Dear Restaurateur Your Fancy Sorbet Sucks

Posted on / by Alex Berger

Based in Copenhagen, I’ve found myself seated in one of the world’s hotbeds for culinary innovation and inspiration over the last few years. The rise of first New Nordic and later Nordic Cuisine has been swift, powerful, and delicious. The farm-to-table movement and the re-discovery and integration of traditional ways of preserving foods, cuts of meats, and greens has also been a delightful infusion of fresh flavors and diverse culinary footprints.

It’s great. It’s delicious. I love it.

Except, that is. That high end restaurants: Nordic, New Nordic, or otherwise, continue to all make the same tongue abusing, mouth assaulting mistake.

I’m lactose intolerant. It’s annoying. It’s not severe, which means I can handle butter and milk when it is used to cook baked goods. What I can’t handle is ice cream, many cheeses, cheesecake or anything slathered in lots of cream. I’m not alone. There are a ton of us (25% in the US, 65% of people globally). Especially in the millennial generation where, perhaps thanks to our own choices or those of our parents who embraced alternatives to milk in our teens, the problem is particularly prevalent.We’re the silent majority. One largely ignored, perhaps because it’s inconvenient and a bit embarrassing to say, “No, I won’t get hives and no my throat isn’t likely to block off my breathing – I’ll just get explosive diarrhea so nauseatingly painful that I may also vomit in the process”.

Of course, there are pills. They help. But they’re far from reliable. They’re also inconvenient.

What does this have to do with fine dining?


Most fine dining menus have a Sorbet option. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the few common threads that winds through virtually all menus.

The problem?  It’s also almost universally shit.

The problem isn’t that Sorbet isn’t good.  It’s awesome.

The problem is that the 1 or 2 flavors of Sorbet these restaurants offer, often the only actual desert option available for those of us who are lactose intolerant, are barely a step above pulling out a lemon, cutting it in half, and eating it with a hand-full of ice shavings.

I get it. The ice cream is sweet. The Sorbet is its sour alternative for the small subset of diners looking to abuse their pallet into submission or who otherwise utterly lack the ability to taste anything but the most potent face-punching flavors.

But good god. Ask around. The vast majority of people hate your shitty, pucker-face inducing, sour as hell lemon, pineapple, lime or sour-strawberry Sorbet. What makes it even worse, it’s often made from scratch from what seems to be whatever god-awful fruit was so sour or out of season it couldn’t be used somewhere else in the meal.  Not to mention that many are also so profoundly acidic that they rampage across people’s taste-buds like Sherman marching across the South.

Given my lactose intolerance, I come face to face with your shitty Sorbet more often than most, but it’s not just a problem that effects me.  It’s common place and it’s time to stop.

Give us a Sorbet worth eating. A Sorbet that’s a fitting conclusion to a lovely meal. A Sorbet that leaves us feeling like we didn’t just pay for a three course meal, while only being able to eat two. Give us a magnificent Melon, sweet and creamy Mango, or a milk-less Dark Chocolate.

When you do, I’ll be waiting. Spoon in hand.

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

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