And since we've also been thinking about inspiration from restaurants here's an inspiration for post-dinner sweets from a Southern restaurant chain. Mini indulgences! Yes, that name is super-cheesy, and the conceit of this restaurant's whole menu feels a little silly, to us. Every menu item is under 475 calories (dinner entrees too) and the whole menu is driven by the seasons. But while the combination of calorie-watching and seasonality feels a little contrived to us, it is a very pleasant place to eat.
The desserts are especially inspiring. What they've done is take inspiration from the popular French layered dessert, the verrine, and riffed off other popular American desserts like Key Lime pie and carrot cake, and created layered versions in small glasses. They are rich, sweet, and yet not filling. You feel sated after one of these sweets, and it is so elegantly presented in a pretty little glass that you feel like the dessert course has been duly honored. You can see their full list of "mini indulgences" at their website:
• Mini Indulgences at Seasons 52
Verrines are very versatile desserts. They are simply ingredients layered in a small glass or pot. We are not telling you that they are the easiest small dessert, of course; they are often time-consuming because they involve layers of distinct ingredients. Pudding, nut crumble, cake, whipped topping, and so on. But we think that these are a great inspiration for quick and easy last-minute dessert bites that can be assembled with what you've got on hand. For instance:
• Greek yogurt, vanilla, walnuts, fruit
• Whipped cream, fresh strawberries, finely chopped mint, a sprinkle of muscovado
• Vanilla ice cream, cookie crumbs, almonds
• Quick stovetop pudding, blackberry jam, a drizzle of cream
• Squares of good chocolate, melted over squares of toasted bread, sprinkled with salt
Are there small goodies in your cupboards that, layered in a pretty glass, would feel like a special dessert? Are there pantry basics that do double-duty as a layer in a verrine? Look around your cupboards and your refrigerator, if you are looking for one small sweet thing to close out a meal. Sometimes you don't need to make something new at all; you can find something very satisfying in combining three or four things you already have on hand.
(Image: Seasons 52)