Savor: The Icing on the Cake

BY Emily Russell

Childhood brings with it memories of favorite desserts. Maybe Mom’s insurmountable cookies or Grandma’s banana pudding — laced with perfectly crumbly vanilla wafers? The taste was familiar and beloved something you hoped for and looked forward to after big family meals. It might not surprise you (or your sweet tooth) to learn that desserts have been an after-dinner comfort to humankind for thousands of years: The Romans and Ancient Egyptians both made sweet treats with honey and the tradition of English puddings extends back into the Middle Ages.

In spite of its considerable length the tale of dessert is far from over. Its latest chapter takes place in restaurants across the country where delicious new concoctions are being created every day.

Today’s chefs are bravely bending the rules of what makes a dessert a dessert with bold combinations of different cultures and flavors working in atmospheres ranging from pinstriped elegance to down-home country. This isn’t to say that they’ve left old favorites behind — familiar dishes like strawberry shortcake and crème brûlée are also on the menu brought lovingly up to date. For a taste of the variety and ingenuity that makes today’s desserts so different from yesterday’s these Wrightsville Beach chefs offer us some of the coolest sweets in town.

“We’re always trying to develop new things ” says David Herring general manager of Sweet and Savory. “We like the sweetness of Southern cooking the style of French cooking and the innovation of California.” Sweet and Savory’s bright and easygoing atmosphere is intensified by large glass cases near the door which sparkle with a selection of carefully prepared desserts. Started as a bakery by Herring and his wife Kimber in 1992 Sweet and Savory has long been known for its fabulous baked goods. Popular desserts include strawberries and crème a take on traditional strawberry shortcake with vanilla cake in place of ladyfingers and a topping of vanilla mousse with fresh sugared strawberries and a rich Bavarian chocolate torte topped with vanilla and chocolate mousse. “Here in the South we like sweet things ” Herring notes with a smile. His restaurant’s cuisine which shines with both unexpected flavors and familiar comforts certainly provides that.

Equally fond of sweets is Thierry Moity chef and co-owner of swank Zooi Euro Bistro located in The Forum shopping center. “Every dessert here is made from scratch ” he observes. Zooi might also be the only restaurant in Wilmington that makes its own sorbet — served in a bouquet of fruity flavors it’s perfect for cooling down in the lingering September heat. Zooi’s modern and elegant atmosphere is reflected in its equally elegant mixture of European cuisine and nowhere does that cuisine shine brighter than when it’s time for something sweet. A mouth-watering napoleon featuring layers of white and red bavarois (Bavarian cream) is a completely satisfying end to your meal — the restaurant also offers a different kind of crème brûlée every day in flavors varying from classic to innovative such as chocolate coffee and even lavender or chestnut.

Ash Aziz’s restaurant empire extends over much of the Wilmington area. His four restaurants — Boca Bay Circa 1922 Max’s Steak House and Brasserie du Soleil — are famous for their delicious food and distinctive atmosphere. All the desserts for these high-class restaurants are from the hands of pastry chef Danielle Feaster. “Desserts should be fun ” Danielle tells us. “They should be simple and people should know what they’re eating.”

Indeed all of Danielle’s desserts contain some measure of familiar childhood comforts. The delicious white chocolate croissant bread pudding served at Max’s Prime Steakhouse is one of many desserts that contain echoes of old Southern favorites. Perhaps one of the cleverest repackagings of such favorites comes in Brasserie’s mini dessert selection — served in 3-ounce shooters these 12 desserts are daintily priced and practically guilt-free. “They’re the perfect end to a meal for people who are conscious about what they eat ” Danielle says. Amongst the dark wood and gleaming metal that gives Brasserie its almost Victorian charm they are only one of the restaurant’s many delights.