Photo by Michele Humes
To try lemon curd s'mores, click here for the recipe.
I like my sweets sharp and tangy--always have. Before I was old enough to grasp the social implications of my taste preferences, I shunned Rocky Road for lemon ices and Hershey's Kisses for sour Coke bottles. It was a simpler time, and many Starbursts were eaten.
Then puberty came, and with it involuntary induction into the Cocoa Sisterhood. Suddenly, value-packs of Mounds bars were supposed to soothe everything from menstrual cramps to heartbreak, "Is chocolate better than sex?" was a serious question, and the correct response to a brownie was a moan. To depart from this doctrine was sedition.
Now, I don't dislike chocolate, per se--at least not milk chocolate--but I never seek it out. I can't recall ever eating my way through two or three courses and thinking, "Well, wouldn't something dense, dark, and fatty just hit the spot!" I have thought, in those moments, of a brisk sorbet; of rhubarb compote on cool, thick yogurt; of shattering a burnt sugar top to get at a grapefruit tart--but of chocolate mousse, no, never.
According to the top "casual dining" chains in America, who don't so much as fold a napkin without consulting a focus group, I am in the minority. I studied the carefully-calibrated menus of some of the country's most popular franchises and found that 68 percent of all desserts were chocolate-based, if not chocolate-dominated, and heaped with chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings besides. By contrast, only two desserts in my sample of 38 offered anything in the way of acidity; both were unadorned slabs of key lime pie.