When I first started writing restaurant reviews in this Dining Out column 13 or so years ago, Mike Keating, my editor at the time, had to remind me to include more desserts in my coverage. I think he said something like, “You don’t like dessert much, do you?”
He was right. I did often neglect the sweet ending to the dining experience, but frankly, back then, the dessert course was often overlooked by the restaurant itself. Many of the offerings were fine, satisfying the need for a little something sweet at the end of a meal, maybe paired with coffee or a glass of brandy, but the dessert lists seemed like afterthoughts, something a restaurant had to have so, hey, here’s your molten chocolate lava cake -- enjoy!
The desserts were often made by other companies, good companies, sure, but not made in-house, and usually not created or presented to fit into the overall restaurant concept or philosophy. It was even rarer to find an on-site pastry chef.
Those days are over. Now, we have even more bakeries and pastry shops and many of our restaurant chefs spend as much time thinking about the final course as the first. Some even have pastry chefs on staff, baking bread in the morning and plating enticing desserts in the evening. Here are just a few of many spots in which to dine if you want to have dinner with a dessert finale flourish.
Black Trumpet Bistro
In addition to an Enna’s Chocolate tasting with selections from this new bean-to-bar chocolate maker, Steph Deihl brings us dessert selections that change with the seasons. A recent blueberry and corn trifle has layers of brown butter corn cake, sweet corn mousse and blueberry compote, and there’s a touch of whimsy to the dishes, as in a pink lemonade tart with berr compote, rose whip and candied rose petals.
Franklin Oyster House and Moxy
Tyler Elliot is now the pastry chef at Portsmouth’s Franklin Oyster House and Moxy, as well as sister restaurant Jumpin’ Jay’s Fish Cafe. While the whoopie pie sliders with chocolate dipping sauce at Moxy are now legendary, Tyler’s doing dishes like sweet cord biscuits with lavender ice cream, mascarpone cheesecake and grilled peaches and specials like a recent oat shortbread stack with Maine blueberries, roasted peaches and sour cream ice cream. At Franklin, find specials like a black-bottom banana-chocolate cream pie.
Stages at One Washington
You just don’t know what you’re going to enjoy at chef Evan Hennessey’s modernist cuisine restaurant in Dover. Whatever he gets in from the farm, forest or sea that day will find its way into your meal, and that includes dessert, always surprising, always a delight, with desserts that defy categorization. Go on a theme dinner night to get dishes inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Springtime in Paris, or A Christmas Carol.
Cava Tapas and Wine Bar
Find similar innovation and whimsy at Portsmouth’s Cava Tapas and Wine Bar, where the tapas concept lets you order a few dishes and share. Don’t miss Kristin’s famous churros with a hot chocolate sauce for dipping and then slipping some whiskey into for a spiked hot chocolate drink. An almond torta with pineapple and pomegranate is a light ending.
Mombo at Strawbery Banke offers familiar dessert ideas with fun variations. Crème Brûlée is topped with a cup made from shortbread filled with macerated strawberries, and do not miss chef Monica’s chocolate plate – all the chocolates you love in surprising forms and flavors.
Tinos Greek Kitchen
All of the desserts at Tinos have a Greek element, like a rustic apple crisp made with dates, or the traditional Greek donuts, loukomades with honey. Just go for the dessert mezze, which gets you those donuts as well as galaktoboureko (a custard), baklava, Greek cookies, and grapes dipped in chocolate.
Blue Moon Evolution
Get desserts both raw or gluten-free at this Exeter spot. The lemon cashew torte is both, made so tasty from agave syrup and nasturtium. The flourless chocolate cake with candied hazelnuts and salted caramel is a must.
You’ll want to indulge in a glass of amaro from Louie’s and do indulge, but your liquid digestif should be paired with their warm semolina cake with honey, brown butter crumble and sweet corn gelato or a simple lemon tart with strawberries, basil and sweet mascarpone.
Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Exeter (and Austin, Texas). She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of her Dining Out reviews online at www.seacoastonline.com/topics/dining-out.