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My name is Jesse and I’m powerless over sugar. As a kid, using paper-route money, I used to pay my sisters a quarter for their portions of dessert after I’d finished my own—chunks of fruit cocktail suspended in grape Jell-o, chocolate cake from a box, tinned rice pudding—and I’ve never outgrown my sweet tooth. I love the celestial concoctions of Thomas Haas and the waxy skankiness of Glosette raisins. I love tarte Tatin and tiramisu, crème caramel and key lime pie. A war story from days gone by: one night, an artist friend and I took a bottle of something and a Costco box of 75 mini candy bars (KitKat, Coffee Crisp, Aero, Smarties—it was Halloween) into his studio to view his recent work and talk big. Next morning, inspecting the detritus, his wife said, “Boy, you guys really got into the chocolate last night.” Over a couple of hours, having already polished off dinner and much of a strawberry cake, I ate 49 little chocolate bars. Over the years, this predilection for sweets has not been without consequences.
Her: “Remember that dinner we had in Los Angeles? When it was pouring rain, and we got into a terrible fight, and I was bawling my eyes out, and I threatened to walk back to the hotel in my bare feet?”Me: “You mean the night we had that great Meyer lemon tart?”
To a sugar hound, appetizers and mains can seem like hurdles that stand in the way of the finish. Of course, when researching a piece about desserts, you have the perfect excuse to cut to the chase. In our quest to find the best last courses in Vancouver we skipped many lunches and dinners—or rather, we had many three-course meals drawn entirely from the last page of the menu—and I’m pleased to report that eating nothing but dessert causes instant weight loss, sharpens mental faculties, and reverses male-pattern baldness.
Okay, maybe not. But it does persuade you that we live in a special culinary city, with no end to the sweet cornucopia available in our rooms. And that pastry chefs don’t get nearly the respect and acclaim they deserve. Narrowing the list of contending desserts, from the elegantly refined to the comfortingly simple, and choosing only 10, was a gruelling task I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Else.
Here are 10 great desserts, in no particular order. Some are available only when the necessary ingredients are in season, so call ahead.
Starved for more dessert info?
Catch an exclusive Q&A with top pastry chef Wendy Boys or raid our favourite pastry chefs’ pantries.
If you’re in the mood for chocolate, learn more about its journey from the cacao bean.