It’s not just because of Lent: There seems to be an overall lessening in the importance of dessert at many restaurants. Writes Adam Platt on Grub Street:
Not so long ago, new kitchens of the highest rank were defined, in large part, by their ability to produce a glamorous crescendo of sweets at the end of every meal. Too often, these days, restaurant meals end with pre-made puddings (or panna cottas, watery rice puddings, and the ever-durable chocolate pot du crème) and scoop after scoop of of antically flavored ice cream (olive oil, sea salt, etc.).
We are a far cry from the culinary constructions of Carême. Michel Richard, who began his career as a patissier (pictured left with his signature Napoleon), once tried to reconstruct one of the legendary chef’s creations, but the dimensions were seemingly impossible—did Carême really pull off what he had sketched? For one banquet in 1815, Carême and his team had supposedly brought out 56 desserts. According to biographer Ian Kelly, these included meringues stuffed with vanilla cream, verjuice jellies molded with fruit cooked in Madeira, and plates of fondue.
So why the decline? Is it our diets? The economy? Platt speculates,
In today’s post-recessionary dining economy, dessert chefs tend to be viewed by your average restaurateur starting out in Cobble Hill (or even the West Village or midtown) as a luxury. More and more of the restaurants I review don’t even employ full-time dessert cooks, which is why their menus are flooded with pre-made pies, cakes, and puddings that can be put together ahead of time and whisked out to diners as quickly as possible.
There’s more, and it’s all worth a read.
Hat tip: Richard Starr