any way, that the OP is unaware of what you're so 'gently' breaking to her.
                              The OP is simply asking a very viable question and I happen to agree with their assessment. The look of some of the desserts is actually deplorable, even in some more than 'mid-range' restaurants, as you're referring to them as.
                              There's no excuse for them but I believe there's just not the demand any longer....so many have become accustomed to mediocre and are willing to order it.

                            4. Completely agree that the dessert choices at too many places are just plain boring.

                              Hard to complain if it's an Applebee's-type chain restaurant. But from places that put a lot of thought into appetizers and mains (and wines!) it would be nice to see more variety, with some of the attention put into the rest of the meal also going to the desserts.

                              I guess that most diners nowadays just don't care and are happy to be limited to molten chocolate cake, carrot cake, cheesecake, etc.

                              1. I suspect part of the issue may be a general de-emphasis on dessert in restaurants in general. Between huge entree portions, rising costs and more people dieting, I would think restaurants are selling fewer desserts these days. I know its very rare that I order dessert, and when I waited tables in the mid-2000's, maybe 1 in 10 diners ordered it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: carolinadawg

                                  I think it really depends on the restaurant, in the 80's I worked at one that was known for it's desserts so they were ordered often and we had extensive training on the dessert menu. Of course if the dessert options at a restaurant are mediocre they will be ordered less. Can't speak for the general restaurant scene now.

                                2. The reasons are evident; the expertise is often not there for the classics nor is there desire to be creative. You can watch Essential Pepin on tv or buy the cookbook and see myriad easy and creative fruit desserts. Many of the classic desserts are not particularly difficult but they are somewhat time consuming. I recently went to a fine French restaurant and asked if they would make oeufs a la neige (floating islands) which was not on the menu. The waiter said no problem and ten minutes later he presented a beautiful dessert not seen too much these days. Obviously, there was great expertise in that kitchen.

                                  Crepe suzettes and baked alaska are delicious and fun. It would be really nice if more restaurants offered at least one dessert that has those qualities.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Unkle Al

                                    That dessert is a rarity! mmmm. Frankly I just love meringue...Still can't pronounce it right, though...

                                    1. re: Unkle Al

                                      I recently went to a fine French restaurant and asked if they would make oeufs a la neige (floating islands) which was not on the menu.

                                      ~~~~

                                      one place i worked for a long time, with "modern french" cuisine, and the pastry chef put this dish on the menu for a brief period. (he is now a rock-star tattooed pastry chef in nyc, lol) brief because we could not give it away, nobody wanted it. not older people, not younger people, no matter how hard we tried to sell them. if it was scaled down and put on the tasting menu, it still went barely eaten.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        Sorry to hear. I would definitely take every opportunity to order that if I saw it on the menu. The only times I got to enjoy these were in France or chez moi.

                                        Maybe it was the different texture (spongy-slimy-custard-like), and the thought that it is "just egg whites"?

                                      2. I'm not quite clear on what you are wishing for as far as dessert. An overall higher level of quality and attention to plating? Are peach Melba and baked Alaska inherently fancier to you than chocolate cake or cheesecake? What sort of french pastries do you think of as suitable for dessert? Napoleons, petit fours...? When I think 'french pastry', I think 'breakfast', so that is why I ask. What makes something 'exceptional' to you?

                                        There are several factors. Many restaurants do not have pastry chefs, or at least not full time. It is a financial commitment that fewer and fewer restaurants seem to want to make, particularly in the current economy and with so many people concerned about diet. If a restaurant does not have a pastry chef but is still making desserts in-house, they are going to be the simpler to produce items, so that the line cooks who hate to measure can still pull them off. Creme brulee is super easy and has a shelf life of a few days. Petit fours are much more labor intensive and have a shorter shelf life. The restaurant needs to find the right combination of what they can produce and what they can sell. Cheesecake, (molten) chocolate cake and creme brulee are very popular. They are ubiquitous for a reason. There may be better and worse executions of the dishes, but the good ones are good and deserve their popularity. As others have said, these are the classics for the early 21st century, along with salted caramel everything.

                                        Then there is the style of the restaurant. Hardly anyone is flambee-ing crepes tableside these days, except maybe a few high-end retro steakhouses. A traditional baked alaska doesn't really make sense after much modern cuisine. Spot prawn crudo with yuzu kosho, tamarind glazed lamb ribs, sous vide salmon and peach melba? Probably not, unless it is a compressed local peach with raspberry caviar, or served three ways.

                                        Finally, if a restaurant does have a pastry chef, he/she usually wants to come up with something unique and creative, whether it is a creative twist on a classic, stealing ideas from the tattooed NYC guys who get all the hype, or their own creative vision. So there may be some modernist deconstructed version of baked Alaska, but not the classic. Creme brulee, but not vanilla, and maybe in three different little tastes. Would you enjoy that, or be annoyed that they were messing with something beloved?

                                        Even the more creative pastry chefs can be constrained by other factors. Dedicated pastry platers are even more rare than pastry chefs, so the pastry chef typically works in the morning and leaves items and instructions for the pantry cook, who is also plating salads and other starters during service. This can require a certain amount of 'cook-proofing' and 'kitchen-proofing' the desserts. No too terribly fragile garnishes that you can't make in quantity to allow for breakage. If the kitchen is very humid, sugar work and thin crispy things want to wilt. If the kitchen is very warm, forget about tempered chocolate curlicues and plaques. Also, when that cook is slammed right about 8pm with the first turn of desserts and the second turn of salads, the multiple garnishes and perfect tiny quenelles are what the pastry chef is expected to sacrifice, in deference to the courses that sell more, in deference to what the rest of the kitchen sees as the REAL food.

                                        To me, an exceptional dessert involves delicious and balanced flavors, flawless execution, beautiful appropriate garnishes, and evidence of a unique idea - something that makes me wish I'd thought of it. All of these coming together is rare, but delightful when it happens, and is not dependent on it being a classic from this or any era or any country.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: babette feasts

                                          I would like to have quality for the money that I am paying. Of course a flambayed dessert cannot be expected at the end of every meal that to me would be for a very special occassion. My point, the desserts that are being offered presently are too expensive for what they are and as well are predictable.
                                          A few years ago, I went to a small restaurant run by a husband and wife team. The husband made the mains and the wife was noted for the desserts, her specialty, Pavlovas. The dessert I had that evening was a simple cake, with a light caramel sauce, with a filling of pineapple and cream, with shaved dried pineapple on top to decorate, which was plated and styled, it was lovely.
                                          I just wish some emphasis was made to the dessert detail especially when paying for an expensive meal.
                                          And I do like brownies, molten cakes etc. but not for a special evening out.

                                          1. re: Ruthie789

                                            I think the problem may be that you are looking for innovation at a steakhouse, and that's just not what they do there.

                                            1. re: LeoLioness

                                              I don't only go to steakhouses, but agree it is probably not the place to look for innovative desserts. We leave in the Montreal area, and have been to some very nice restaurants during our 28 year marriage, the desserts are often lacking in style even at some very nice French restaurants.

                                              1. re: LeoLioness

                                                I think it is more that everyone has a different idea about what is special, everyone has their favorites and their own personal nostalgic references.

                                                I think a lot of people DO consider molten chocolate cake a good dessert for a special evening out - it is rich and decadent, warm gooey chocolate, and even though a home cook could make it, most don't, or get sticker shock when they go to buy Valrhona at retail prices. Why don't more places serve pavlova, or ouefs a la neige, or rice pudding, or souffle, or deep fried candy bars, or red velvet cake? Supply and demand, trends, business model, and the personal preferences of the chef. People frequently post on why isn't there more of this one thing that I wish there was more of, but isn't, or not here, and the answer is always that it is because they didn't design the universe, other people have other preferences, and if you want NY pizza and cheap lobster the west coast just ai'n't the place. I wish more restaurants had quail and rabbit on the menus, and that there was less sweetness in savory food. I know I will continue to be disappointed.

                                                I certainly agree that beautiful presentation helps add value to the dish and makes an evening special; I disagree that one dish or another is inherently more special, or that presentation is everything. It is too bad when a restaurant doesn't put their best efforts into dessert. They forget that the people who do order it, even if in the minority of diners, will be left with a bad impression if the last course is not up to the usual standards. I don't like paying for any course that was poorly executed, maybe for the OP a poor dessert is even more egregious because it should be a special indulgence rather than an afterthought.

                                                Why don't restaurants care more? Because they don't. Chefs don't want to deal with it, and if they can't afford a pastry chef it is a dreaded chore to be passed off to whomever. They don't care because diners don't care. If only a third of diners have dessert and only a third of them are really particular, how much time are you going to spend making that 10% happy? And if a restaurant is busy enough, they are going to be better off re-seating that table earlier and selling another round of drinks and steaks than having people hang out for another half hour sharing a dessert. Sad, and I think shortsighted.

                                                1. re: babette feasts

                                                  It's a bit of a vicious cycle too. I am a sweets lover and I will plan my dinner order around good dessert, but I am so so over the cheesecake/lava cake/creme brulee trifecta. I'd rather have an appetizer or cocktail, anything that sounds more interesting. So I rarely order dessert anymore. I don't have the appetite or budget for 3 courses + bread + wine so dessert is sacrificed (and easily so when the options are so dull).

                                          2. I agree that most dessert menu's are a bore and I tend to skip it all together. While we were taught these in culinary school and even used them on a few dinner occasions they don't sell like chocolate cake does.

                                            Nonetheless, a few places in New Orleans do tableside flambees and even I saw a peach melba even on a menu. Not saying you have to go all the way there for them, but perhaps either look for retro restaurants or perhaps make a suggestion or two at one of the finer places that probably make their own desserts.

                                            Who knows, you may start a trend. :)

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: Crockett67

                                              Thank you for your comments. New Orleans is a little far for a Montrealer to go to, but perhaps one day. I am sure if I did my research before we went out that I could find something special in our area. I did find a restaurant just outside Montreal that has a pastry chef, but it is a once a year event as it is extremely expensive.
                                              Montreal has quite a few tearooms maybe this might be a better place to find something sweet and homemade.

                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                There is a very famous restaurant in Seattle(it's been in business for decades) that serves Baked Alaska. Whenever I'm there I go There's absolutely nothing more beautiful, at sunset, than seeing it being made tableside after a remarkable, memorable meal.
                                                Flambayed desserts are productions. It's part of a time where dining out was more than just enjoying a meal...

                                            2. I understand where you're coming from Ruthie. I haven't been "wowed" by a dessert in a restaurant in a while. There is a very common feel to a lot of offerings, and for the $8 you pay, it's a little sad.
                                              Lately I've taken to going elsewhere for desserts---bakeries or cafes that specialize in coffee and pastry, or even ice cream places. Just for something a little different. But I tell you, if I saw baked alaska on a menu anywhere other than a high-end French resto, I'd be hesitant. I think that most places just go for the "safe route", figuring that the fancier items won't be ordered, and they can get a better profit out of standard desserts.
                                              When I do find a place that has above average cakes/pastry/etc... I put that place in regular rotation!

                                              I see that you are in Montreal.... what a city! Some of the best croissaints I've had were from the bakery in the Atwater Market :) Would you share the name of the place that served the Pavlova? I would like to try it next time I venture up north.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                                http://hudson-village.info/business/r...

                                                Above is the link for the restaurant that has a pastry chef but it is on the outside of Montreal, in Hudson, Quebec. We had an amazing meal there, with awesome food, service. I do agree that if you want to have desserts especially in Montreal that bakeries are a good option. I have found one in my area that is run by a French pastry chef and his wife. They are so welcoming and always want to inform us of our choices. I feel like I am in France whenever I go there. I have to limit my visits however as I have to watch my calories! As for the Atwater market, what a great market. I really like the fish market there and go there for special occasions. There is also the Jean Talon market as well. I have to be careful at the markets, I end up bringing too much harvest food home and end up canning all weekend long!

                                                1. re: iluvcookies

                                                  After posting my link, I read that the restaurant has changed hands. Hoping they will continue the tradition of making great desserts.

                                                  1. re: iluvcookies

                                                    From August 2008 to November 2010 I had to spend half my week in Leominster, Massachusetts. This small city is mostly a culinary wasteland, major family casual chains and a few independants that were not quite up to snuff. However, what Laominster does have is a
                                                    Desert Bar. An evening spot that is a lounge serving drinks, deserts and music.

                                                    I would occasionally go for dessert, something I never would order at the restaurants in town.
                                                    I often wonder why this concept has not caught on in the cities with greater population here in southern Connecticut.

                                                    http://www.bestdessertbar.com/Home_Pa...

                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                      I think you and others have a valid point. Good desserts can be found elsewhere.

                                                  2. Ruthie789,

                                                    Can I ask where you are at?

                                                    Because, of late, I've seen a renewed focus on desserts by upper-end restaurants, and I'm talking about the LA, SF, and DC markets in particular.

                                                    (Although I must admit that I do not agree with you that a Baked Alaska, Peach Melba or a Crepes Suzette would count as "fancified desserts". Old school maybe, but "fancified"? Nope.)

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      I live in Montreal. I agree Old School is a good term, but being in my 50's its hard to use it! We do have some restaurants in Montreal that probably have on menu. I also would like to see better quality desserts served at restaurants.

                                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                                        Ruthie, I had an amazing dessert at Europea in Montreal (this was several years ago, but hopefully it's still around). I dug up my old CH post about it and found this:

                                                        My favorite part was the "passport to dessert," with multiple dessert courses including heavenly warm madeleines, a small tower of goodies including a maple marshmallow, blueberry macaron, small canneles, chocolate-covered strawberries and candied orange rind, a chocolate course with three small desserts including caramel ice cream atop a crunchy chocolate wafer and a "baked hot chocolate" in a small cup, and a citrus course, another three small desserts with a Grand Marnier mini-souffle. All this for $15.50 a person, an incredible bargain.

                                                        1. re: Pia

                                                          Thank you I will have to convince my husband to take me there!

                                                          1. re: Pia

                                                            Europea in Montreal is one of the few restaurant to actually have a Pastry chef in house, and a good one on top of it (a Maitre Ouvrier de France) which explains their lovely multiple desserts

                                                            1. re: westaust

                                                              I will go there. Am planning to do something special during my upcoming summer holidays. Thank you so much.

                                                      2. Well, I wish more higher-end or even moderate-high restaurants would spend the time to make and regularly offer things like "wor pang" (warm sweet red bean paste filled [or lotus seed paste filled] crispy crepes/"bisquits") served together with "hang yan cha" (sweet almond tea), rather than some sort of generalized ice cream (even if it is green tea or mango or some such) or sweet glutinous rice stuff or similar...rather than requiring them to be special orders, if they would even agree to it...

                                                        1. My approach to the mediocre desserts at many restaurants is to have no room for dessert! In fact, nowadays I often make a meal out of 2-3 apps/"small plates." That obviates having to eat a boring entree as well. 8<D

                                                          1. Ruthie, good point you raised here. I recall seeing molten chocolate cake, cheesecake, creme brulee, chocolate served three ways and the like as the main offerings, in the last 10 years. It does feel like we have fallen into a rut as far as restaurant dessert goes.

                                                            These days, I would just happily settle for some decent in-house ice-cream and a coffee, or some variety of flan. And most of the time, when I politely say "I have no more room for dessert", I really mean "I don't see anything that interests me".

                                                            I recall having baked Alaska at the steakhouse way back, and wish that classic desserts like that would make a comeback just like retro fashion. I only see Crepes Suzette at dinner parties, but would love to see it being served to finish off a nice restaurant dinner. In fact, I would definitely make a point to eat at a restaurant that serves it.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: vil

                                                              I agree I often just want to pass on the dessert as well, it is all so predictable.

                                                            2. May be I have a different notion of what high end/fine dining restaurant means, but here in NYC, almost every restaurant in that category has a pastry chef and I don't recall seeing any cheesecake/creme brulee/molten chocolate cake in them. That category of restaurant prides themselves on unique and fanciful desserts. Especially since these places will often have a prix fixe or tasting menu which includes dessert. On the other hand, if I went to someplace that was only described as nice, the trifecta wouldn't be out of place. By the way $8 for dessert isn't much here. I wouldn't expect anything more than the trifecta or ice cream for that price.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                                I'd still bet ya that they are buying in base dessert products which they enhance with garnish, etc. There is some high quality dessert material at wholesalers nowadays. Of course, the high end places, with the large brigades, will still be making their own.

                                                                And, of course, there will be the innovative smaller bistro type places that produce intersting desserts. For example, my most recent restaurant desserts, on a tasting menu -

                                                                (1) Grapefruit posset, celery granita, grapefruit sherbet

                                                                (2) Beetroot & chocolate cake, hazelnut & caraway

                                                                I doubt if they have been bought in but your cheesecakes, brownies, gateaux and the like probably have.

                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                  I don't doubt that some of the desserts are dressed up.

                                                                2. re: Bkeats

                                                                  Montreal is a different city for food pricing that why so many people come here for dining. That being said you can also pay $$$$ at different venues.

                                                                3. I'm with hotoynoodle about the cheese.

                                                                  That said, I remember a restaurant (now long gone) that offered a very nice creme de menthe parfait as a dessert when I was young. I remember excellent vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream, and creme de menthe, topped with a sliver of lime. It was excellent.

                                                                  I also recall Baked Alaska being more common than it is now.

                                                                  Many restaurants seem to want to rush diners out after the main course....it seems dessert is a necessary evil rather than a proud offering.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: pinehurst

                                                                    Ruthie, here's the dessert menu from a restaurant I went to in NYC this spring:
                                                                    Strawberry and Vanilla Bourbon Sundae with Caramelized Brioche and Pine Nuts $9
                                                                    Lemon Verbena Cheesecake, Graham Streusel and Blueberry Sorbet $9
                                                                    Chocolate Mousse with Candied Macadamia Nuts and Black Currant Sorbet $9
                                                                    Raspberry-Honey Financier, Cashew Nougat and Frozen Raspberry Yogurt $9
                                                                    Fresh Market Berries with Hibiscus Granité $8
                                                                    Lemon Meringue Pie with Candied Almonds $8
                                                                    Butterscotch Pot de Crème with Chocolate Streusel and "Single Maltmallows" $9
                                                                    Ice Creams - Chocolate Malt, Mint Chip, Espresso $8
                                                                    Sorbets - Peach Frangelico, Cherry Vanilla, Strawberry Elderflower $8

                                                                    I promise you that none of those, even the cheesecake was bought or the same old, same old. The pot de creme with the scotch infused home made marshmallow was amazing.

                                                                    Here's the dessert menu from a restaurant in the NYC suburbs where some friends took me for my 50th birthday this spring. I'm giving you the link instead of the list so you can see the pictures.
                                                                    http://www.xaviars.com/restaurants/xa...

                                                                    And the dessert menu at a local (NYC suburbs), traditional, very well regarded French restaurant has creme brulee (absolutely home made), profiteroles, Tarte Tartin, floating island, crepes suzette, chocolate trio (mousse, sorbet, flourless chocolate cake), Berries in spiced red wine and port “soup” with red fruit sorbet and a daily assortment of homemade sorbets.

                                                                    OTOH, I just checked the dessert menus at a few well regarded steak houses in NYC and out here, and yes, they do seem to fall into the chocolate cake/cheesecake/carrot cake/etc etc mold. I think when most people go to those sorts of restaurants they either want to see a certain reasonably standard sort of menu or they aren't much interested in dessert at all or aren't much interested in fancy/interesting/creative desserts. Scotch. Shrimp cocktail AS BIG AS MY HEAD. Steak. Creamed spinach. Baked potato. Chocolate Cake. Simple. Straightforward. All delicious, if done right.

                                                                    I've vacationed a couple of times in Montreal and the food was terrific. I'm entirely sure that creative, interesting, thoughtful, delicious, desserts prepared with care or, on the other hand, delicious, traditional, homemade French desserts are absolutely available in Montreal. But you're probably going to have to stop eating in steak houses.

                                                                    1. re: anotherjennifer

                                                                      Your link had some lovely desserts, and I loved your list of desserts. In particular loved the lemon meringue pie with candied almonds.
                                                                      Montreal is well known for great restaurants and they are often not as expensive as other cities. A mid-range restaurant in Montreal may well be a high range restaurant in another city. We used to see a variety of desserts even in mid-ranged restaurants but sadly if you want to have the better desserts you must go to high end restaurants. I only go to these a few times a year so someone suggested buying dessert at a pastry shop and bringing it home which is probably what I will do from now on and lower my expectations on this aspect of the meal. Thank you for taking the time to describe the lovely desserts.

                                                                    2. re: pinehurst

                                                                      It's too bad, sometimes just a simple effort like you mentioned can top off a great meal,

                                                                    3. After reading about 80% of the remarks here, I have to paraphrase what I've said on a few other threads: If it's well-made from good ingredients, it's lovely. I DO NOT CARE WHAT FOODS ARE IN/OUT OF STYLE. Good food is good food and a lot of good food gets lost because someone arbitrarily decides it's out of style. Sigh.

                                                                      7 Replies
                                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                                        Good food is good food, I totally agree with you and we are fortunate to have food as well as many do not.

                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                          this is about time marching forward and supply and demand. it's not somebody just waving a wand and wishing away baked alaska, "because i said so." i mean seriousl? it's sponge cake, ice cream and meringue. yawn.

                                                                          peach melba and crepes suzettes aren't much more interesting imho.

                                                                          few would be lamenting the lack of rabbit and partridge on dinner menus and both are delicious. but ya know what? nobody orders them.

                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                            And occasionally reviewers can get bitchy about food trends, and knock dishes as being cliche'd. Not saying they are necessarily in the right to do so, just that there is outside pressure for restaurants to go beyond the classics.

                                                                            1. re: babette feasts

                                                                              I think it behooves restaurants to combine innovative new desserts with excellently executed classics on their menus. I remember a great Baked Alaska when I was a teenager. It was a chewy, crispy coconut base, homemade vanilla ice cream, rum-flamed meringue, and hot fudge sauce. It was simple, yes, but amazing.

                                                                              1. re: sandylc

                                                                                I agree, at least from the customer's perspective.
                                                                                The best of both worlds!

                                                                            2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                              Time marches forward? Some of the classics that you deem out of style may well one day return on the plates. Still seeing them in classic cookbooks, what about the present trends will we see them in later years?

                                                                              And you seem so focused on the fact that I mentioned some old fashioned desserts but yet my thread also mentioned that it would be nice to see house desserts come back into style. And yes I understand that pastry chefs are not viable for many, just a little creativity would be nice.

                                                                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                there is currently a resuscitated thread on the boston board looking for local places that serve baked alaska. it's out there. :)

                                                                          2. One useful way to avoid "standard fare" (in terms of dessert types) is to sample cuisines more widely. Lebanese desserts aren't the same as Persian ones, Cantonese ones differ from Nyona or Bengali, etc etc.

                                                                            9 Replies
                                                                            1. re: limster

                                                                              And do you find these desserts are readily available at sit down restaurants serving those cuisines? I do not, more likely no dessert or some purchase chocolate/cheesecake options. Huiray laments the Cantonese (I believe) options above.

                                                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                                                >>And do you find these desserts are readily available at sit down restaurants serving those cuisines?

                                                                                Absolutely; desserts are super common in all kinds of restaurants serving all kinds of cuisines (the few examples are surface scratchers).

                                                                                Had 3 types of nyona kueh for dessert just yesterday. Persian faloodeh, bamieh & zoolbia a few weeks ago (great with Persian tea with cardamom) after a feast of kebabs and rice of various flavours. Had mishti doi at a Bengali place. Malai kulfi at one of various indian places. At a nearby Peruvian place I'll occasionally get alfajores after a meal. Halo halo for dessert after rich pangsit bihon at a Filipino place.

                                                                                The Cantonese places where I've been here in London seem to have pretty good options, and on top of that, there are cafes specialising in dessert (and of course bubble teas). But if the Cantonese options aren't good where one is at, look for other cuisines. The point is that one gets away from the standard desserts by avoid a narrow list of cuisines.

                                                                                1. re: limster

                                                                                  I don't doubt "other" cultures have sweets, I was specifically asking about sit-down restaurants, since that was the topic of the OP. My experience has not been the same as yours. Having one representative desert doesn't quite cut it for me when I go somewhere often (same syndrome as creme brûlée/lave cake overload). But I'm sure your Peruvian restaurant has a full dessert menu as the op longs for, not just cookies, right?

                                                                                  1. re: julesrules

                                                                                    Your are right I long for a full dessert menu.

                                                                                    1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                      Well, when I finally get to retire and open my dessert shop (or should that be Shoppe?) you will have a full range of desserts from which to choose., from Apple Brown Betty to Zabaglione.

                                                                                    2. re: julesrules

                                                                                      Your question was, as might be said in court, asked and answered.

                                                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                                                        All the examples I gave were sit down restaurants with dessert menus listing several desserts. The Peruvian place had typically 4-5 desserts. That's the norm in my experience.

                                                                                  2. re: limster

                                                                                    Agree with approaching different cuisines to get the fix for interesting desserts.

                                                                                    The cuisines that I always look forward to for dessert are Shanghainese, for its pan-fried crepes or deep fried fritters that are filled with red bean paste, and Persian, for its saffron-rose ice-cream.

                                                                                  3. Agree with you, Ruthie. Even if the the molten cake/creme brulee/ brownie nut sundae is great, it's the same old thing(s). I'll add my annoyance at raspberry coulis squeezed onto the plate of every dessert, and also mention desserts that don't belong in a particular type of retaurant (like the Japanese place that offered Apple Strudel, of all things).

                                                                                    My Chowhound-In-Training child has the same complaint about the Children's Menu; mac-and-cheese, small cheeseburger, hot dog, corn dog, pancake w/ mickey mouse ears, grilled cheese sandwich and spaghetti & meatballs.

                                                                                    Whenever I ask for the dessert menu, I ask what desserts are made in-house. If none are, then we either just have some ice cream, or skip it entirely.

                                                                                    Maybe it's for the best :(

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Michelly

                                                                                      Agree about the skip method from now on.

                                                                                      1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                        Sometimes we just move on to another restaurant altogether for their homemade, in-house desserts & coffee.

                                                                                    2. I couldn't agree more, Ruthie! I so rarely see anything on a dessert menu that excites me, so I don't even factor in saving room for dessert anymore. Many places I go, so much more attention is being paid to the appetizer/small plates portion of a menu, so that's where I tend to focus.

                                                                                      1. I seldom even look. If there is a cheese-course, that is what I go with, almost always.

                                                                                        Hunt

                                                                                        1. Being from Montreal, perhaps this will interest you, Ruthie - My favorite dessert I have ever had was the basil panna cotta at the now-defunct Brunoise. It was magic on the tongue and I have never found another dessert with such a flavor.

                                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Kat

                                                                                            I think desserts can be memorable, visually and taste wise. It can be a special highlight of a meal.

                                                                                            1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                                              This past spring, I was in Brussels for work and walking around I came across this Turkish pastry shop that was visually presented more like a Parisian/Western dessert pastry or chocolate shop. I was with someone very familiar with Turkish pastries who could tell me what were the classic desserts and what were the more experimental ones - but the visual alone made me want to try one of everything.

                                                                                              The desserts were very good, but it ranks very high on my 'dessert chart' because the entire experience was memorable. Seeing how the desserts were presented, choosing which ones I wanted to try, sitting in the Turkish tea room, etc. It's been ages since I've had a dessert experience in a restaurant that wasn't strictly a case of "this is tasty".

                                                                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                In particular at a tea room the presentation is usually spectacular. I am planning to go for tea next week on my vacation.

                                                                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                  Turkish tea rooms seem to be pretty fashionable in Paris these days. I enjoyed the whole experience too, from choosing the pastries and having them while sipping mint tea, to relaxing in the atmosphere.

                                                                                                  1. re: vil

                                                                                                    I think part of what also made the experience really nice is that because the desserts are smaller in size, there's the chance of getting some things I "knew" I'd like and an experiment or two. However, when I'm going out for dinner at a restaurant I find that I'm not very adventerous.

                                                                                                    There's a restaurant I frequent, and on occasion have been given a free dessert (having not asked for it). One of these desserts was a tehini ice cream, topped with shredded halva, pistachios, and date honey. And it was lovely. However, this is a dessert that I now know is great but am still never inspired to order it or order other desserts that are more outside of my comfort zone. I'm happy to be adventerous in those tea rooms/pastrie places - but not restaurants. Go figure.