Photos by Sarah Gerrity
Words by Kaylee Dugan
I’m pretty sure Jose Andres is trying to kill me. Whether it be by alcohol poisoning, or the more nefarious sugar coma, this guy really has it out for me. Even days later it feels like I’m still battling the worst hangover of my life, except this time, I don’t think the alcohol had very much to do with it. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure the human body wasn’t meant to digest six full dessert courses in one day, nonetheless in one sitting. Yet, that’s exactly where I found myself on Friday night.
Beautifully titled The Last Course, Zaytinya and (surprisingly) a Boston steak house called Grill 23 partnered up for one night only to create the most deadly sugar coma known to man, in the form of a six course dessert menu. Oh and did I mention all of the courses were paired with dessert wines? Yes, that’s right, I was drinking sugar while eating sugar and it was exactly as overwhelming as it sounds.
I know this isn’t the kind of thing you’re supposed to complain about. If the worst thing that happens to you in a week is eating too much dessert at one of the best restaurants in D.C., then you are living a dream life beyond comparison, but please trust me when I say that, no matter how prepared you feel, you are not ready for this meal. Much like the Last Supper, there is no way to prepare for The Last Course… but that being said it was out of this fucking world. I don’t think I’ve had so many delicious desserts in my life and I don’t think I’ll ever eat as many again. Not only was everything tasty as hell, it was also (and I mean this genuinely) a delight to behold. From the more substantial, to the extremely delicate, everything was beautiful.
Right out of the gate we were greeted with what was surely the sweetest thing we would have all night, coconut cake. Coconut can be a very divisive in the dessert world, so this felt like a ballsy decision on Zaytinya’s part, but the passion fruit curd, coconut dulce de leche, and pineapple-mango compote all came together to produce… pure sugar. Sure there were fruits on the plate, but there was no mistaking this for anything resembling healthy. I love every minute of it. The only way I was able to stop myself from finishing the entire slice was the thought that I had five more courses to go. The only thing I wrote in my notes was “death by coconut.” I was clearly already doomed.
Round two brought my least favorite dessert of the night, a lovely yet way too anise forward ouzo sabayon, but it also brought one of my favorite wines of the night, a Christian Drouin Pommeau de Normandie. A blend of Calvados and apple juice, it tasted like apple brandy on steroids and paired beautifully with the desserts apple sorbet, which I would buy an entire carton of in a heartbeat. Next we moved onto a classic, a banana cream pie topped with what seemed like homemade whipped cream, cardamom caramel, bruleed bananas, and white chocolate. Each element served to elevate the dish, without taking it to the level of pretentious or fussy and the crunch from the white chocolate 100% sealed the deal.
Finally, we were down to the last three, and all of them were set to be chocolate based. I think this must have been the point when I reached my sugar high, because from this point forward my notes are basically incomprehensible. After downing a tart and surprisingly refreshing Rosa Regale by Castello Banfi, I was ready to take on the first of the chocolate courses, the chocolate rose. This was, hands down, the most beautiful dessert of the evening. A ribbon of delicate chocolate custard divides the plate, joined by dollop of rose ice cream and some of the cutest little spiced red fruits. The chocolate was good, light and fluffy, yet rich, but the rose ice cream was killer. One of the few things I am able to make out of my notes is the phrase, “rose ice cream for fucking ever.” So I was obviously a huge fan.
The penultimate round brought us a valrhona smore, with a mixture of dark and milk chocolate, marshmallow creme, graham cracker crust, and a pretzel caramel. This was the most chocolatey dessert of the entire night and it stands out as one of my favorites. The last of the Last Course included ras el hanout chocolate, ma’amoul, and wait for it… saffron gummies. As soon as I could, I stumbled home and went right to bed, only to fight the worst headache of my life the next morning, but days later I’m still thinking about those gummies. I might have barely survived this meal, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.