Why Good Desserts Matter

We traveled to Minneapolis for a really quick weekend trip a few days ago. Left Friday at 3pm and were back in our home by 8pm on Sunday – with seven hours of driving each way. So, like, really fast. We basically ate the entire time we were there. It was amazing and so necessary. My brain is buzzing.
 First thing we did when we got to Minneapolis at 10pm on Friday was to stop at The Bachelor Farmer for snacks. After several snacks, I really didn’t even want to think about dessert, but my guy insisted we check it out. Being a kind of “New Norwegian Cuisine” restaurant, I knew every dessert would include cream, or crème fraîche, or buttermilk. I don’t eat dairy. They did have all of those ingredients, but we went on anyway. The menu was like heaven. It spoke words like: strawberry jus // meringue-herb dust // chocolate marquise // parsley ice cream. I was fascinated. We had one dessert of a roasted peach, with a nectarine sorbet. The sorbet was likely my favorite component. The texture was so velvety. It was sublime. The roasted peach was the only time I haven’t been pissed off about having just a piece of fruit as part of my dessert. We got to know our server and he gave us a second dessert, on him. It was a molded buttermilk cream, piled high with herb-meringue dust, surrounded by a pool of fresh, bright strawberry jus. I wanted to lick the plates.
It was the first time, in a long time, that I had been presented with an intentional dessert menu. The components were thoughtful and exciting. They made me want to have an experience. I wanted to make this late-night, exhausted meal into something really special. I indulged in a way that I rarely do. I was ecstatic. I was absolutely in a fantasy land.
I completely love where I live. I love to be near my family, my friends – I love having a home with a yard for my dogs. And I love being able to grow a business here. One thing that I don’t understand, though, is the lack of intentional, thoughtful dessert menus. My guess is that chefs and restaurant managers don’t want to invest the resources into this because, historically, people haven’t ordered much for dessert. And those who have ordered dessert, have been happy with pre-made cheesecakes, ice cream, etc. I could be wrong with this assumption.
But, as the diner, don’t we deserve more respect? Don’t we deserve to be challenged? Can’t we be given the opportunity to dream when we eat?!
I’m afraid that I’ll get feedback saying that I am naive or that I am one, of few, that really care about this stuff. And that feedback could very well be spot on. But I ask again, don’t our diners deserve to be given the opportunity for something more?
The creativity that we can experience through something as simple as food can ignite passion throughout our lives. We can see things in new ways; experience cultures differently; feel new textures; taste new tastes. It’s extreme to think that our world would change significantly if we had better dessert menus, but just imagine the possibilities!
Imagine if the desserts changed throughout the year, with the seasons, in a way other than just a different crème brûlée flavor – or different berries on top of a piece of cheesecake. I can get stuck in a rut just as much as anyone else – but I don’t realize that until I’m introduced to something new. As chefs, we are responsible for our own constant improvement and dedication to creativity. We have to force ourselves out of our comfort zones, area codes, etc. to find what is fresh. I started thinking about this after Anya von Bremzen’s talk at MAD4. We must do this for ourselves and our passion, yes – but more than that, we want to create a fantasy world for our diners. We want to take them to a place, or a state of mind, that they wouldn’t find otherwise. Dining is an experience. Our guests came to us for that experience.
Anything short of that is cutting our profession short. Challenging ourselves every time we are in the kitchen and every time we have a spare moment to learn – that is what’s important. I get really stuck on the idea of keeping everything “local”. In terms of geography and with regards to sourcing food, I think that’s wonderful. When we talk about ideas? That’s where I get lost. There’s more to what we do than what we can mine here; and there is a lot we have to offer to our colleagues in other places. Again, don’t our diners deserve this dedication?
Maybe this is extreme, you guys. Maybe I just love desserts too much. But the passion and inspiration that dessert menus provided this weekend – was nuts. Other amazing desserts were had at: The Salty Tart, Patisserie 46, The Third Bird, and Bachelor Farmer Sunday brunch