Dessert is a tricky, sometimes sticky, situation. Personally, I don’t have a sweet tooth. There, I said it. I like cheese for dessert. But I’m thinking you’ve mastered the art of the cheeseboard by now, or at least you can whip up your signature version when you have people over.
I know I’m in the minority here. Most people love something sugary after a meal but when I’m hosting, dessert is the last thing on my mind.
I’ll take my time with a rice dish. I’ve experimented with various cheese bread recipes (Francis Mallmann’s with ham inside is the best – and actually, it has sugar on top). I don’t mind juicing beets for a cocktail. This is all to say, I’m not always taking short cuts, but when I do, it’s for dessert. No one has the time to do it all.
This got me thinking, what is an easy dessert that literally anyone could put together that will ‘wow’ guests? That was my very best Carrie Bradshaw meets The Terraza impression.
Meet: The dessert spread.
I went back to the drawing board and thought about the can-do spirit of the cheese tray and I came up with a sweet tooth take on the charcuterie board. It’s a spread, a la grazing table, that is perfect for sitting around and picking at it while drinking a glass of wine (or having a beer or cocktail, I don’t discriminate) with friends. Make it in advance if you have people coming over for a nightcap and dessert or make it an interactive part of your night and bring out all the goodies after dinner and let everyone have their hand in spreading them around. If you’re hosting a BBQ or eating outside, sneak away right in that lull after dinner and set it up inside.
Here are a few things I kept in mind while picking out the ingredients for my spread in the House of Lilac studio:
I knew I wanted a pastel color scheme that felt whimsical and fun – like the idea of the spread. I picked pink tea cakes, light green pears, strawberries, pink yogurt covered pretzels, rainbow gumdrops and rainbow licorice sprinkles from the candy section at The Fresh Market.
You have to go big on this one or it will look wimpy. Pick something that will bulk it up, like the melon did here. And if you have leftovers you can throw it in a container and use it again as a sweet mix, like a special occasion trail mix.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different textures, sizes, and shapes – the kiwi berries were one of my favorite finds. They look like a grape but were a kiwi inside. I picked them up because I was intrigued by the name, and they ended up being a hit! The kiwi berries added so much color to the table and were a surprising touch. Very Willy Wonka-esque.
The popcorn was a nice way to add a new texture and fill in some of the gaps. I used the herb one that comes already popped in a bag at Trader Joe’s.
A good looking spread is important, but don’t forget that it has to taste good. I only picked things I was actually curious to try. Cristie said she would never touch the dragon fruit but that’s what I wanted to reach for first.
You need something to anchor the table – or else it’s just a big mess. The flowers worked perfectly for this! Melanie whipped up some floral arrangements using fresh herbs and we picked out some pink gerberas and purple anthuriums to set across the table. I also included some chocolate covered espresso beans, pizzelles, pistachios, and pirouettes as more neutral additions to the table.
Patricia Azze was born and raised in Miami. Her original blog, MIAMI NICE, focused on the future of Latino culture and building a lifestyle brand that better represented it. She concentrated in Image Construction and Representation at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study and her focus included trend-forecasting, magazine publication, cultural curation and non-fiction writing.
In July 2019, Patricia relaunched MIAMI NICE as The Terraza. After years of exploring the city’s culture, with a focus on food, she decided to shift the focus entirely to eating, drinking and hanging out at her home in Miami. She is also a freelance brand consultant, blogger, ghostwriter and social media strategist. She considers her professional specialty “digital branding of place.” Her clients include cities, retail stores, real estate developments, museums and universities.