I have been banned from ordering dessert at restaurants for a while.
This is mainly because the same thing always happens.
The Cute Gardener and I will go out and eat a stellar meal. In my sweet tooth of a brain, I will naturally assume that the restaurant’s desserts will live up to the preceding entrees so I will want to try a bite. I will be so full though, that when the item arrives, I end up taking a nip and leaving the rest the responsibility on the Cute Gardener’s gullet. Not being a sweet tooth kind of guy, he will end up spooning it in regardless—both of us leaving full and trying to recall the savory bites of a meal that came prior to the sugar onslaught.
I’ve come to realize that deep down this impetus for something sweet at the end of a meal signifies something in me I have completely outgrown. When I was a kid my cravings for sugar were wild and unfettered-completely immature and unsophisticated. It didn’t matter if they were sated at the bottom of a bowl of M&Ms the morning after my parents’ parties; through a grocery store candy bar or a la-dee-da scoop of Haagen Dazs … I was an emotional eater who used sweets as a way to feel fill a hole inside of me that was hankering for love and warmth.
In my twenties, after realizing this through years of expensive therapy, I went through a complete backlash towards sugar and became the ultimate sugar snob choosing to only eat bitter dark chocolates and Chinese mochi confections, assuaging myself with the knowledge that the red and mung bean paste delicacies were actually holistic forms of ancient Asian medicine. I would let down my guard once a month though while raising my daughter when we would have our mutual “women’s issues” that called for a slice of chocolate cake with fudgy frosting and lots of almond milk to soak it up or a pint of old fashioned Thrifty’s mint chip or cotton candy ice cream. But other than that, Tofutti cuties were about the only dessert-esque thing you’d ever find in my freezer.
When I met the CG my sweet tooth was reignited due to his pure butter-soaked thumb when it comes to baking. After tasting his sinful cocoa cookies, the best chocolate chip ever, and a barrage of cakes from lowbrow to highbrow whipped up in his kitchen, I found myself a willing slave to the dessert cart again. But now here I sit almost three years of dating later and realize I need to evaluate my ideas about sugar yet again. Somehow I feel like this will be a constant relationship of revision throughout my lifetime.
My Sugar Rules As Of This Minute
(perpetually subject to change)
- Never eat candy from the supermarket, period…
- Dark chocolate is the only chocolate. Unless it’s butterscotch Blondie chocolate. Or caramel Valrhona chocolate. Maybe, Valrhona is the only kind of chocolate. No, that’s not true.
- The next time I eat a macaron it will be in France.
- Anything white with coconut is fair game.
- Leave the cake making to the Cute Gardener.
- Only eat pastries if buying from the baker who baked them within the last 24 hours.
- Ice cream is over rated after age 12 unless made fresh with more eggs and cream and less artificial flavoring.
- Pies are only good when they are filled with roasted root vegetables or fresh, sustainable meat.
- Fact: fresh whipped cream and a spoon constitutes dessert, nothing else needed.
- Truffles from boxes will always taste like wax.
- Dessert IS allowed at restaurants if chosen from the savory, dinner menu like the CG and I once did with broad beans and white truffles when The Royce still lived prior to its takeover by a boring steakhouse.
Of course there are those rare moments that can’t be forsaken-when you find something that defies its “course” categorization and transcends definition because it just tastes that good. This is a rare classification though, at the moment meriting only the butterscotch pot de crème at Gjelina in Venice Beach and the butterscotch budino at Mozza in Los Angeles. Butterscotch lust is something I have not outgrown but I also know from experience that these two dishes can never be copied although a dozen restaurants across the Southern California scene are currently trying, and failing. (We tried to copy and failed too.)
And then there are the surprises—those things you have to try just because you have never heard of them and may never have the opportunity to taste them again. This was truly the case this past year at Gusto when I had a slice of pie that tasted like the moon. A heightened triangle of fluffy white topped with toasted coconut and a curl of chocolate fonduta arrived on a bed of Graham cracker crust to my delight at the end of a nice Italian artisan pasta and meatballs dinner. In today’s contemporary sea of cardboard-crusted chocolate and fruit tarts, tangy ganaches and variations on trendy ice cream flavors like crème fraiche and cinnamon, it came floating to my table like it had been carved from a cloud. Had I been banned at that time, I never would have discovered the unique piece of heaven that is coconut gelato pie.
There are always exceptions to the dessert rule, I think …
… as I sit contemplating another slice of the five-minute brownie pie I begged the CG to whip up last night for a Roberto Rossellini film.