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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2018
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WTFork: The best desserts in Tampa are worth spoiling your diet

They lure us with their sweet siren song, and then turn on us viciously, decimating our thighs with hail-like damage and making the bathroom scale say things that make us cringe.

Yet, like moths to a flame (or Taylor Swift to a bad boyfriend), we can't resist the draw of these booty-expanding nemeses.


The secret to breaking this unhealthy cycle is really quite simple, we're told. Just enjoy a satisfying piece of fruit instead!

Right. If you didn't immediately snatch up an orange, perhaps you'd care to join me in something more indulgent from the pointy end of the food pyramid. Go ahead — don your sweatpants right now and kick that lying scale into the pool as I share a few of my favorite diet-busters from restaurants in the Tampa Bay area. (If you're going to blow your eating plan, at least do it on something that's worth it).

1. Red, Chill Food Haven & Lounge, St. Pete Beach: Chill's signature dessert, Red, is a diabolical creation consisting of red velvet cake melded with fudge brownie. The two pile together into a hand basket, where they're joined by cocoa custard before being baked into a dense bread pudding, slathered in caramel cream and crowned with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's every bit as deliriously evil as it sounds.

2. Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie, Keegan's, Indian Rocks Beach: Keegan's nails this Southern classic with a thick and flaky homemade crust, luxe chocolate filling (ratcheted a notch heavenward via its bourbon infusion) and a heaping pile of toasted pecan halves. The sweetness of the pie is kept dialed down to moderate level, which imparts a rich, grown-up taste.

3. Tarte Tatin, The Black Pearl, Dunedin: Do you think you'd enjoy a highbrow-meets-homey concoction of sliced Granny Smith apples caramelized in butter, brown sugar and spices, then concentrically fanned atop a disk of puff pastry and embellished with whipped cream?

Allow me to answer that for you. You would. Kick up its decadence factor by having it topped with a scoop of the Black Pearl's signature (and surprisingly subtle) licorice ice cream.

4. Anything and Everything, Pane Rustica, Tampa: Please pardon my nose prints as you peruse the myriad of tempting treats in Pane Rustica's expansive bakery case. Tangy lemon bars, gooey pecan pie squares, sumptuous ganache-drenched coconut macaroons … yes, Yes, YES! You'll have a difficult time selecting just one item from the seemingly endless array of cookies and pastries, but don't worry — the nice folks behind the counter will be happy to fill a box for you to take home

5. Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream, Ulele, Tampa: This heinously delish ice cream is rolled in a cinnamon corn flake and candied duck bacon crust; fried; and accented with Knob Creek crème anglaise, caramel and a sweet potato waffle crisp. The dessert catapults the whole salty-sweet concept into previously uncharted and terrifyingly addictive territory. (And, yes, I realize there's a recurring boozy theme going on here — but bourbon happens and Southern girls shouldn't have to explain themselves).

6. Tres Leches Cake, Ceviche, Tampa and St. Petersburg: Ceviche takes this traditional Latin treat to new heights (literally and figuratively) with its chilled mile-high meringue cake saturated with nutmeg-infused cream and garnished with fresh fruit. Cool and deceptively light-tasting, it's the consummate warm weather dessert.

7. Pumpkin Ravioli, Bistro Atlantis, Dunedin: This hidden gem of a restaurant offers one of the most unusual desserts in the area. I advise my fellow pumpkin junkies to tote smelling salts, as you will certainly swoon over these fried, handmade pumpkin ravioli, sinfully capped with a maple and Grand Marnier cream, then dusted with cinnamon for good measure.

My waistband tightened just typing about the caloric malevolence in our midst, and I've only begun to scratch the surface. Email me at sdenisepark [email protected] and let me know what other spectacular sweet finishes I need to explore. I'll eat them so you don't have to.


Check out Denise Parker's blog at http://sweetpollyfood.blogspot.com

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