Yes or No?

Last night I ate dinner at one of Seattle’s newest restaurants. After the meal ended, it came time to make one last decision.  To dessert, or not to dessert?

Now, I know this is hardly an original thought. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that nearly every diner in almost every restaurant ends their meal with this thought passing through their conversations. Perhaps the answer defaults to no, or better yet, yes! Perhaps you never speak of it. Maybe you don’t have the choice. But the questions lingers, and must be answered.

At a table nearby, someone knew my friend. They stopped by our table, conversed briefly about this and that, then brought us into their own finalizing decision. Should they or shouldn’t they?

It’s only natural that in asking a pastry chef if you should have dessert, you will hear a resounding “yes.” If said question was asked within walking distance to the desserts I myself create, it’s a safe bet that I’m going to attempt to steer you towards them. So off the decided party went, suggestions made, towards their desserts at Poppy.

But the question still remained for myself and my friend. Should we or shouldn’t we?

We discussed our options. Cheese at the restaurant we were at, or did they even have desserts? Where else near by would we find tasty sweets? We even briefly discussed McFlurries and Shamrock Shakes retrieved on the car ride home, or ice cream from the store.

In the end, I made the decision I almost always make. I chose no.

It seems contradictory, for me to focus most of my time and energy providing a part of your meal that I myself don’t choose to experience. Don’t think for a second this slips my notice. Instead, I grill myself, examine the series of thoughts, feelings, emotions that lead to my own constant “no.”

It is this constant resistance to the kind of closing experience restaurant offer than helps shape my own creations. In looking deeper into my own decisions, I look for qualities my desserts need to posses to entice the diner back into the meal. When the physical hunger stops encouraging fork-fulls of food into your mouth, what other part of the psyche can I tempt?

Perhaps I can play on your curiosity, or a sense of nostalgia. Maybe I can give you another experience to share with your companion, a reason to prolong the time with friends, or even just give you a worthwhile treat for your sweet tooth.

What ever it is, examining my own motivations as a diner helps me ensure my desserts are worthy of your “yes.”

12 Responses to “Yes or No?”

  1. adam says:

    does your decision to not have dessert reflect the fact that you weren’t tempted by anything on the menu?

    i always struggle trying to come up with dessert concepts that will appeal to a broad range of diners, but we can never really be sure about the motivations of others.

    what might sound tempting to me, could fall flat for you.

    do you have a goal you aim for in terms of a percentage of covers that order dessert, or just switch things up if something doesn’t seem to be moving well?

  2. Barzelay says:

    I’ve often thought that you can’t really tell whether you’ve made something delicious until AFTER everyone is full. If people are full, but they’re still eating it–whatever it is–it’s got that certain something.

    French fries have that quality. Even bad french fries. No matter how full you’ve gotten, there is no point where you don’t want any more fries. You may be able to stop yourself, but you always want more. You may not be consciously aware of your desire for more fries, but you will keep eating them anyway.

  3. Sean says:

    The dessert at most restaurants is pretty sub-par, so why waste the calories? That’s why I usually end up saying “no.”

  4. Luke D says:

    I typically say no. There are many reasons for this, and they vary by the night. Here are a few:

    * I came to this restaurant for x/y/z, none of which are desert, so I ate as much as I wanted of x/y/z and am satisfied.
    * There is another place down the street that has the best x/y/z, so I’ll go there for desert.
    * The deserts look like they were added to the menu because “you have to have a desert menu”.
    * Often, I have better desert fixings at home that I can eat in comfort, after my meal has settled, and at a tiny fraction of the price.

    That being said, I do feel that a true end to end dining experience isn’t complete without a little something to follow up the meal. Any special occasion that I am a part of will be finished with a desert and a glass of something. There are also a select few restaurants (Poppy will be in this category) that have such excellent desert menus that they simply can not be ignored. When I come to one of these, I’ll almost always get desert, even if I’m full.

  5. kerri miller says:

    I usually say no because I’ve made and eaten enough creme brulee, tiramisu, sub-par sorbet, or mochi to last a lifetime.. those 4 items alone account for 80% of most places dessert menus.. why bother, unless its interesting?

    Seattle doesn’t seem to be much of a dessert town. :/

  6. As you know, I’m a dessert hound. I often request a copy of the dessert menu with the dinner menu so I can plan whether I want to save room….And lean towards the sweet over savory every time, but last night, for example: chocolate cake, chocolate cheese cake, or creme brule. Totally boring, uninspired offerings. Even the names were terrifically boring. But when the desserts came, they presented really well and then I was sorry I didn’t order one! Tempting a diner with dessert has a number of elements…from intriguing offerings, fun descriptions on the menu, and finally the presenation. There’s a lot of “selling” that goes into dessert long before I pick up a fork!

  7. Justin says:

    As a chef I love eating good desserts, but as other comments have said I usually skip them (even though I always have room for dessert) because nothing is interesting. I like to experience my food not just consume it.

  8. Roberto N. says:

    I have to agree with Justin on this one. If it’s interesting, or I have a special sugar crave at the moment, I might. Or if I’m at a new restaurant, I usually will go for dessert for the sake of discovery. But most meals usually end up with no dessert. Specially casual, weeknight dinners.

  9. Leora says:

    I look for something a little “different”. Which is why I always have to have the dessert thali because I can’t go to Poppy and leave without those nutter butter thingamajigs and the pate de fruit ;-), no matter how full I am. And the salted peanut ice cream at Spring Hill.

  10. Brittany says:

    It’s a professional courtesy for me to order dessert when I’m out to dinner, so I always try to. Especially if I’m at a joint where I know the desserts are solid. Of course it always depends on where I’m eating.

    When it comes to your menus, I pretty much always order one of everything, and then spend the next day fasting : )

  11. For me the decision is more about the occasion. If I’m eating out simply as a matter of convenience (traveling, or no time to cook, that sort of thing), then I don’t think to have dessert. If my daughter is with me, I’ll try to snarf a bite of her sundae if my negotiating skills are up to the task. But if I’m eating out as the “main event”, trying a restaurant because I’m excited about it or revisiting a place I’ve loved, dessert is automatically in my plans. I’ll try to share an app or go easy on the bread to make sure I can eat dessert with a reasonable degree of comfort, because it adds that final note of satisfaction. And it lets us linger at the table longer, prolonging the pleasure of the meal.

  12. Teresa says:

    I share the same thoughts of many of the people who have already commented. What quantifies the nights when I don’t order dessert? Most often, it is because it’s the same dessert list we see everywhere. Chocolate cake. Creme Brulee (no spirit, no individuality), Ice Cream de jour, Sorbet.

    The things that make me stand up and take notice are the things that break the same-old-same-old mold. These items often include the seasonal fruit creation signaling that the pastry chef is tuned in to to the fresh sheet at the farmer market. Or, if not, it’s the item that brings the fresh twist on the old favorite. Ginger Creme Brulee. Caramelized Pear (Not Apple) Tart. Etc.

    These touches, at the end of the meal, speak the loudest about the care and attention put into the entire menu from start to finish. A complete dining experience, in harmony with the flavors/theme/feeling of the restaurant, can make or break it for me.

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