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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.