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Ideation: On the Cutting Edge

America’s collective sweet tooth still favors cheesecake, chocolate and ice cream when it comes to restaurant desserts, but that’s not stopping pastry chefs and menu developers from a little wild experimentation. As sweet-savory flavor combinations continue to explode, other trends are also taking off: drinkable desserts, European- and Asian-inspired treats, soy-based and gluten-free sweets and far-out indulgences made possible through technological breakthroughs.

The three concepts here attract dessert fans by expertly straddling the mainstream and the modern.

Paciugo Gelato

Dallas, Texas-based
Husband-and-wife team Cristiana and Ugo Ginatta apprenticed at a gelateria in Turin, Italy, to master traditional recipes so they could market authentic Italian gelato in the United States. They now offer over 200 flavors in 21 locations. “Plain chocolate is our most popular overall flavor, but each franchise locale has its favorite,” says Cristiana. “In Austin, Texas, it’s black pepper-olive oil, while in Colorado, chocolate-cinnamon-chili pepper ranks first.” The gelato ingredients are hand-prepared in a central kitchen, pre-measured and packaged, then sent out to each store; only seasonal fruits are used. A cup holds three or four flavors sculpted into a rose shape with a special scoop and spatula.

Dessert - Flavor Combinations - Food Trends

Kyotofu, New York City
A Japanese dessert bar might sound as incongruous as a Mormon cocktail lounge, but the year-old Kyotofu is tempting New Yorkers with a seasonally changing menu of decadent treats. Many of the beautifully crafted desserts are based on miso, soymilk or fresh, artisanal tofu made on premises. Yet customers would be hard-pressed to detect soy in the Varlhona chocolate soufflé cupcake (left), Tahitian vanilla parfait with passion fruit caramel or bon bons filled with black sesame cream. “Our goal is to create lighter, minimally sweet desserts so the guest can clearly taste all the elements,” says co-owner Nicole Bermensolo. Kyotofu is also a pioneer in partnering the selections with shochu cocktails or sake.

Dessert - Flavor Combinations - Food Trends

Buzz Bakery-Dessert Lounge, Alexandria, Virginia
Free wi-fi, a kids’ play area and live music keep Buzz humming from 6 a.m. until midnight. Patrons stop in for everything from a cup of coffee with a breakfast muffin to a late-night Hot Apple Pie cocktail paired with red velvet cake (left). “I tried to incorporate the pastry aspect into my cocktails,” says chef Josh Short. The Hot Apple Pie combines steamed cider, Tuca apple liqueur and whipped cream while his Lemon Cake-Tini teams lemon frangelico with vanilla vodka. But daytime items get a healthier spin. “Guests were asking for vegan and gluten-free choices, so I added cupcakes and brownies made with rice and almond flour. And I’m experimenting with agave nectar as a sweetener,” he says.

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