Chocolate Torte with Sorrel Ice Cream at Quiessence

Tired of discovering a restaurant's delectable desserts after stuffing ourselves full of appetizers and entrees, we're on a mission to find the places where diners should order dessert first. After all, chicken roulade makes excellent leftovers. But ice cream made in-house? Not a chance.

Located at the picturesque Farm at South Mountain, Quiessence has won countless awards for their fresh cuisine. All of those awards come with a pretty hefty price tag (about $100/head for dinner), but you can taste some of the best that Chef de Cuisine Gregory LaPrad has to offer by sneaking in for dessert, priced at $9 each.

You might get by with sharing a dessert at Quiessence if you're watching your waistline, but if not, go ahead and order one per person. Really. It will save your table a lot of arguing and/or disappointment. We went with the Chocolate Torte, which is served with Poached Pear and Sorrel Ice Cream, and the Apple Crisp, served with Rosemary Caramel and Nutmeg Gelato.

The Chocolate Torte is very rich in flavor and has a soft yet dense texture that's somewhere between a thick mousse and a fudge. It would be delicious on its own, but what really makes this dish are the other elements on the plate. The pears, spiced with just enough cinnamon, are poached to enhance the fruit's naturally soft texture without making it mushy, and it also helps the pears burst with juicy flavor. The Sorrel Ice Cream is bright and earthy. The flavor of sorrel is often compared to kiwi, but it also adds a fresh herbal note, lightening the deep chocolate of the torte.

The Apple Crisp has all of the expected flavors - ripe apple, wintry spices, and nutty pastry - but it's assembled in a different way, with apple pieces formed in the shape of a slice of pie and then topped with a crispy crumble. While the presentation is fun, it is a little messy since the carefully formed diced apples inevitably fall over and the top is hard to cut with a spoon. Regardless, the "slice" tastes great and doesn't veer from the traditional flavors. The unique part is the Nutmeg Gelato, and lesser so, the Rosemary Caramel. The rosemary gets pretty lost in the other flavors, but the nutmeg is nothing but bold. This is a spiced dessert that, unlike many others, isn't afraid of the spices. If Quiessence sold pints of Nutmeg Gelato, there would always be some in my freezer...hint hint.

Since the menu at Quiessence has been known to change daily, diners can simply show up for a tasty surprise, or they can check the dessert menu online to see which seasonal sweets the kitchen is currently serving.

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