Deciding Dessert First

Food & Drink

Life is short and unpredictable. Eat the dessert first!

Helen Keller

While Helen Keller made a great point, I am not talking about eating dessert first. I’m speaking of deciding which dessert first. In most restaurants selecting the delicious ending comes after you finish your meal. Most likely, you’ll choose and eat three courses, including a shared appetizer, soup or salad, and a complete entrée. THEN, the server presents you with the dessert menu. But you’re too full to order it.

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Call me crazy, but dessert requires some planning. When cooking at home, it isn’t an afterthought, and it shouldn’t be in a restaurant. I ask to see the dessert menu right upfront. Even more daring is requesting the server to bring the dessert tray before ordering. Why risk what others might think is crazy behavior?

First, I want to decide if the dessert menu has something I enjoy. If so, I may forgo that appetizer to save room for dessert. I remember in the late ‘90s when the chocolate raspberry pairing was all the rage. I traveled a lot on business and ate in restaurants every night. The first thing I asked the server was, “Do you have any chocolate raspberry desserts on the menu?” I was immediately saddened if not, wishing I would have called ahead. I often selected a restaurant because they had a chocolate raspberry dessert, sometimes calling ahead to ask. So, knowing if I need to save room for dessert is at the top of the list. You might want a lighter entrée, if so.

What No Dessert?

I’ve also been surprised to find some restaurants that don’t serve dessert. I’ve found this out a bit too late on some occasions when I didn’t decide first. Believe it or not, some BBQ restaurants and pizza parlors don’t offer dessert.

Second, dessert menus traditionally have fewer selections than the entrée menu, so it’s more challenging to choose a sweet ending if you’ve already selected an entrée. Choose the dessert and then figure out what entrée will go with it. An example might be the delicious looking apple crostata. That will pair better with a pork entrée than perhaps a main beef dish.

Third, consider its size. A light sorbet allows room for a more decadent entrée yet pairs well with a lighter fish dish.

A Themed Dinner

Finally, you may want your meal to have an underlying theme, such as cheese or fruit. I remember one meal at the now closed Logan’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where each course had cheese integrated into the dish. The starter consisted of a cheese trio shared with the table. The trio featured a Gruyere fritter, Halloumi, and a goat cheese mousse. The chef paired each cheese item with its sauce for an exceptional bite. My favorite was the Gruyere fritter, with a tomato tamarind sauce, slightly sweet against the cake’s exterior crunch. A lemon cream aioli came drizzled over the Halloumi. Finally, a tasty goat cheese mousse came topped with a Parmesan Cheese Frico. The sweet onion marmalade was a balanced counterpoint against the salty frico.

The second course was a brothy and surprisingly light beer cheese soup featuring Gruyere.

Wanting to boost our veggie intake, my husband and I shared the Vegetable Blues Salad. While it had no lettuce, the chef mixed julienned strips of fennel, carrots, celeriac, onion, and red pepper into a homemade Point Reyes blue cheese dressing. They paired it with Parmesan herb biscuits made from whole wheat dough. The Parmesan added another cheese layer, accompanied by a perfect butter quenelle.

The entrée was a braised boneless beef short rib accompanied by a French potato au gratin. Here the cheese played a supporting role. But when I reached dessert, I hadn’t planned and had to go with the crème brûlée, as there wasn’t a cheesecake on the menu. That said, the dairy in the crème brûlée made it work.

Bananas Foster

Read about my meal at Olivia’s Chophouse in Jonesville, Michigan, where I selected dessert first, and I was so glad I saved room for a flaming Bananas Foster made tableside. What about you? In the comments, tell me, do you consider dessert first, or wait until the meal’s end to decide?

Want to read more about chocolate desserts? Check out my post on celebrating World Chocolate Day.

Pin this to your favorite dessert board to read later!

Butterscotch Pudding at The Common Grill in Chelsea, Michigan
Amy Piper
Author: Amy Piper

While Piper is a lifelong Michigander, she’s had adventures worldwide. Bomb-sniffing dogs chased her in the middle of the night in Bogota (working late), gate agents refused her boarding to Paraguay (wrong visa), and US Marshals announced her seat number on a plane while looking for a murder suspect (she’d traded seats). It’s always an adventure! She even finds exciting activities in her home state of Michigan, where she lives in Lansing with her husband, Ross Dingman, her daughter, Alexis, and two granddaughters.


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  1. Ivan Kralj

    Oh, I always have space for a Dessert! Only once it happened in Greece, when all portions were Humongous, that eating a dessert came under a question mark. Still, I rather left pieces of a starter and a main on a plate, as they were gigantic, and focused my appetite on the sweetest ending 😉

  2. 8junkies8

    Loved this article – it’s a pity some eating spots don’t offer desserts.

  3. Bonnie Carlson

    All excellent suggestions for choosing dessert first but what we like to do in a place we already know has, say, a cheesecake we like, is ask for it to be served with the entree so it has time to warm up. This is a good idea for nearly any cake you might like to eat! They are always kept cold but are best eaten at room temp.



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Welcome to Follow the Piper! Discover interesting destinations, and practical planning tips for packing more travel into your everyday life.

Our founder and author, Amy Piper, is a freelance travel writer, blogger, photographer, and author specializing in traveling through a food lens and multi-generational travel. She is a native Michigander who travels through the lens of a food lover and has been to 41 countries and 45 states.


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