Like cookies and milk and coffee and donuts, desserts and beverages have a long-standing symbiotic relationship. As the nation’s snack-centric culture evolves, savvy operators are creating more ways for this relationship to flourish—and it’s paying off.
Consider some recent tweets from Starbucks: “Your move: #SaltedCaramelSquare #Espresso #CheckMate.” “Spending the day with the ones you love #CaffeéVerona + #DarkChocolate.” Messages such as these fuel the momentum that’s turned coffee breaks into new opportunities: Before-work coffee runs have add-on snack potential, and afternoon coffee breaks are emerging as a legitimate daypart.
“Starbucks’ food portfolio, including our La Boulange pastries and snacks, are in important part of the company’s core business that represent a significant opportunity for continued growth,” says Kerry Schimmelbusch, global brand public relations representative for Starbucks Coffee Company. “We are always listening to customer feedback and are always evaluating and testing the food offerings before we bring them to market. We also consider how food pairs with our coffee and tea. Coffee and food pairings can make for memorable taste sensations.”
Chocolate in all forms
And coffee houses aren’t having all the dessert fun. Traditional restaurants as well as dessert-only concepts are turning snack time into elaborate rituals.
At Max Brenner, an international operation with more than 50 fast-casual and full-service locations in six countries worldwide, the line between beverages and desserts seems to have melted: Customers can have hot chocolate topped with crunchy chocolate wafer balls or giant marshmallows, teas are infused with chocolate ganache and shakes are whipped together with cookies.
“We’re committed to giving our customers a one-of-a-kind chocolate experience,” says Macae Lintelman, Max Brenner’s U.S. communications manager. “Everything is indulgent; everything is over-the-top. Enjoy a massive slice of chocolate pizza and then wash it down with a milkshake made from pure ganache. There are no rules. Just fun.”
Katzie Guy-Hamilton, executive chef for Max Brenner, sees no limit to the way customers can enjoy dessert—especially chocolate, which she serves in both drinkable and dippable forms. The chain features specially designed tableware, so that cappuccino and chocolate are served together in a “kangaroo cup,” which has a pouch-like side segment that allows the chocolate to melt beside the strong coffee. Likewise, ice cream bars can be dipped into pots of melting chocolate beads and chocolate shots are served in syringes, not shot glasses.
While it’s hard to beat dessert served with a side of dessert, one innovative restaurateur sees endless potential in matching sweets with wine and beer. Marlo Scott, owner of Sweet Revenge, a polished-casual dessert concept in New York City, has carved out a niche by proving there’s more to food and beverage pairings than red wine and red meat.
Since 2008, her expertise has focused on accentuating sweet flavors. Along the way, she’s learned that a chocolate-chip cookie can be balanced by an Italian Petalo Moscato Spumante, or that a double-chocolate stout can pick up on the fudgy notes of dark chocolate. Likewise, dry, citrusy wines play off of the warm, caramel spice notes in an apple cake, and pairing peanut butter desserts with a big, jammy Malbec creates a peanut-butter-and-jelly magic.
“These are very specific pairings. I’ve learned through a lot of trial-and-error, and by working with wine and beer reps, that these beverages can accent dessert spices, nuts and creamy elements,” says Scott. She relies on customer curiosity to get to the first taste and builds on her successes to gain their trust. She even teaches a class to demystify pairing wines and beers with desserts.
“The expression on people’s faces when they experience a great dessert pairing says everything. From there, I just need to keep building on their curiosity and find interesting new matches,” says Scott.
This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts