Recently I was on the road and arrived at my hotel at about 8 p.m. I hadn’t eaten, so after dropping off my bag in my room I visited the hotel restaurant, had a cheeseburger for dinner, and then was tempted by an apple crumble for dessert. I asked if I could get it with ice cream, and the waiter said that would be fine. The combination above is what arrived.
In case you’re wondering, on the plate that’s closest to the camera, that’s a kind of crumble pie, with no apple pieces, at the far left, two little green apple spheres with faux stems in the middle, and an apple slice dipped in dark chocolate in a mold made out of a cheesecake-like substance on the right, all set against the backdrop of Aztec-like lines inscribed in dark chocolate that was hardened on the plate. The bowl at the far side of the plate contains my scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I’m sure I was supposed to admire the artistry of the presentation of the dessert, and the delicate nature of the plating. Mostly, though, I wondered how I was supposed to eat the various elements. I spooned the scoop of ice cream onto the crumble pie to let it melt, grabbed one of the little green apples by its faux stem and ate it, and then was stumped. Was the molded cheesecake-chocolate option on one side of the plate supposed to be eaten in conjunction with the crumble pie at the other end? If so, how? And what was I expected to do with the chocolate markings –scrape them off and chow them down with the crumble pie, or the apples, or the cheesecake chocolate mold, or all three? I ended up alternating between bites of the crumble pie and the molded object, ate the second little green apple at some point in between, and left the dark chocolate stripes alone. It was fine, I guess, but it would have been even better if I’d just gotten what I expected in the first place — a single dish that contained warm spiced apple slices, crumble, and ice cream on top that you could eat in the normal way.
I admire haute cuisine, and the efforts of chefs to bring creativity to the art of cooking and to reimagine some time-honored dishes. But there’s a time and a place for it — and a late dinner at a hotel restaurant isn’t it. It was clear that the kitchen had worked hard on the dish, but it really was making me work too hard in order to enjoy it. Call me a philistine if you will, but I wasn’t ordering dessert to get a work of art. I just wanted a traditional fruit dessert served in the traditional way. Maybe the artistry can be reserved for the souffle.