Did you know that your stomach, when empty, is about the size of your fist? As the stomach is a muscle, it expands and contracts when you consume food. The human stomach can stretch to around 40 times its original size, to around two litres, after a huge meal.
I have a hearty appetite and enjoy trying different foods. But I often cannot finish what has been placed in front of me at restaurants as the portions would be too large. I could finish it if I forced myself to, however I’d end up feeling stuffed and uncomfortable afterwards.
It’s got to do with the law of diminishing marginal utility and being able to leave the table with an optimum level of satisfaction. The first bite of something that I’m craving is always the best and after several mouthfuls, the amount of delight or satisfaction that I get from it diminishes. So it’s important to know when to stop before I eat too much of something (even if I’m not full)!
However much I’ve eaten, I always have space for a good dessert after a meal. Because I’m petite, I try not to ‘waste’ what little stomach space I have and pile on unsatisfactory calories by eating something that I don’t like. Again, very rational!
However full I might be, a meal often feels incomplete without something sweet at the end. This can be something simple like a piece of dark chocolate or a more elaborate flambeed apple tart with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Which brings me to the main topic for this post – which has been inspired by some outstanding, delicious desserts that I recently sampled.
Cocoa bread with chocolate @ Carmelitas
Carrer del Carme, 42
Located in the El Raval neighborhood, this used to be a convent before the space was repurposed. I came across Carmelitas during my first press trip in Europe in 2012. The food was good, reasonably sized and I liked the interiors with the high ceilings and contemporary art.
I was recently back in Barcelona for work – three times in one month – and revisited Carmelitas as it was near the hotel where I was staying. The food was better than what I remembered it to be and served in small-plate portions, which was perfect for me. Try the tuna tataki and swordfish cerviche – these were full on flavour yet light on the stomach.
The highlight of my meals at Carmelitas was the dessert: A thick, toasted slice of bread topped with chunks of warm dark chocolate, served with a sprinkling of coarse salt and Xavier Pellicer olive oil. All you have to do is spread the melted chocolate over the toast and bite into it. A simple combination of quality ingredients that complemented each other. Delicious!
Cannolini @ Terraza Gallia, Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel Piazza Duca D’Aosta, 9
Located on the rooftop of one of Milan’s most luxurious hotels, Terraza Gallia is set to officially open in early September and will be managed with the advice of Michelin-starred chefs, Enrico and Roberto Cerea. We had the lucky privilege of amongst the first to dine in the restaurant and to enjoy an exquisite feast prepared by the Cerea brothers.
I was ill and had a smaller appetite than usual. Nonetheless, I couldn’t refuse the desserts when they started appearing. In particular, there were the cannolo which were served by Chef Enrico, who went round the table and piped the cream into the pastry shells, one at a time. I don’t usually like desserts with cream. But the cannoli was delicious and had a light texture. It was so good that I couldn’t resist a second serving in spite of feeling incredibly full!
If you’re there in the day, order an espresso to go with the cannoli, find a seat on the outdoor terrace and enjoy this simple treat as you look over the immense Milano Centrale train station and indulge in a little daydream.
Le Colonel et son armée @ Colonel
24 Rue Jean Stas
Colonel is all about the meat. Once you enter the chic restaurant, you’ll see a counter displaying various cuts of the cow. Guests can buy the meal to prepare at home as well as order specific cuts to enjoy in the restaurant.
The meat was good, especially the charred bits. Cooked in beef fat, the french fries were amongst the best we’ve had in Brussels. We would have been happy with a smaller serving instead of the copious portions that were served.
Full as we were, I wanted something sweet. We ordered “Le Colonel et son armée” which means “The Colonel and his army” turned out to be an excellent choice. Three sorbets served in crystal glasses, each paired with a liqueur – pear with Poire Williams, apple with Calvados, lemon (a.k.a. “le Colonel”) with vodka. A refreshing way to end our heavy meal.
What is your preferred way of finishing a meal? Do you have a favourite dessert or have you recently tried one that left you wanting for more?
P.S. The featured image at the top is of dried fruits, nuts and turrón (Spanish almond candy typically eaten at Christmas). Ideal on their own or as toppings for desserts.