Sweets take flight

dessert sampler restaurant menu idea

What’s the only thing that’s better than dessert? More dessert. This simple theory is playing out on menus today, as pastry chefs compose craveable pairings on fine-dining plates and as operators offer fixed-price dessert flights for diners to mix, match and share.

But as more consumers take an “all things in moderation” approach to eating, offering smaller portions, such as those found in flights, make a lot of sense. Recent Technomic research finds that 34 percent of consumers say they are more likely to order dessert if a smaller-portion option is available. Additionally, two-thirds of restaurant customers bypass dessert because they are too full from their meal. Menuing small-portion offerings, such as mini desserts or dessert flights, can help operators keep diners interested, according to Technomic.

So, just as appetizers, tapas and small-plate menus have allowed diners to try and share a variety of flavors, smaller plates, bites and flights on the dessert menu allow diners to try many sweet tastes without overindulging.  This new-fangled idea works with old-fashioned desserts at tapas-focused concept Moxy in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where a flight of New England puddings includes Indian, Grape-Nut and Boston creme.

Similarly, Fig & Olive, an 8-unit Mediterranean concept, offers a dessert tasting of four bite-sized versions of Pear Crostini, Chocolate Pot de Crème, Crunchy Praline and Clementine Vacherin. And for even smaller bites, cookie and candy plates are emerging as an option. Five Fifty-Five, a fine dining spot in Portland, Maine, features a confection plate with a cranberry-orange cookie, hand-made caramels and baba savarin.

The dessert-flight trend can also marry well with other trends, such as bold, global flavors. At Spot Dessert Bar, desserts combinations are inspired by Eastern flavors meeting Western dessert forms. Here, each carefully composed plate looks like a work of art and stand on its own, but all are offered as tapas in sets of three to five. An omakase menu, inspired by the Japanese meal of dishes selected by the chef, includes six tapas plates, four macarons and a pot of green tea with subtle floral notes.

Mark Lee, managing partner at Spot Dessert Bar, which has two units in Manhattan, describes how the Asian flavors were inspired by Chef Ian Chalermkittichai’s travels throughout Japan, Thailand and other Eastern destinations.

“We want people to try a lot of different flavors and share with friends, so the experience is like a journey,” says Lee, who explains how the flavor journeys through east and west also balance naturally opposing elements, such as warm and cold and earthy, floral notes paired with smooth, sweet chocolate. A chocolate lava cake is transformed into a warm chocolate green tea lava cake filled with even warmer green tea ganache and green tea ice cream. Cheesecake forms the base of the Matcha Garden, which has three layers of Japanese cheesecake, red bean and green tea mousse and black sesame ice cream.

“Chef Ian’s desserts are inspired by forests, plants and gardens, and we were also inspired by nature. Our restaurant design features a lot of wood and glass and is a warm and inviting place for people to hang out and share dessert experiences,” says Lee.

This post is sponsored by Sweet Street Desserts