I started my celebration today, as everyone should, by having a cookie for breakfast. I can’t say that this was motivated by it being National Dessert Day. Rather it came from seeing the container of fresh cookies on our counter this morning and remembering how good those cookies were. In any case, I popped open the tupperware, grabbed a cookie which was sill soft and chewy, and started my celebration.
I had a hard time trying to figure out how to celebrate this one. It was almost too broad a holiday to try to narrow down. I’ve certainly celebrated a lot of desserts over the last 75 days including cake, cookies and bars just in the last week alone. I guess this quest is spoiling me on desserts. I tried to think of some local spots that have some really good desserts that we could go taste, and there are many. I kept going back to the Brick Alley Pub in Newport which is one of our favorite spots (it’s kind of everyone’s favorite spot). It’s also the place where our Mike & Tina work too, so we always feel so welcomed when we are there. On one of our visits, Our Tina, being nice, sent us over their famous Ghirardelli Brownie Heaven dessert as a little surprise (it’s a triple chocolate walnut brownie served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, sliced almonds, whipped cream and shaved Ghirardelli chocolate.) So good. That was the dessert that kept popping up in my mind’s eye when I kept thinking about dessert. I should say that Tina also has her own dessert on the menu at the Pub (Tina’s Bread Pudding with caramel rum sauce). I am not sure if I have ever tried it because we are usually so full when we finish our meal there, but it sounds awesome. In any case, when it came down to it, we got a little lazy and didn’t feel like making the trip into Newport.That’s when I realized it was time to just play this one smart. If that was my ideal dessert (and I’ve been a sucker for a brownie sundae since I was little), then I really had all the fixings for a good one right at home. We stayed in on a nice relaxing Friday night. We had a nice little dinner, watched a movie and just chilled. When it was time for dessert, I just took one of the M&M cookie bars that I had made yesterday, heated them up so they would be warm, scooped on some vanilla ice cream, topped it with chocolate and caramel sauce, sprayed on some whipped cream and sprinkled with jimmies. It was every bit of delicious as it sounds. So while I didn’t go crazy for dessert day, I was able to save some resources and use what I had available to make a pretty happy ending. The spirit of dessert is to top off your day with some sweet joy, and I certainly did that in style.
Lola and I tried to think of our top five dessert list of all time from all our travels. That’s a tough question. The Fluffernutter Pierogi that we had last Saturday was ranking pretty high but we didn’t know if that was because it was so fresh in our minds. We couldn’t really come up with a definitive list, but we did agree on our all time favorite: the Louisiana Bread Pudding Soufflé at the Palace Grill in Santa Barbara, CA.
We were out there on one of our trips to visit Op and Sted at their ranch (actually, we were on our honeymoon). We hadn’t planned to stay in Santa Barbara for any length of time, but due to unforeseen circumstances (poison ivy), we ended up staying there for about a week while Lola recovered. Consequently, we had done no research into this great city and did not know what to expect. And if you have to ‘end up’ anywhere, Santa Barbara is a pretty incredible spot to land. Great views, great people and great restaurants. We found the Palace Grill because we were just walking by and they seemed pretty busy and lively. Plus there was a Zydeco band playing on the sidewalk for guests waiting. Lola actually joined in for a song with them too, playing the frottoir for a song (she really did!) When we went inside, the place was full of energy. The staff was happy, the guests were smiling – it was a full on party. When we sat down, after the usual pleasantries with our waiter and drink orders, he asked if we might want to order the soufflé for dessert, because if we did, it needs at least 20 minutes to cook. How can you say no to that?
I can’t tell you what we had for dinner (although Lola probably could – she has an incredible memory for good food). I recall getting some kind of Cajun martini to drink which was made with a hot pepper which wasn’t my favorite but I wanted to be adventurous. This restaurant does things right and they take the team service concept to new heights. One of their traditions is to have a group sing-a-long to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” when the song gets played in the restaurant (which much be every hour or so). Everyone (guests, servers, managers, cooks) stops what they are doing, raises their glass and sings loud and long. The lyrics are printed out for you too, so you had no excuses not to join in. It may sound a little hokey like Bugaboo Steakhouse, but it’s not. It’s fun and really part of the experience. I’ve not seen anything like it anywhere else.
After dinner, when our soufflé came, it was a beautiful little pot of puffed up glory. It was hot and sweet and the Whiskey Cream Sauce it was served with was the perfect complement. It’s been over nine years since we were there, and it still stands out as being incredible. That’s a pretty good dessert. While we were finishing up, the band from the sidewalk came inside on a break and we actually invited the leader over to join us for a drink. We sat with him for a while and he told us a couple of tales about his Zydeco adventures while Lola, as politely as she could in front of our guest, licked the bottom of the soufflé plate clean. Maybe that dessert is memorable because of the whole evening and because of the time and place we were in our lives, but it still stands out as being the best and someday, we’ll be back for more.
So that’s how we celebrated National Dessert Day. Not only did we enjoy our homemade treats, but we also smiled in the memories of desserts past. I guess that’s a pretty good way to do it. To my loyal readers, my challenge to you is to tell us about your favorite dessert. We’ve got more places to explore and we are always looking for the best in sweet endings. Plus, its always fun to recall and share your sweetest memories.
Next up: National Sweetest Day