Bakers Journal

Sweet endings

August 31, 2022
By Karen Barr

Tips and ideas for pairing your desserts with wine to increase your profits

Chef Clyde Pereira makes a raspberry mousse covered with a dark bitter chocolate glaze: “When you crack open the bombe, you see this beautiful pink interior from the raspberries.” PHOTO: INN ON THE TWENTY

Ontario’s Niagara region is blessed with the perfect soil, and weather conditions, for an abundance of fruit for desserts and grapes to turn into award-winning wines. As pastry chefs, we are always striving to balance menus with a list of plated desserts featuring something that will appeal to everyone. 

How can restaurants pair fruit desserts with wine? What about various chocolate and nut desserts? How can these pairings increase profits at your bakery-café or restaurant?

When picking a wine to pair with desserts there are certain elements to consider. The acidity of the wine helps to enhance fruit desserts. Both the intensity and the sweetness of the wine need to match the dessert, without overpowering it. Additionally, placing complementary wines directly on the dessert menu is an effortless way to suggest and guide your customers in their selections. 

Inn on the Twenty, a boutique hotel, is part of the Vintage Hotel collection of properties. Set at the peaceful entrance of Niagara region’s wine country, in Jordan, Ont., the cozy, wood-beamed-ceiling inn offers 28 rooms that are all individually decorated. Private gardens, fireplaces, whirlpool tubs and a day spa add to the spirit of relaxation. The real draw for food lovers, however, are the sumptuous cuisine and wine pairings. And as everyone in the pastry world knows, the last course is the true finale. 


The inn’s restaurant features a full farm-to-table experience. Clyde Pereira, the pastry chef, takes full advantage of each season’s local harvest. “We get our fruits and vegetables from local suppliers in the Jordan and Vineland area. We try to preserve as much of the fruit as we can in the summer. We make our own preserves, like peaches and apricots, with icewine. We also preserve whole fruits, such as apricots, raspberries, blueberries and currants, in simple syrup for later use.”

Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Pereira attended school to study hospitality management. “I used to always bake with my grandmother as a child.” There he learned the art of using spices to subtly enhance the flavours of his baked goods. “This led me to follow a path in the pastry industry. I initially worked for a few large hotel chains, in India. Eventually, I wanted to enhance my skills, so I moved to Canada 12 years ago. Then, I started working for a well-known, local favourite bakery in Niagara-on-the Lake.”

Today, as the pastry chef at Inn on the Twenty, he has two other members on the team. “I oversee the planning and preparation of the dessert menu for the fine dining restaurant and all the banquets. We usually create everything from guest amenity plates, that they put into rooms before the guest checks in, to sweet tables and wedding cakes.”

Pereira favours apples and pears on the fall and winter a-la-carte dessert menu. First, he points to his deconstructed Gala apple strudel. This he crafts and then assembles using flaky phyllo crisps, apple icewine compote, icewine jelly and candied nuts. The latter includes a melody of pistachios, pecans, almonds and cashews. 

What does the restaurant pair with such a dessert? Christophe Hermez, general manager and sommelier at Inn on the Twenty, suggests the 2017 Cave Spring Vineyard Riesling Icewine. The winery sits on the Beamsville Bench, a sloping terrace in the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario. The winery is known not only for Riesling but also Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. About the icewine pairing, Hermez says, “The intense aromas of apple and pear, pair well with the flavour of the dessert. Most importantly the acidity of the wine will highlight the freshness of the local fruit in this dessert,” he advises. 

For another dessert, Pereira slowly poaches Bosc pears, in red Gamay wine, and serves them plated alongside almond streusel, gently cooked cinnamon anglaise and house-made anise ice cream. 

To accompany the dessert Hermez recommends the 2016 Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Cabernet Franc Icewine “The Wisteria Tree”. Sue-Ann the winemaker still lives on her family’s 200-year-old farm on the Niagara Escarpment. There, the family has been growing grapes for the past 100 years. “The strawberry flavour and the vanilla notes of the wine showcase the complexity of the flavours in this dessert,” Hermez says.

At the restaurant, Pereira creates a variety of cheesecakes that are always in great demand. He starts with a base of cream cheese, sugar, eggs, milk, and cornstarch, with a classic graham cracker and butter crust. His favourite cheesecake for the autumn and winter seasons is spiced cheesecake, using cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and other secret spices. “It’s topped with pumpkin seed brittle,” the pastry chef notes. 

As for cheesecake dessert wine pairings Hermez chooses a 2018 Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc Icewine, from Niagara-on-the-Lake. The winery was founded in 1978 by Paul Bosc, a fifth-generation French winegrower. “The cranberry and strawberry note on the palate and the sweetness of this unique icewine will pair well with this fall or wintery dessert.”

In the summer, cheesecakes are topped with a variety of berries. When the height of peach season arrives in August, Pereira incorporates them into a homey, no-bake cheesecake with rich delicious butterscotch tuille and cinnamon shortbread. 

When it comes to chocolate, Pereira says, “My favourite combination with chocolate is local raspberries, probably because I had huge raspberry bushes in my backyard years ago. I like to make a raspberry mousse and cover it with a dark bitter chocolate glaze. When you crack open the bombe, you see this beautiful pink interior from the raspberries. I like that the tartness of the raspberries pairs well with the bitterness of the chocolate,” he says, referring to the Cacao Barry 70% Fleur de Cao dark chocolate glaze he pours over the mousse. 

Hermez points to the 2015 Creekside Estate Winery Vidal Icewine for this stunning chocolate and raspberry dessert. The neighbouring winery to Inn on the Twenty was opened in 1997 by a group of wine industry veterans. “This is a well-balanced Icewine, with some hints of nectarine and lemon flavours, to bring some lively acidity to the chocolate glaze.”

Pereira also loves to work with white chocolate, crafting beautiful and delicious desserts for those who really crave a sweet taste. “I like to make caramelized white chocolate mousse or white chocolate raspberry cheesecake,” he says. As for pairings, a Late Harvest Riesling fits the bill nicely.

Finding the perfect wine to complement the plated desserts at your restaurant can enhance the flavour, taste and texture of the final sweet dish your customers will remember their meals by. Pairing desserts with local Canadian wines – regardless of where your restaurant is located in the country – is a fabulous way to guide your customers to an incredible dessert finale! / BJ

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