Ten Best Desserts of 2010

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These are the desserts I enjoyed most during the past year. Looking over my list, I can't help but note that three contain bananas, and only one is chocolate-based. I love chocolate desserts, but so often the only restaurant menu choice is the ubiquitous chocolate molten cake -- which I've grown too weary of to order anymore. Or brownies, which I've also had one too many of. Can't remember the last time I saw a homemade chocolate devil's food cake on a menu.

Other than that, the selection is pretty self-explanatory.

In alphabetical order:

Milk Chocolate Semifreddo at AltaMare:
Pastry chef Crystal Cullison knocked it out of the park with her ethereal milk chocolate semifreddo that came embedded with Maldon salt and garnished with warm fudge sauce and a dark chocolate tuille ($9).

Banana Cream Pie at Emeril's:
It was one of the only things I enjoyed about my meal here. The tall wedge featured chunks of the fruit suspended in dense vanilla custard, with a moist banana/graham cracker crust, chantilly cream, caramel drizzles, and dark chocolate shavings on top. Yes, go ahead and say it: Bam!

Apricot Tart at Essensia Restaurant & Lounge:
Before becoming pastry chef at Essensia, Gail Goetsch worked under dessert doyen Hedy Goldsmith. Her apricot tart is stunning, half-moons of the baked fruit lined up atop a buttery pastry crust -- brilliantly paired with ginger-almond ice cream.

Lemon Pannacotta at The Forge:
Pastry chef Malka Espinel thrilled us with this tart of creamy lemon curd with a mild fennel infusion. It came paired with toasted almond gelato and fresh biscotti ($9). Alas, Malka is no longer at The Forge.

Homemade Doughnuts at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink:
Didn't review Michael's this year, but did finish a dinner there with Hedy Goldsmith's custard-filled beignets: Perfectly light and greaseless, not too sweet, with silky vanilla pastry cream within. We may not have a great doughnut shop, but at least we've got these great doughnuts.

Coconut Cake at The Morgans Restaurant:
One doesn't even have to say why a fresh, homemade wedge of coconut layer cake is better than almost anything else on earth. It just is, and The Morgans Restaurant makes a damn good version ($6).

Some Wacky Peanut Butter & Jelly-Based Thing at Prelude by Barton G:
Prelude foregoes the usual Barton G theatrics, but this dessert was one wild and wonderful finish: A generous scoop of grape jelly gelato flanked by two pyramids of peanut butter mousse -- one with a pink macadamia-praline glaze, the other bathed in chocolate ganache. Unfortunately, it appears as though I liked this more than most folks, as it's no longer on the menu.

Banana Pudding at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar:
A marvelously mushy mess of fresh banana slices, shortbread crust, sumptuous pudding, and a crackly caramelized banana spear ($5).

Soffiato di guayaba at Zucchero:
This signature dessert of the house features a warm, flourless dome of guava cake that oozes a luscious caramel-like fruit center. Homemade vanilla-cream cheese ice cream with flecks of guava comes on the side, and if that doesn't whet your appetite maybe you'd better just eat another Twinkie.

Green Tea-Banana Cake at Zuma:
Moist, dense banana cake striped on the bottom by a mesmerizing layer of green tea cake. Crowing the slice are banana disks and a sweet, syrupy topping with bits of toffee. Cool coconut gelato on the side completed this tropical Zen masterpiece.

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