Sweet Temptations

Downsizing – The Incredible Shrinking dessert

I never thought that I would write an article on “downsizing” desserts. When it comes my love for all things sweet, I have always believed that “the larger the better”. I also live by Ernestine Ulmer’s famous slogan: “Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first”. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. I was taught, like most people that dessert was not the correct order. I’m certain those who share my love of sweet endings can relate. After dinner, we wait with anticipation for the server’s return to dazzle us. Even if we are full and know that we can’t finish the dessert, or even if it’s not healthy for us to eat. What is a meal without a dessert? We try to get our friends and family to share dessert, but if that doesn’t work, we either feel guilty if we order one for ourselves, or deprived of it if we don’t. It was once considered bad dining manners to order food for sharing. But today, it’s the norm.

Small is big, especially when it comes to desserts. According to National Restaurant Association’s list of hot food trend for 2007, “bite sized desserts” ranked as the number one item. This trend is driven by several factors, the most important of which is consumer demand. Executive Pastry chef Randy Sebastian of Rio Hotel said, “Desserts represent the last opportunity to make a great impression”. “Diners today want a variety smaller sweets, and it’s trendy to make pastry look as an appetizer. The size of the pastry is perfect for sharing with others or ideal for just one”. Chefs and restaurateurs do not want their guests skimping on the dinner to save space. They want them to leave on a sweeter note. The new philosophy is aimed at enticing guests to order smaller portions, rather than having them refuse dessert altogether. Tiny plates are a great way to make money, and this supports the theory that eating a few small bites is better than not eating any at all. This “dessert”, which is a way to increase the bottom line of the restaurant, allows diners to get more of the last item on the menu.

As the trend moves from the “supersize me” mentality towards better eating, there is an increased demand for “healthy”. While this may seem like an oxymoron to some, as many people are concerned about their health, smaller sweets are now the wave of tomorrow. The health-conscious diners of today have a more sophisticated palate, and despite the shrinking desserts, they do not want to compromise taste. Dark chocolate, which has many health benefits, is the most popular for desserts. Restaurants offer mini morsels made with premium-rich dark cocoa, fresh seasonal fruit and natural and authentic ingredients. For those who want to indulge without feeling guilty, these tiny bites of health are the perfect solution.

Matthew Silverman is the Executive Chef of Vintner Grill – a trendy American Bistro in the upscale Summerlin neighborhood. He loves little desserts. Silverman stated that Vintner Grill and Vosges Haut-Chocolat have partnered to create a small dessert offering, but one that offers a truly unique taste experience. “Vintner Grill offers Vosges exotic chocolate truffles either as-is or paired with wine and cheese. The pairing of Vosges chocolates with wine and cheese is one of my favorites because it allows you to still have your “sweets”, even if you are full. I think that presenting this type of dessert is in line with the current trend towards healthy food portions. It’s the size perception because ‘how could something so small be bad for me? 

Comfort desserts are appearing on menus all over the country, and they have become an integral part of the downsizing movement. Old favorites like brownies, bread pudding, biscotti or cupcakes are popular with people of all ages, not just because of their size, but also because the smell and taste evoke happy memories. Chefs add flair to the familiar, by taking these traditional, but somewhat ordinary desserts, and turning them into extraordinary creations. This can be done with frostings, fillings or creams, sauces, and fresh fruit combinations. This is a new take on classics.
Ethnic cuisine is the way to go for those who want to end their culinary journey with an exotic and eclectic taste. As diners become more sophisticated and adventurous they are willing try foods that have a good mouth-feel, and flavor combinations like Olive Oil Ice Cream. Habanero Sorbet, Green Tea Tiramisu, and Cheesecake tempura. These innovative concepts, which are fusions of cultures and cuisines, are the “neologisms”, of desserts. They combine two or more ingredients, spices, or liqueurs to an existing dessert, creating a new, unusual treat. One of the best ways to learn about a particular culture is to try the food native to that culture. Desserts infused with ethnic flavors are also a popular trend in many restaurants.

Gelatos, sorbets, and ice-creams are all still popular. These mainstays can be combined with cookies, cakes and pies to create a variety of desserts. Wild Truffles Gourmet Cafe’s Executive Chef-Owners Georg & Eva Paulussen have miniaturized their desserts. Wild Truffles Gourmet Cafe is a 5-star, 5 diamond operation located in Summerlin Boca Park. Chef Georg explained that sharing and portion control started with appetizers. Then, entrees followed and now desserts. “People have stopped eating large desserts, because they’re too heavy and a single piece can be overwhelming. The presentation of many small desserts is more attractive and makes for a better eye-catching display. Gelato Bars are our most requested dessert. We also serve traditional desserts. Gelato can be enjoyed even when you’re full. We offer a “taster”, a selection of five to eight small espresso-sized cups of light and fluffy Gelatos accompanied by garnishes, such as fresh berries or whipped cream. We find that guests like to share a variety of desserts with different textures and tastes. They can also create their own plate of small desserts using our selection of pralines. The versatility and flexibility, simplicity and creativity will keep your menus fresh and your customers coming for more”.


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