Topping off Decadent Dining
Think of the words we use to describe dessert: tempting, rich, luscious, scrumptious and sinful. Something about a blend of sugar, cream, eggs, flour and chocolate causes us to give in to our cravings for just one, two or more-than-a-few sweet bites. Chocolate especially has captured our imagination, beginning with its origin as an ancient ceremonial drink of the Mayans and the Aztecs. Casanova is said to have considered chocolate a love potion and to have consumed vast quantities to maintain his amorous energy.
And who can blame him? Just one glimpse of a chef’s artistic concoctions on the dessert cart or one tantalizing description on a menu has me hooked. So for those who share an adoration for sweets, we present a sampling of delicious temptations too tasty to resist.
CLEARWATER—In this elegant restaurant with white linen tablecloths and attentive service, you’ll find amazing desserts that throw all caution to the wind. For pure chocolate indulgence, try the Flourless Chocolate Cake, a rich, thick, dense cake that could best be described as in between fudge and a brownie. Add crème anglaise, a lovely, smooth textured custard sauce, and burnt caramel ice cream for a fabulous pairing of flavors. It’s a rich and satisfying end to a perfect meal. But in case you just haven’t had enough, sample the Warm Chocolate Soufflé, an upside down soufflé topped with Tahitian Vanilla Bean ice cream and chocolate. Take one bite and the chocolate oozes out, similar to a lava cake.www.cafeponte.com
CITY STREET SWEETS
TAMPA—If you are a candy-aholic, watch out. This to-die-for candy shop is overflowing with mouth-watering confections. There are over 50 kinds of chocolate bark alone, plus 18 flavors of fudge, a dozen or more different chocolate truffles and classics like Gummi Bears, Atomic Fireballs, licorice and taffy. Hang out at the “Chocolate Lava Lounge” and enjoy the Cran-Gran-Blue chocolate bark. It’s made with dried cranberries, blueberries and granola mixed with 72 percent cocoa dark chocolate. Other equally out-of-the-ordinary flavors include Chipotle Chilean Pepper, Spicy Peanut and Mudslide. For something different, experience handmade specialties on “Caramel Revolution Row” and indulge in a Caramel Chocolate Cookie Swirl CraZapple.www.citystreetsweets.com
CONCH REPUBLIC GRILL
NORTH REDINGTON BEACH—Dress casually for this laid-back, beach-style restaurant located right across from the water. The restaurant’s name is taken from Key West’s amusing, but short-lived announcement in 1982 that they were “seceding from the Union” and reinventing themselves as the new “Conch Republic.” Try the Bananas Foster served tableside, a showy presentation that starts with the waiter cooking up butter and brown sugar to create a sweet syrup, followed with a little cream and then fresh sliced bananas, all doused with several liqueurs, including a banana-flavored one and Triple Sec, with its distinctive citrus flavor. The whole concoction is set aflame and after the fire dies out, it’s poured over two crepes filled with vanilla ice cream. Wow.www.conchrepublicgrill.com
OLDSMAR—Campfire S’mores are the perfect finishing touch to a meal at this sizzling American restaurant featuring fire-grilled steaks and seafood. When you order this creative twist on an outdoor campfire favorite, the waiter brings a tiny hibachi grill to the table, along with plenty of marshmallows and a supply of graham crackers coated in thick Godiva chocolate. Toast the marshmallows to your liking, golden brown to blackened, and then smash the gooey mess inside the cracker sandwich—chocolate, espresso and key lime flavored creamy custards, all arranged in individual pots on a decorative wrought iron frame.www.flamestonegrill.com
ST. PETERSBURG—Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream, smoother and less filling than the American style with 75 percent less butterfat. It’s also served at a warmer temperature to bring out the flavors. At Paciugo Gelato, you’ll find a creamy “Tuscany” version made with milk, eggs and sugar, and a “Sicilian” style comprising water, fresh fruit and sugar, similar to a sorbet. No preservatives or corn syrup are used, only natural ingredients. Choose from a dazzling array of flavors, from Fondente, an extra dark Belgian chocolate that is pure heaven for chocolate lovers, to the unusual Vanilla Black Pepper Olive Oil, a surprisingly fantastic flavor of creamy vanilla blended with a pinch of black pepper for a subtle bite.www.paciugo.com