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Not Your Standard Dessert

November 29, 2011

Dessert menus are funny things. At a place like The Standard where you could order a $10 burger or a $30 entrée, you can get an outsized portion of something sweet for $6. At a place like Taste that now also has a $10 local, pasture-raised beef burger topped with bacon and cheese, dessert will still set you back $9—even at lunch.

The pricing structures in and around Albany drive me crazy. Yesterday I was at Professor Java’s doing some morning writing. A coffee and an egg sandwich will set you back more than $5. But fresh baked cookies, hot out of the oven? Three for a buck. That is among the best deals for anything I’ve had anywhere. Plus you can just get one for just thirty-five cents.

But I’m actually having a hard time coming to terms with the desserts at The Standard. Is this the most incredible dessert value in the known universe? Or are you simply getting what you paid for? To understand this quandary, I have to tell you a bit more about their offerings.

For those who don’t know, The Standard is a restaurant in one of the two big Albany malls. It looks like a chain, but it’s not. It’s well themed, with a swank 50s supper club décor and soundtrack. But I’m pretty sure the 1950s didn’t include comestibles like Buffalo chicken egg rolls.

Much like The Cheesecake Factory and its ilk, everything at The Standard is oversized. This goes from appetizers that eat like a meal, entrées meant for one that could easily feed two or even three, and desserts of ridiculous size.

How ridiculous?

Well, the first time I was there for dessert was with Albany Jane. After an already sizeable meal at Garden Bistro 24, we went off to new hunting grounds for dessert. She ordered The Standard’s tiramisu and I got their duo of crème brûlée. Each was in the ballpark of six bucks.

When my crème brûlée came out, it was the largest one I had ever been served. And there were two of them! AJ’s tiramisu was the size of a brick. Hers alone could have easily been dessert for four hungry people, and probably should have been shared by no fewer than six adults. Our reaction was more flabbergasted than delighted.

So the next time Albany Jane and I went back for dessert we felt oddly compelled to share the “Giant Fudge Brownie Ice Cream Sandwich.” It was more for the sake of science than anything else. I mean, if the regular desserts were giant on their own, how big must this one be that, in the presence of all the other colossal desserts, it would claim the title “Giant”?

Pretty darn big. So big, in fact, that three motivated adults couldn’t conquer it.

Now here’s the thing. All these desserts are giant, and really very reasonable in price for their size. Heck, the Guptil’s brownie sundae was pricier, smaller and worse than The Standard’s version. Plus at the restaurant you could eat in some pretty plush surroundings instead of a parking lot surrounded by sticky children and yipping dogs.

But honestly, they aren’t really very good either. Although sometimes it takes me a long time to learn my lesson. Last night, however, hammered it home.

While I had low expectations for their key lime pie, I had this dish on my mind recently. So, on a lark, I decided to throw caution to the wind and get a gargantuan piece of mediocre pie for my second dinner. Don’t judge, it’s the holiday season. Everyone has second dinner at the mall these days

The pie was okay—not quite key lime pie—but it was tart and sweet, and that’s what I wanted at the moment.

There were two things that killed me. One was small but the other was so major that had I not been with Mrs. Fussy I would actually have made a scene. Honest. Although they both have to do with garnish. One is almost forgivable, but the other is not.

First, the small thing: Don’t garnish plates with fruit that tastes like nothing. Yes, it’s November in Albany. No, I don’t expect strawberries to be any good. But if you only have awful strawberries that are crunchy and taste of little else besides water, don’t put them on my plate. Seriously. Skip it entirely. Whoever told you that it needs to be on the plate for color was dead wrong.

Speaking of dead wrong, let’s talk about whipped cream for a moment.

I do not know what that “Fresh Whipped Cream” was that was on my plate, but I do know that it was not freshly whipped cream. I even asked our lovely waitress, who claimed that they make it in house. Then I sent her back to the kitchen to see if there was anything else added. My guess was egg whites. But she returned with the story that it was simply cream and sugar.

I’m calling shenanigans.

Whipped cream does not look, taste or feel like that sweet white goo on my plate. You cannot peel whipped cream off a custard pie. It will not hold its shape for thirty minutes. Whipped cream wilts. It’s silky, not sticky. If it gets overwhipped it starts turning into butter and gets grainy, not foamy.

Whipped cream this was not. And shame on whomever in the kitchen sent this nice woman back to our table with this ridiculous story. Because, frankly, it didn’t look like she was convinced either. But I guess at the end of the day, you get what you pay for.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    November 29, 2011 11:15 am

    Sorry, but nothing can get me to enter big malls, especially at this time of mass consumption and false cheer!

  2. tas303 permalink
    November 29, 2011 11:42 am

    Ditto Mr. Sunshine. Let alone eat at one. And, although not a chain, the Standard is in the mall, which means it is looking for a particular type of customer, no? I’ve never been, but I have heard the food was great. HA. I just can’t believe a mall restaurant can be good. Call me a snob. Actually, I can’t remember when I was at either mall. And, I agree with you on the whipped cream. It has a certain flavor, texture, density that cannot be replicated.

  3. November 29, 2011 12:36 pm

    I’m not advocating for them, but they could be using that whipped cream gun, where all you do is add cream and sugar and a CO2 cartridge and get a much less texturally fluffy whipped cream. I highly doubt there’s a chef back there whisking cream and sugar in a bowl or even a stand mixer mixing the cream.

    The portion sizes at The Standard are nuts. A while back, I wrote about a carpaccio I had there. I think it was under $10 and had a substantial amount of meat, a crazy amount of greens topping it, and an even more ridiculous amount of cheese. How they can afford to get away with such portion sizes, or why they would want to, I will never know.

  4. phairhead permalink
    November 29, 2011 1:14 pm

    I have a love/hate relationship w/ The Standard. The food & presentation A+, the service F triple minus.

    I have a sneaking suspicion, my dear Profusser, that their desserts are pre-made, frozen and reheated.

    Also, why do they have a wait staff & separate food runners?! Some boob takes yr order & never ever returns again to yr table….HARUMPH!

  5. November 29, 2011 2:55 pm

    If they want pretty color on the plate, maybe they should make a coulis or something, something that might not be fresh, whole fruit but at least would have flavor to it.

  6. November 29, 2011 3:23 pm

    Unfortunately, this area lacks the demand for quality pastry in restaurants – and consequently you get sweet white goo that peels off (thaw and sell) ‘custard’ pies and holds its shape indefinitely

    As for what you were served, and from what…Im not sure. A n2o canister wouldn’t give you what you’re describing. Using something like whipped cream flavored topping or improper use of stabilizers could. The peeling off sounds like some sort of gum or gelatin was added.

  7. November 29, 2011 6:14 pm

    They’re probably using a non-dairy whip, so while they are whipping it by hand and it’s just ‘cream’ and sugar, it’s not at all the same flavor as real cream, but that way it will hold it’s shape for more than half an hour. There are really quite good non-dairy whips out there (Rich’s has a whipped topping that is soy based that I like) but they’re probably not using a good one, or they’re assembling the pie with the whip more than 2/3 days and letting it sit. If it’s peeling off, I’m betting it was left in a fridge for a few days. Whipped topping gets kind of gummy and almost meringue-like after a few days.

    I still keep forgetting to try The Standard. If I’m at work and forget my lunch, I usually run down to Fresh Healthy Cafe (which isn’t great, but it beats most mall food).

    • December 1, 2011 1:14 am

      Anyone who is using a soy-based whip would be in trouble for lying to customers who might be allergic or sensitive to soy.

  8. Mirdreams permalink
    December 1, 2011 12:03 am

    I have to say I really like the Standard. Yes they have a big menu and big portions but they actually make really tasty food. Their wine list is small but well selected. I don’t love their cocktail list but they have a full bar and will make you what you want within reason. They often have great seasonal specials (they had a venison chilie recently my husband is still talking about). All in all they’re a very good place to get good food at a reasonable price, which Daniel is just what you always say you wish more people did. For us they really are one of our favorite fall back restaurant, not as fine dining as some places but always a good meal. I can understand punishing a place for big portions when they don’t deliver good food but for us, they always have.

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