Sharing Desserts

June 16, 2010

I cringe when someone comes into Waterbar or Farallon and wants a dessert sampler. Putting more than one dessert on the same plate reminds me of the Pu-Pu platters in American Chinese restaurants.

The desserts run into the others so you don’t get a real sense or taste of how each one is supposed to taste on its own. Plus it makes the food look really unattractive. By the time you are finished eating you can’t remember what was what. Strawberries running into caramel sauce running into chocolate is not how I or most pastry chefs want their hard work presented.

But at the same time I know many people (myself included) want to try more than one dessert or simply want a bite of something small to finish off the meal. Luckily sharing desserts has become popular.

Sharing desserts allows you to see how the chef attended for the food to look. If you don’t want to commit to a whole dessert you can always depend on someone at the table to clean the plates. If you want to try the whole menu you can. If I am with a group I don’t know very well I politely serve myself some of each dessert on a share plate.  If I am among friends or family my spoon and everyone else’s just reach across the table without even asking. No one seems to mind.

The whole concept of sharing desserts is both psychologically and sociologically interesting. With savory  courses different unwritten rules apply. People are more restrained with their appetizers and entrees. If someone asks for a bite, a small taste is put on the butter plate or the rim of the main plate. When offered to other diners most people say “No thanks, but that looks good”. They are content with their choices and don’t feel the desire to poach.  Not when it comes with dessert. Everyone wants s a taste of it all.  I am not completely sure why the communal approach applies to desserts more than other courses. It could be the sugar or maybe by the time dessert time comes everyone is more relaxed.

Regardless of the reason it ends the meal with an engaging interaction and that’s what eating with others is all about.

One comment

  1. I think that people like to share desserts more than main courses for a few reasons. First, they are usually lighter than entrees so the tastes are generally less conflicting and seem more complementary. (I wouldn’t mix salmon and beef stew, but apple crostata and chocolate mousse are acceptable enough.)

    Second, they are more of an indulgence. Sharing makes it even more so and relieves some of the guilt some might feel. (“Well, I only had a bite or two of each so it doesn’t really count.”)

    Third, I bet we are hardwired in our brains to crave the sweet so we want to try all we can. (And we convince ourselves that we need or deserve it.)

    As for me, I love to share desserts, especially when that means I give a taste or two of mine and get half or more of theirs in return!

    Could a dessert sampler be served on different plates that are smaller? That would keep them from running into each other and make it easier to pass around the table.

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