Eat Dessert First

Lynn Cline - August 24, 2016

Summer is the best time of year for desserts...

Dessert means many things to many people. For those of us who grew up in America, it's the course we couldn't wait to eat as kids following a main course that we picked over—usually consisting of broccoli, Brussels sprouts or peas—and which we had to finish first in order to deserve it.

If you grew up in the U.K., dessert was probably called pudding, sweets or “afters.” In Asia, people tend to eat sweets like dates or red beans between meals rather than for dessert, and in some places in Africa, dessert just simply isn't served.

The term originates from the French word desservir, which means “to clear away,” as in the dishes from the last course of your meal. But in some pockets of the country, you'll find a German gasthaus where the desserts are so good, they serve them first.

I'll never forget the huge chocolate cake that greeted us from the middle of our table when and a friend and I were seated at one such gasthaus in Iowa's Amana Colony. We each gobbled up a giant serving, practically a quarter of the cake, before tucking into platters of chicken and dumplings, braised sauerkraut, spätzle and more. It dawned on me right then and there how ingenuous it is to eat dessert first. Why wait, when you can start your meal knowing that you don't have to leave room for what is arguably the best, and last, course? Dessert is usually less expensive than an appetizer to order in a restaurant. And recent studies have indicated that eating chocolate in the morning can help with weight loss by reducing the urge to snack throughout the day and late at night.

It's okay if you disagree about eating dessert first, just so long as you don't serve yourself short on pies, cobblers, cakes, cookies, ice cream or any other treat that satisfies your sweet tooth. (Unless you have a health issue that precludes you from partaking in them.) Summer, of course, is the best time of year for dessert, thanks to all the fresh seasonal fruit that's available to include in these delectable desserts.

Here's a round-up some of the best desserts you currently can find in a few of Santa Fe's top restaurants. From fruit pies and tarts to cakes and duck fat ice cream, they're guaranteed to give you a good argument for why dessert should be served first...and maybe even be given the designation of a full meal in and of itself, instead of only an after-course. Just a few bites of these dandies and I'm sure you'll agree.

Nothing says summer like pie, especially when it's made with fruit plucked fresh off the vine. At Rio Chama, the Strawberry Rhubarb pie with a crumble crust represents a slice of summer on a plate. The sweetness of the strawberry paired with tart rhubarb is a classic combo and a single bite conjures up images of idyllic summer vacations. The crumbly crust is pretty good, too. Wonder if they'll be willing to share this recipe...?

The refreshing tang of lemon takes center stage in Bouche Bistro's brilliant Lemon Meringue Tart. Here, a lovely house-made lemon curd with bright notes is the perfect filling for a sweet, buttery crust. The concoction is then topped with an Italian meringue made of whipped egg whites and hot sugar syrup that is delicately browned to order with a torch. Just one bite of this artful tart takes me straight back to the carefree days of summer, when I used to make a lemon meringue pie growing up that never yielded any leftovers.

If you did grow up in the U.K. and called dessert “pudding,” then you'll love the Butterscotch Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Sea Salt at Joseph's Culinary Pub. Sea salt has become a trendy addition to ice cream, chocolate and other sweets but I've never before tasted it in pudding. Be forewarned, it's highly addictive. You could be adventurous here and try the Vanilla Ginger or Caramel Tamari Duck Fat Ice Cream. Bet you can't find that anywhere else...

Eloisa pays tribute to summer desserts with a Chocolate Crémeux , a trio of chocolate mousse-like servings served with sliced cherries, coconut sorbet or a chocolate cookie. After an innovative meal of uinique fare, this dessert is the perfect endnote. It's rich and delightful, like a deconstructed sundae for grown-ups.

As summer winds down and the seasons start to change nothing says fall quite like apples. And there's no apple pie quite like the one served at La Casa Sena. It's aptly called the Freeform Apple Pie, an assemblage of bruléed apples, candied hazelnuts, caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. One bite of this will sweeten summer's end, no matter how hard it is to say goodbye...

Photo credit - Bouche Bistro