Ah, dessert; is there a comfort food more exciting, more drool inducing or more maligned?
You know what I’m talking about. Sporting a voracious appetite, you sit down for a meal at the restaurant of your choice with every intention of leaving room for dessert, but when the time comes, you’re just too stuffed to attempt it. Bellaria interruptus, the heartbreak of premature satiation.
That may have been true at one time, but I have long maintained that one of the best parts about being an adult is I can have dessert first. I can even forego dinner completely and make dessert my meal. Decadent, I know, but worth every calorie and gram of fat.
Why? Because dessert satisfies completely. It doesn’t need a meal to recommend it. And that, more than anything, has become a motivating factor on those evenings when a burger, a burrito or a salad just won’t do.
But lest you think this a childish pursuit, let me disabuse you of that notion. In many countries, the act of sharing dessert with a friend is considered highly civilized, whether it is served with a fresh coffee, or better, a fine wine. In fact, a sommelier friend once told me that when it comes to desserts, not serving wine is a crime, something I’m guilty of, but willing to decant whenever possible.
OK, so where can one go on a sultry Las Cruces evening to find a generously endowed display case filled with an assortment of delectable confections, an abundant wine and beer menu and pots of fresh coffee? Only one place comes to mind: Sí Italian Bistro & Bakery. Finding a couple of friends to take the plunge with me wasn’t hard at all.
We made our intentions clear the minute we walked through the door, waving away the proffered menus and making a beeline for the display case where, like starving German children with a weakness for crone pied-a-terre, we selected our booty. We then took our seats and, after ordering our drinks, awaited our repast.
The first to arrive was the coconut cream pie, a light and fluffy first course, bursting with custard and whipped cream and sprinkled liberally with toasted coconut. It was, surprisingly enough, found to be perfectly paired with the citrus notes of Blue Moon beer. Who knew?
Next up was the tiramisu, with its strong coffee taste and slight cacao bitterness, which perfectly complemented the sweet, creamy mascarpone cheese and espresso-drenched sponge cake. The Villa Pozzi Cabernet Sauvignon was a delightful complement.
For the female contingent of our party, the delicate lemon mousse cake was delivered, sporting four layers of airy white cake, frosted with a light and zesty lemon mousse and drizzled with vanilla syrup. Her reaction: “It’s like the best wedding cake you’ll ever eat!” For this one, a light fruity wine, like a late harvest Riesling, would be perfect.
The preliminaries aside, it was time to get to business. The Italian cream cake fit that bill beautifully, with four layers of dark chocolate cake, armored with chocolate ganache, then both topped and filled with light, sweet Italian cream. There were so many flavors going on here, it was hard to decide on what drink would be best. In the end it was a toss-up between port and espresso.
Next was the granddaddy of all indulgences, Death By Chocolate, a healthy wedge of four dense chocolate layers, intercut with fudgy chocolate ganache and drizzled with chocolate and caramel syrups. Despite the name, the combination of flavors was subtle – well, as subtle as chocolate on chocolate action can be – but when combined with the Cabernet Sauvignon, it became a slice of hedonist heaven.
Which barely left room for the raspberry cheescake, the dessert of desserts. Light and creamy, with swirls of raspberry and a “crust” of crumbled white cake, it was easily the best cheesecake I’ve had in a very long while. Though it was tasty with red wine, I suspect a lively moscato would have been a more favorable pairing.
Plates scraped clean and glasses emptied, we ignored the jealous stares of the other, more conventional, gourmands around us and settled up. Our server, Gina, smiled knowingly and congratulated us on a job well done. She understood perfectly. Sometimes the “last” course is better served as the first.
Or the only, as the case may be.
This review was originally published in the June 21, 2013 issue of The Las Cruces Bulletin. All rights reserved. The name was changed because the fucking template didn’t allow for the original title to be used. “One of the JOYS of using WordPress,” he said sarcastically.