Lake Minnetonka Dessert and Drink Pairings

Inspired dessert and drink pairings.
Creme Brulee with Irish Coffee from McCormick's Pub & Restaurant.

How often do you order dessert when dining out? Not one to share for the table but one just for you? Probably not often enough, considering the bounty of luscious local temptations. The next time you’re out for the evening, don’t just save room for dessert—consider dessert the main event. Add a well-matched adult libation and surrender to a sweet and saucy interlude. Here are eight inspired combinations.



Birch’s Restaurant and Bar

The dessert menu at Birch’s changes according to the season and the kitchen’s whim. Ask your server for the current creation, though you’d do well to succumb to their signature confection, Birch’s Cake Roll. A thing of beauty to behold, the breathtaking supernova in three shades of chocolate rests on a striking black plate adorned with strawberries and dusted with powdered sugar. What drink could possibly do justice to such intensity? Bourbon, of course. A tumbler of small batch, handcrafted Four Roses Kentucky bourbon is a welcome astringent counterpoint to the chocolate, with a beguiling woody spiciness all its own. Cake roll, $8.50; Four Roses Bourbon, $8. 1935 W. Wayzata Blvd., Long Lake; 952.473.7373



Sometimes it’s hard to choose just one dessert. Crave solves this dilemma with a can’t-miss collection of mini-desserts. The caddy of shot-glass-sized desserts includes a raspberry and yuzu mousse, strawberry shortcake, French silk, tiramisu, salty caramel mousse, and blueberry cheesecake. How could you go wrong? Our two favorites: the zesty yuzu-raspberry mousse—a citrusy, floral swirl of pink and yellow—and the rich salted caramel mousse topped with a cinnamon shortbread cookie. Such contrasting flavors require two different drinks, natch. A slim flute of the elegant Venetian, made of limoncello and prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), is an obvious companion for the spicy tang of the raspberry and yuzu mousse, while the stocky tumbler of the earthy Godfather, (Chivas and Amaretto di Sorrono) makes the salted caramel mousse sing. Dessert minis, $2.95 each or all six for $15.95; Venetian, $8.95; Godfather, $8.95. 1603 West End Blvd., St. Louis Park; 952.933.6500




How about a liquid dessert? Bacio’s Midnight Express martini is potent enough and delicious enough to cover both drink and dessert in one fell swoop with a coffee kick to boot. Organic Prairie Vodka,

Baileys, Kahlua and espresso conspire in a fishbowl of a martini glass to create a frothy, creamy and smooth libation that’s more reminiscent of ice cream than alcohol. Prairie Vodka is corn-based, certified organic, kosher—and best of all, local from the Benson-based Phillips Distilling Company. This is a treat for when the night is young; the electric buzz of sugar, caffeine and booze is no bedtime toddy! $9.50. 1571 Plymouth Rd., Minnetonka; 942.544.7000


Big Bowl

Our affable server, Ben Rademacher, needed a moment to recommend a pairing, enthusing that “all of our cocktails are so good and all of our desserts are so good!” The winner? A warm honey-apple crisp, made from Minnesota Honeycrisp apples and organic honey from Big Bowl’s own farm in La Fox, Ill. The ramekin of golden, saucy apple slices is crowned with a cinnamon-rich crumble and honey-kissed whipped cream in just the right ratio of fruit, crunch and cream. In keeping with the honey theme, a mason jar brimming with Lemon Honey-Ade (organic Rain Vodka, fresh squeezed lemon juice and raw organic honey) contributes a refreshing citrus lift that goes down a little too easy. Honey-Apple Crisp, $4.95; Lemon Honey-Ade, $7.95. 12649 Wayzata Blvd., Minnetonka; 952.797.9888




When we stopped by Biella’s, the dessert of the evening was a walnut-caramel bread pudding which begs for a glass of port. The pudding arrives as a hefty block that belies its eggy lightness. A vast pool of warm caramel—more syrupy than sticky—varnishes the thick layer of walnuts to good advantage. We detected a soupcon of nutmeg, too; this bread pudding is subtler than it looks! Cockburn’s 10-year Tawny Port, matured 10 years in wood, compliments the walnuts in both flavor and hue. It glows in its glass, reflecting the room’s warm ochre tones while romantic piano tunes softly tinkle. This is as snuggly as it gets. Bread pudding, $8; Tawny port, $8. 227 Water St., Excelsior; 952.474.8881



McCormick’s Pub & Restaurant

Dessert may not be the first thing that comes to mind at an Irish pub, but McCormick’s kitchen brims with haute cuisine delights. Their take on the classic crème brulee is a case in point. Crack through the caramel shell to yield a silky, vanilla-accented cream enlivened by a dollop of sour cherry compote. Drink-wise, Irish coffee is a no-brainer. Jameson whiskey, sugar, strong hot coffee and a thick layer of fresh whipped cream served in an elegant glass cup is fortifying and bone warming. If you’re lucky, Van Morrison will be crooning love songs in the background. Crème brulee, $6; Irish Coffee, $7. 331 Broadway Ave. S., Wayzata; 952.767.2417



318 Café

Have yourselves a Gallic soiree and enjoy cheese for dessert. At 318 Café, you can choose up to three varieties. We selected a buttery Spanish Manchego, tangy Northern Lights Bleu and Cabot’s nutty cloth-bound aged cheddar. The artful arrangement includes two large wedges of each cheese; crisp fans of pear, apple and strawberry slices; a pale mound of Spanish Marcona almonds; a daub sweet date preserve; and dried grapes. A baguette with a hefty schmear of soft butter is the vehicle of choice. The final effect is not only aesthetically seductive but conducive to lingering in order to sample varying combinations of fruit, nut, cheese and bread. A good red wine is a must, and the Cotes du Rhone Perrin Reserve 2009 is earthy yet bright with a pleasingly long finish. Sip, nibble and chat away the evening; you may even catch a reading or some live music. Selection of three cheeses, $10.75; Cotes du Rhone, $6.25. 318 Water St., Excelsior; 952.401.7902



YoYo Donuts

If you think a donut shop date is humdrum, you need to experience the chic YoYo Donuts, where every donut is made from scratch, on-site, each day. We spent an afternoon’s retreat relishing their ingenious s’more donuts: a raised donut with chocolate icing, graham cracker crumbs and a gooey toasted marshmallow nesting at its center. The best accompaniment to any donut is coffee, and YoYo is as serious about coffee as it is about donuts. Local roaster Dogwood Coffee Company delivers direct-trade fresh beans every week, and every cup is ground and brewed to order. We tried a single-source bold from the Fazenda Rodomunho estate in Brazil, a smooth and slightly smoky brew that didn’t need any enhancement. Keep your peepers peeled for seasonal and special-occasion favorites—rumor has it that the red velvet donuts with cream cheese icing are to die for. The atmosphere is engagingly whimsical: bubble-shaped coffee cups, exotic coffee bean sacks and colorful books with titles like “The Great Donut Parade,” and “The Tiny Donut with a Big Heart” will spur your donut love to new heights. S’mores donut, $.99; coffee, $2.49. 5757 Sanibel Dr., Minnetonka; 952.960.1800