Dessert in this town: oy.
Deconstructed pie (or “decomposed,” as an addled server at Blue Duck Tavern explained one of the sweets on the menu to a friend of mine last year). Precious portions that are carried off without flair or exuberance. Sorbets everywhere.
Now comes an insidious little innovation called “dessert for two.”
Take the peach crisp at chef RJ Cooper’s new Gypsy Soul in Falls Church. It’s listed as “for two,” and charges accordingly ($14). Daniel Boulud’s DBGB launched last month in City Center with a baked Alaska, also for two and also charging accordingly: $14.
Nor is the trend limited to the splashy and cheffy. Jeff Black’s Pearl Dive, on 14th Street, has an apple pie for two. Founding Farmers, a kind of Bob’s Big Boy for the World Bank set, offers its chocolate mousse for two. At Kellari, the Greek fish emporium on K Street, the chocolate dessert—there’s one at every restaurant, always—is a trio of tastes, and it, too, is priced for two.
A couple things are going on here.
One is that the economy still isn’t great, food costs are high, and restaurateurs are loath to jack up the costs of their entrées. So what they do is, they pinch at either end of the menu.
That’s one reason appetizer costs are skyrocketing (I’ll talk more about this next week).
The final course of the night is an even more prime place to pinch.
Prices for desserts have remained steady in recent years, even as pastry chefs are becoming extinct in all but a handful of restaurants and the selection in most restaurants has become pitifully uncreative. (The only thing more annoying these days than hearing “Are you still working on that?” or “Let me tell you how the menu works” is seeing: “scoop of gelato or ice cream $9.”)
“Dessert for two” is another low-cost gambit for turning a profit. Restaurateurs know that couples who go out to dinner tend to split a single dessert, so coming up with desserts for two is a shrewd way to squeeze more money from the cover.
Good for them, I guess. But do we really need two slices each of baked Alaska? Is a peach crisp really the kind of thing you want to eat an entire casserole dish of?
And even more to the point: do we really want to be made to feel that dessert, which should be all about joyous indulgence, is becoming little more than a cynical exercise in maximizing profit?