A group at Harper's Table accepts the Judge's Choice Award for the first Healthy People, Healthy Suffolk Healthy Dessert Contest.
A group at Harper's Table accepts the Judge's Choice Award for the first Healthy People, Healthy Suffolk Healthy Dessert Contest.

Healthy and delicious

Published 12:56pm Thursday, May 29, 2014

Healthy desserts.

Let that sink in for a moment. No, it’s not a misprint.

Healthy. Desserts.

Separately the words make complete sense, and they’re easy for anyone to understand. Everybody wants to be healthy. And everybody likes dessert. Right?

Harper's Table's Blood Orange Sorbet with Homemade Buttermilk, Pomegranate Seeds and Mint.
Harper’s Table’s Blood Orange Sorbet with Homemade Buttermilk, Pomegranate Seeds and Mint.

But the challenge for restaurants participating in the first Healthy Dessert Contest during Suffolk Restaurant Week was to combine the two concepts and come up with something delicious.

The guidelines were precise and unforgiving: Desserts had to come in under 250 calories, with less than 30 percent of those calories from fat and less than 60 percent from carbohydrates.

Apple pie a la mode? Off the menu. Creamy banana pudding? Y’all must be crazy. New York-style cheesecake? Fuggedaboutit.

Still, the chefs at 10 different restaurants pursued the $3,500 in prize money available through the Obici Healthcare Foundation and Healthy People, Healthy Suffolk, which sponsored the contest along with the Suffolk News-Herald.

Three of those chefs earned big checks for their restaurants by proving that the words “healthy” and “dessert” can, indeed, be used in the same sentence as the word “yummy.”

Chef Harper Bradshaw

Harper’s Table

Judge’s Award

Bradshaw entered the contest at the last minute, after being invited to participate by Jett Johnson, program manager for Healthy People, Healthy Suffolk. Bradshaw had already been thinking of something along the lines of what would become the winning dish, so he was able to quickly adapt it to the contest’s requirements.

The whole thing required Bradshaw to step outside of his comfort zone, he said.

“My life’s work, really, in restaurants has been to allow people to overindulge a little bit,” he said. “This was a bit of stepping outside of the box.”

Bradshaw said his creation relied on layers of flavors and textures to make up for the richness that diners might have missed because of the strict nutritional requirements.

“I used texture as a component,” he said, noting the variations between the aerated buttermilk, the frozen sorbet and the crunchy pomegranate seeds. “We do our best to provide a pleasurable experience.”

Jose Perez

Cedar Point Country Club

Presentation Award

Standing amid a scoop of frozen yogurt on a plate in front of the massive windows at Cedar Point Country Club, the lacy tuiele-batter cookie captures light from the sun like a stained-glass window.

Cedar Point Country Club's Chai Tea & Chardonnay-spiced poached pear with frozen yogurt.
Cedar Point Country Club’s Chai Tea &
Chardonnay-spiced poached pear with frozen yogurt.

“Tuile” is the French word for tile, which refers to the fact that cookies made with this batter often look like roof tiles, but “you can shape them any way you like,” Perez said, and incorporating the light, almond-flavored cookies into his dish helped give it some height and color that otherwise would have been lacking.

“I had to put some thought into how I could cut some of the sugar out of it, some of the carbs out of it,” he said, noting that the final combination was an entirely new dish for the country club’s restaurant.

The club’s most popular desserts are “very sweet and heavy,” Perez said, but healthy dishes like his dessert plate are growing in popularity. “I usually like to have at least one lighter item on the menu at any one time.”

Wayne and Melinda Powers

Suffolk BBQ

People’s Choice Award

Cherry Cheesecake Parfait

Dessert is not what most folks have on their mind when they arrive at Suffolk BBQ, where smoked meat is the obvious order of the day.

Suffolk BBQ Co.'s Cherry Cheesecake Parfait.
Suffolk BBQ Co.’s Cherry Cheesecake Parfait.

But by the time they left the diner during Restaurant Week, many were so pleased with Suffolk BBQ’s healthy dessert that they logged in to the online polling system set up by the Suffolk News-Herald and cast their vote for the People’s Choice Award, making the barbecue restaurant a surprise winner in the contest.

Melinda Powers developed the recipe (husband Wayne is in charge of the smoked meats). “I’m a Weight Watchers fan, so I have a lot of experience pulling calories out of food and have it still taste good,” she said.

The parfait proved so popular that the Powerses added it to their catering menu.

“Yeah, it was good,” Wayne Powers said. “It was a little bit smaller portion, but it was delicious.”

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