Americans gave up three square meals long ago in favor of multiple mini meals and all-day snacking.
While fruit, nuts, pretzels or candy were once considered snacks, now anything goes — even full-on dessert — anytime of day or night. Lately, pastry chefs and restaurant operators looking capitalize on this trend have been exploring ways to add new, or transform existing, after-meal menu items into snackable treats ideal for eating between meals or on the go.
In March, pastry chef Rachel Flatley began offering ice cream tacos at the take-out counter at Townline BBQ in Sagaponack, N.Y. Inspired by Klondike’s Choco Taco, Flatley’s version features a housemade waffle shaped into a taco that is filled with a rotating selection of housemade ice cream, then dipped in chocolate and decorated with Valrhona dark and white chocolate pearls. Currently on offer is a waffle taco filled with a vanilla rose-water ice cream with strawberries and meringue pieces and dipped in Valrhona white chocolate.
“It's a great snack for both kids and adults,” said Flatley. “I love the idea of being inspired by the seasons, making mint ice cream with fresh mint from our garden, or doing a raspberry swirl taco with local raspberries. I think this is what makes this dessert special and unique.”
Flatley says the tacos are selling well so far, and she expects sales to climb in the warmer months.
At Centrolina, an Italian restaurant and market in Washington, D.C., chef and owner Amy Brandwein offers budinos, rich custard individually packed in a to-go cup with a spoon. The budinos, meant to be an elevated take on that childhood favorite, the Snack Pack pudding cup, come in chocolate, butterscotch, white chocolate, Prosecco-lemon and other flavors, and are available in the market’s pastry case.
“We wanted a special snack that could replace a formal dessert on the go or at your home dinner party,” said Brandwein. “The budino has layers so it can fill your cake or pudding craving.”
Other dessert snacks available in the pastry case include a variety of scones, cannoli, Italian cookies and a cake of the day. She also offers imported Italian chocolate bars, nut bars, amaretti cookies, truffles, nougat and more.
Similarly, La Boutique, the pastry shop attached to Le Petit Paris in downtown Los Angeles, offers a selection of dessert-y pastries meant for munching on the move. Among the most snackable selections are traditional French macarons in flavors such as mango-passion fruit and chocolate raspberry. Small in size, not overly filling and easy to eat on the go, the macarons have long been among the best sellers at La Boutique.
At Pazzo Ristorante in Portland, Ore., pastry chef Alisha Falkenstein takes classic dessert items, like black forest cake and a chocolate malt, and turns them into mini ice cream sandwiches ideal as in-between or after-meal treats.
Falkenstein rolled the minis out in late March in three flavors: peanut butter cookie with banana gelato, chocolate fudge cookie with cherry gelato, and chocolate chip cookie with malted gelato. Designed for easy snacking and sharing, Falkenstein says quite a few orders have been sold in between lunch and dinner, and they’ve been very popular at happy hour.
Also making existing dessert items mini is Millbrae, Calif.-based Cream, which specializes in handcrafted ice cream sandwiches. The 28-unit chain recently added downsized versions of its sandwiches to its menu to provide customers with a lighter and more portable snack option.
Rather than create new desserts, the team at Buddy V’s Ristorante in Las Vegas simply makes it easy for customers to snack on existing offerings.
Buddy V’s all-you-can-eat Sunday bunch buffet features a variety of portable desserts meant for eating in or snacking on the go, such as Zonuts, which are deep-fried croissant dough balls tossed in powdered sugar, Italian cookies and cake bites. The restaurant provides take-out bags and encourages customers to grab them and stroll, say, through the Grand Canal Shoppes or along the strip. Zonuts are the most popular dessert snack at Buddy V’s, which makes about 500 of them every Sunday for the brunch buffet.