Sunday, June 12, 2011

Is Fruit a Dessert?

While I would not normally consider myself a lucky person, I have been fortunate enough to win Bespoke Cuisine’s Facebook giveaways twice. Bespoke Cuisine, started by corporate America dropouts, is a West Loop cooking party venue where, under the guidance of classically trained chefs, apron-clad guests prepare a four-course gourmet meal in the kitchen and then later enjoy the fruits of their work in the dining room, all while drinking BYOB wine. For food enthusiasts like myself, it doesn’t get much better than this, and I highly recommend it. Occasionally, if an evening party has a couple open spots left, Bespoke Cuisine will give these admissions for free on their Facebook page to the first person that comments on their status. Once I found this out, I immediately became a fan and signed up for text messages of status updates, allowing me to receive this information immediately and beat others to the comment of “Yes please!”. An $80 delicious, four-course dinner and intensive cooking lesson for FREE? HELL YES. And now I wish I hadn’t told you about these promotions because you will all sign up and lessen my chances of winning…

Always cook with a glass of wine nearby.
The recent dinner  theme I won was Asian Grilling, whose upscale summer-barbecue courses drew influences from Thailand, China, Korea, and Japan. I invited my old college roommate Stephanie, who is new to both Chicago and any method of cooking besides microwave defrosting, to join me; she happily accepted, excited to explore Chicago activities and dining, but even more so to learn the skills that will one day make her an adequate wife and mother. We signed up to make the main course, salmon burgers.  While it was borderline shameful to mince such large, gorgeous, orange-hued slabs of fish, not to mention extremely slimy, the end product was absolutely amazing: a soft pretzel bun served as the foundation for a tender patty formed with hunks of perfectly cooked salmon, green onion, and cilantro, held together with hoisin sauce, seasoned with ginger and garlic, and topped with arugula and wasabi mayonnaise. The other courses were delicious as well: shrimp-mango wontons and chicken satays with peanut sauce to start; endive and Asian pear salad for the second; and an edamame and rice salad topped with avocado as the side with the burger. However, the one course I was skeptical about was dessert: grilled mango parfaits topped with lemongrass whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Bowl of grilled mango = breakfast.
So right about now you are probably thinking that complaining about the dessert course of the free gourmet meal that I actively sought makes me an ungrateful food snob; that I had three other amazing courses that should have filled me up anyway; that dessert is not necessary; that if I still had a sweet craving I could find another dessert after. Believe me, I was thinking the same things myself. But, my philosophy of “dessert = ridiculously indulgent” got the best of me. Fruit for dessert?! Really?! A bowl of fruit is a breakfast or a snack, NOT a dessert. Fruit is a dessert only if it is baked into a flaky pie crust, topped by a warm crumble and cold ice cream, or topping a fluffy cheesecake. Not even this lemongrass whipped cream concoction could save this dish: it contained no sugar, reminding me of a whippier version of the yogurt that tops my breakfast fruit each morning. The toasted coconut was good, but again, no savior. While I understand that lighter-feeling desserts are often desirable, especially in hotter weather, a dish such as this just was not satisfying, and therefore not even worth eating, as whipped cream is not exactly good for you. I’ll take my calories in a slice of cake.

Stephanie agrees with me. While an overall healthy eater, his girl has no limits when it comes to dessert. During Halloween time in college, we had a small candy trunk in our apartment kitchen that emitted a witch’s cackle when opened to grab a piece of candy. For the several weeks that we had that trunk sitting out, a witch cackled daily at 8am as Stephanie tried and failed to discretely select her nutritious candy breakfast. So, I had a feeling she would not consider fruit a dessert either, and was correct in this assumption.

Does this look like dessert to you?
Another woman at the communal dinner table likened the fruit dessert to a certain brand of lemon cookies she buys that she claims are “just okay”: that way, she eats only one, and has no desire to eat another after that. Perhaps some people have more self control, but if I ate one cookie that was “just okay,” immediately upon finishing I would be searching for another dessert that was really good and exactly what I wanted before trying to fool myself with a “just okay” cookie. Why not have one square of chocolate that packs a punch? Or even a small amount of a dessert that blows out your taste buds, leaving you savoring the experience, thinking, “Damn, now that was DESSERT.” This just further confirms my philosophy that ridiculously indulgent desserts are key to a happy, fulfilled life. If you are going to have dessert, have DESSERT. I would much rather waste 1,000 calories on something indulgent and satiating than 500 on something that is “just okay” and not satisfying in the least. And I would rather waste zero calories on grilled fruit with lemongrass whipped cream and toasted coconut. Hence, my business model.

Leave comments below letting me know your thoughts on this topic. Also, take the poll at the top: Is fruit a dessert? I am interested to see whether people agree.

1 comment:

Stephanie Severyn said...

FRUIT ALONE AS A DESSERT?!? While this post has already accurately summarized my take on this issue, I might add that anyone who would include apples, bananas, or grapes in the same food category as Nicole's mouth-watering no-bake peanut butter pies, velvety dark-chocolate raspberry brownies, or decadent peanut butter and chocolate layered birthday cake brownie tower has clearly never experienced the savory wonders of this girl's creations. Granted, I don't doubt her ability to transform a fruit into a baked good worthy of the "dessert" classification, as I've heard she makes a delicious berry cobbler, but only after she has worked her magic can a fruit actually be considered a dessert. Take it from a girl who, as the Halloween chest confirmed, knows and loves her desserts. So proud of you, Nicole!