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Guilty Pleasures: What's for Dessert?

The hunger for something sweet at the end of a meal has existed for most of our written recollection of mankind. It's thought to revitalize the palate and leave a sweet flavor, as opposed to savory, in your mouth. While the history of cakes, pies and ice cream are all very different, they all qualify as, what has become, one of America's premiere guilty pleasures: Dessert.

When the economy went south, it meant looking at personal budgets and cutting out the unnecessary items. Dessert is something that is disposable for most people. However, fresh-baked sweets still hold a spot in my soul as one of the best things on earth. Despite the economic times, there are a lot of places in Myrtle Beach that still have flour on the mis en place and a baking professional making exotically sweet creations in the kitchen.

Jackie Lahman is the pastry chef at Collectors Café and Gallery. She is responsible for making all of the desserts for both the coffee lounge and the restaurant. Her day starts around 9 a.m. and lasts until the evening chefs come in at around 2 p.m. Mind you, she is making anywhere between eight and twelve desserts at a time. She says that Collector's has her on staff to make sure that the cafe serves fresh product that is made from scratch. "Depending on how busy we are, I make desserts at least every other day. Some items sell out in a night, so I have to be ready to put up something fresh." Lahman also says that Collector's has considerable success selling the traditional desserts such as Coconut Cream Cake, Cherry Pie and Chocolate Cake, but her favorite to make is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie. I can see why that may be a favorite.

We all would probably expect a fine restaurant such as Collector's to make its own desserts, but what about a deli?

Toffino's Italian Bakery and Deli is one of my favorite little sweet spots. Located on Farrow Parkway near The Market Common on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, it sits slightly away from the congestion of the other stores. It's no-fuss when it comes to décor because this place is all about the food. Fresh Italian meat and cheeses, fresh made pizza, bread and, of course, enough sweet things to put you into a food-induced coma.

The open kitchen at Toffino's lets you witness all the baking and preparation as you make your selections from the display cases of fresh desserts. Cannoli and bruschetta are very popular among the lunch crowd. Toffino's also makes pies, pastries and cakes. Even wedding cakes. This is some deli. Eat in or take out, you get the same quality in both service and ingredients. Well worth the trip and, sometimes, the wait at the front door.

As I mentioned before, dessert has become somewhat disposable for many people. This trend forced some restaurants to opt for desserts that are made off-site in order to streamline their expenses. However, don't shutter at this practice, it's been happening for decades and the desserts are, usually, made with very reputable hands. So where are some of them made?

Priceless Desserts in Myrtle Beach has been a supplier to both the general public and the restaurant industry since 1988. In 1995, Priceless took its operation world wide by shipping anywhere on the globe. The mantra of "made from scratch with the finest all natural ingredients" is a valid reason for the dessert-maker's popularity. I've purchased from Priceless for two family birthdays and it was well worth it. The flavor was in line with some of the best restaurants on the beach and the design was comparable to something off of the Food Network.

As you may guess, most restaurants aren't shopping the frozen pie section of the grocery store for outsourced desserts. They are buying quality that matches the quality of their food. Bakeries, such as Priceless Desserts, have been known to raise the opinion of many restaurants in their time.

We get the question, "are your desserts homemade?" a lot in the restaurant business. Most answer "yes" without referring to where they were actually made. Call it trickery or sales mumbo jumbo, but it is still the truth in most cases. Granted, there are plenty of places that still bake in the restaurant and they are quick to point it out. They have every right and are encouraged to be proud of dessert just as they are of their signature dish. However, the places that don't bake on-site are utilizing some sources that, possibly, bake better than their chefs could. If you know a chef, you know that baking and cooking are two different skill sets. When it comes to dessert, just smile and indulge regardless of who made it and where.

Cheers!

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