Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eat Dessert First!

When I was in high school, roughly two decades ago plus a bit, the choice for an after-movie hang-out was a cafe run by an Austrian (I think) woman. It was in a small stone house and there were three small rooms with cushioned arm chairs clustered (almost crowded) around small, marble-topped tables. There was almost always a line out the door on weekends, even in winter. It was carpeted and cozy and full of conversation. It was lovely.

It was also, apparently, ahead of its time. The menu was predominantly desserts, and that's what people came for. They did offer some lovely cheese and fruit plates and light sandwiches, and I even shared one of the cheese and fruit combos once, but for most visitors, it was all about the desserts. Decadent cakes and tarts and parfaits. Always too many choices that sounded good. One that I occasionally recreate was a chocolate pate served with shortbread cookies and apricot preserves. I loved that cafe and I was heartbroken when it closed. The rumors were that the owner planned to re-open in conjunction with a theater that was being revived across town (this, by the way, was thousands of miles from Isolationville; I'm a relative newcomer here), but it never happened.

I'm reminiscing about it today because of a long article in the NYTimes today about pastry chefs who are opening their own, dessert-centric, restaurants. Most of them seem to be offering a larger non-dessert menu than my beloved cafe did, but they are still looking for that crowd that wants serious dessert, even if they ate out somewhere without them. I always believe that one should know at least one restaurant in a town that is worth going to just for the dessert, and that doesn't object to having that kind of customer. I like going for a cup of coffee (decaf, of course, because I'm a tad insane if you add caffeine to me) and dessert after a movie or dinner at home or just because I happen to be walking past a dessert place. I've had a few standards for such visits in the various places I've lived. In case you hadn't already guessed, Isolationville has no such place. It's sad.

So, if pastry chefs across the nation want to start opening their own places, I'm all for it. It's a trend I'll watch, if only so I'll know where to look when I escape from Isolationville.

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