Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Eat: Top 10 Desserts

Growing up, I had a major sweet tooth. Every weeknight and weekend dinner was followed by some form of dessert, whether it be ice cream, cookies, a Swiss roll or a Mae West (hey, either you get it or you don't!). It was a very tough habit to break. Over the last few years however, I've slowed down on the sugar intake, often indulging in a second helping of dinner rather than a sweet dessert. Also, my taste has evolved from simply wanting "anything chocolate" to wanting something slightly more savoury or complex. 

The desserts that make up this list are not goodies that I have often (except for the cupcake habit that I had to wean myself off of) so I still get really excited when I do get to enjoy them. Here is a top 5 list that doesn't respect the rules. I could narrow it down to 5 but with so many ethnic food options in Montreal it's much too difficult to choose less than 10. No homemade options on this list; just goodies from my favourite sweet shops around town and a few restaurant desserts that make me giddy. 
There are cupcakes and then there are Cho'Cola Carrot Cupcakes. It's all about the cream cheese icing here, and they pile it on high. Cho'Cola makes a wonderful carrot cake as well, but the cake batter mix is subtly different and the cupcake version is my preferred choice for its moistness and spice. No nuts in this version (Cho'Cola is a nut free establishment) which is fine by me. This dessert makes me want to sing 'you are my sunshine' when I eat it, it really does elevate my mood.
Last year's trip to Paris introduced me to macarons and now life will never be the same. Wonderful little mouthfuls of pure flavour and texture, they are bliss in two amazing bites. How they get such pronounced flavour I will never know, nor do I care. I was so excited to discover the existence of our own Macaron shops in Montreal, and they do a fabulous job. I must point out that it's worth the trip to these shops rather than getting a macaron from a random pastry shop that doesn't specialize in these babies. My preference is Point G for their vivid colours and vibrant flavours, and also because their packaging makes for perfectly protected macarons. La maison de macarons uses muted colors but I would never turn down one of their fleur de sel caramel or gigi & co chocolate macaron versions. Oui, Oui Oui, Point G! ;-)

I know there are a million zeppole versions out there, especially with Easter on its way, but the one that beats out all the others for me is from Artigiani on St. Denis. Warm, fried dough coated with a sweetened ricotta (like cannoli) filling and a warm honey drizzle, I absolutely want the whole plate to myself. Traditionalists be damned, I care very little for the whipped cream or custard fillings that often fill zeppoli's around town. I only have eyes for Artigiani's decadent version. I'm due for some of this gooey goodness, it is almost Easter after all!

I wouldn't be exaggerating if I told you that I had between 1-3 Natas a day during my 10 day visit to Portugal. The meals were hearty but I owe most my weight gain to this perfect little tart. The custard is sweet but still pleasantly bland, and the crust is the perfect balance between flakey and chewy. My natas MUST have 'caramelization' all over the surface of the custard because that's where the flavour lives!! I am sure with all the great Portuguese restos/bakeries in town that there are dozens of good versions (I've had some bad ones too) but Romados and Coco Rico are my old standbys, and I rarely leave without buying at least 6 of these beauties (not to mention a chicken sandwich and roasted potatoes, but that's another story).

  • Künefe @ Su
I have only had this once, but the experience stayed with me. It' was a dessert of the day, that has since been added as a recipe in the owner/author's cookbook (Su). Basically its a middle eastern phylo dough called kadaïf that is shredded (looks a lot like rice noodles) and fried with cheese and topped with syrup and pistachios and pomegranate. It's warm oozy gooey goodness, savoury and sweet. The pomegranate accents may seem non-essential but they really elevate the taste and should not be excluded. If I can't get Künefe again at the restaurant I might be forced to make it myself, and I fear I might mar my perfect memory of this delightful dish.

  • Warm Apple Pie with cheddar @ Amelio's
Just to be clear, I don't like apple pie. There are so many bad apple pies out there; it's never my first choice when I have options for dessert unless I get a good look at it first and can verify if it meets my "picky girl" taste. I would never have ordered this without having tasted someone else's first. At the time I couldn't fathom pairing cheddar and apple pie, but I now know they were meant to be combined. Served warm, the saltiness from the cheddar coats the buttery flaky crust and blends with the cinnamon/nutmeg spice on the apples with every bite. Pure happiness.
Warm Dulce de leche fills the churrochurros with its sugar crust and then getting the dulce de leech flavour. I never want another empty churro, it must be filled with dulce de leche!! They were made for each other! This restaurant is awesome for so many reasons; this dessert is just one of many menu items that make me giddy to go back.

I guess you could go to 90% of the indian restaurants in Montreal and get a decent gulab jamun (with as many ways of spelling Gulab Jamun). My preference (nay, NEED) is for it to be served warm - I am so disappointed when I get a styrofoam cup of 2-3 milk balls as part of my delivery order and it has been chilled. Boooo! That cardamom and rose water syrup has made me an addict, and I didn't even know I liked those flavours.

Some people prefer their cannoli stuffed with whipped cream, others enjoy custard, while other still prefer a ricotta/icing sugar mix. I desire only the ricotta filling; I can take or leave the chocolate chips that sometimes end up mixed into it. Cavallero's is one of my favourite summer time Saturday afternoon nosh locations. Their Italian meats, cheeses and bread make for delicious sandwiches and their potato chicken empanadas make me grin from ear to ear. Combined with a not too sweet, ricotta filled cannoli and a Limonata and I am one (stuffed) happy camper.
I won't eat just any tapioca pudding. My 'picky girl' rules dictate that only ChuChai tapioca pudding will do. ChuChai serves their version warm, with a thick layer of coconut solid on top. The salty flavour of the coconut is already wonderful but combining it with simple syrup for sweetness is heaven. A small serving but big on flavour.

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