October 5, 2006

Best desserts in town

 Apple Chimicheesecake, Applebees, La Ceiba, HondurasApple Chimi-Cheesecake

Hondurans aren't much for desserts. Desserts are rarely served, even in restaurants. When they are served, you'll usually wish they weren't.

Cakes and cookies are invariably stale, except the ever-present pastel de tres leches (three milks cake) which is generally so sopping wet with milk that it can only go sour, never stale.

Candies are so super-sweet that you can't taste anything except the sugar. Many restaurants serve a Hall's cough drop with the check. I will never figure this one out. See Jill's excellent synopsis Cross-Cultural Tastebud Trends for more on the Hall's phenomenon

Birthdays aren't complete without tres leches. For those who don't know, tres leches is a white cake, sort of marinated in a mixture of three milks (regular whole milk, evaporated, and sweetened condensed), and covered with meringue.

I used to like Mexican tres leches on occasion. I've even made it and it was pretty good but I have an aversion to wet food, especially things that aren't supposed to be wet, like cakes and breads. Another important point is that tres leches is supposed to be served cold, of course. At parties, the cakes are usually room temperature, making me wonder just how long that fresh milk has been sitting out in the tropical heat.

At really big parties, sheet cakes are sometimes served, usually decorated with thick, sickeningly sweet, gaudy colored frostings that are made of hydrogenated palm oil and sugar. Period. No flavorings of any kind. These cakes are bakery-made and are always over baked, tough, and stale. People sit around saying, "Mmmm, ¡que rico!" (how delicious!) and I wonder if they have never tasted a good dessert or if they are just trying to be polite.

I wish I could recommend a Honduran bakery in La Ceiba. I don't think it is merely a matter of different cultural tastes. I've had some tasty things from bakeries in San Pedro Sula, but in La Ceiba, bakeries continue offering products for sale no matter how old or stale they get. Most don't refrigerate cream filled items and they use so much thickener in the fillings that it is reminiscent of chewing on rubber. Pastry doughs, even cookie doughs, are handled in the same rough manner that tortilla dough is handled resulting in overly tough pastries.

Quinta Real Hotel, La Ceiba, HondurasQuinta Real Hotel

There are only four places to find a good dessert in La Ceiba. One is the new Quinta Real Hotel on the beach. It is a beautiful hotel with a great selection of unusual cheesecakes and several other desserts that will cost almost a day's pay for most Honduran people.

Girare's, which is a nice Italian sidewalk cafe with great coffee drinks, has tiramisu! The problem with both of these restaurants is that since Hondurans aren't really into desserts, they serve minuscule portions. Don't even think about sharing dessert with a friend. Also, because desserts aren't a big seller here, sometimes the desserts aren't as fresh as they should be.

Applebees, La Ceiba, HondurasThe third restaurant with a good variety of excellent desserts is Applebees. (You're eating good in the neighborhood Applebees.) El Jefe's favorite is the Apple Chimi-Cheesecake (shown at top), although all of their desserts are good. I know, I've tried every one. The dessert portions at Applebees, being an American chain restaurant, are huge, easily enough for two, especially the 8-layer carrot cake. We sometimes go out to dinner at one restaurant and then go to Applebees for dessert to satisfy my American sweet tooth.

To avoid disappointment, some good advice is always ask what a restaurant has for dessert. Rarely will even the best restaurants have more than one or two desserts available, regardless of how many they have on the menu.

And finally, the absolute best place in La Ceiba for home-made ice cream, cakes, cookies, brownies, muffins, and pastries with the friendliest service in town is:

La Gringa's house!
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