If you’re the kind to flip immediately to a menu’s dessert page, maybe you can help us settle a score: We’re pitting rich, sensual chocolate against nature’s best to see which one makes for the ultimate sweet treat. These are the kinds of delicacies that warrant a visit all on their own, but you can grab some dinner while you’re at it too, we suppose.
S’more Jar, $7
The Old Goat, 2434 Eastern Ave. SE, Grand Rapids
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire … and a strong craving for s’mores. Cory DeMint, owner and president at The Old Goat, has been toying around with burnt whiskey marshmallow fluff, Mexican chocolate mousse and house-made graham cracker crumbles to create one more way to enjoy s’mores. You receive a fairly large portion served in a jar, along with cookies to help shovel it all in. This is a dish that appeals to almost everyone. According to DeMint, the best desserts are the ones “you can share with your kids, eat with your hands and have a touch of nostalgia, but still remain civilized.”
Banana Nutella Semifreddo, $7.50
Mangiamo, 1033 Lake Dr. SE, Grand Rapids
I’m all in when I read Nutella on a menu, and the trifecta of banana, ladyfingers and hazelnut whipped cream is sort of like a dream team of ingredients for me. For those who don’t know, semifreddo is a partially-frozen dessert, almost like an ice cream pie. Here, the Nutella is mixed into the cream filling and frozen. Then you’ll find the lady fingers at the back of the pie with puff pastry crust at the bottom. It’s been hanging out on the menu for a while now and is one of Mangiamo’s more popular desserts. Assistant Manager Molly Hale recommends pairing it with “the bartender’s Spanish coffee.”
Nonna’s: The Trattoria, 584 Ada Dr. SE, Ada
This dessert reminds owner Ron Cook of a “summer afternoon under a vine-covered terrace in a restaurant in Italy.” That’s a solid testimonial for this romantic and light Italian dessert made up of whipped egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine, served atop fresh strawberries with whipped cream. The inspiration is classic Northern Italy, where “dishes are simple with quality ingredients.” Zabaglione typically is served more in the summer months, often as a drink, but Nonna’s plays favorites and serves it year-round. It’s on the menu thanks to the owner and his wife living in Italy for a total of 18 years and wanting to serve an uncommon dish that Americans would appreciate. Bonus: It also happens to be gluten-free.
Tarta de Limón, $9
Cygnus 27, 187 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
This Spanish lemon tart speaks to those who “want that tart bite from the lemon and sweetness from the raspberries,” said Chef Stephan VanHeulen. “It’s a home run.” Thickened lemon custard is shaped into a mold and set atop a short dough crust, surrounded on all sides by toasted meringue, raspberry coulis sauce made with fresh raspberries, and a graham-cracker crumble. There’s even a fleck of 24-carat gold leaf so you feel like royalty. It’s pretty visually extravagant, so foodies should remember to take that picture before you dive in.