A Bern-ing desire for decadent dessert

It’s Valentine’s Day and Bern’s Dessert Room couldn’t be more suited to the task of impressing your significant other – or your taste buds.

Though haute cuisine can be intimidating, it shouldn’t be. Behind that fancy French name is a big scoop of white macadamia nut ice cream. Valentine’s Day is the time to break out your credit cards, especially if the rewards are going to be covered in chocolate ganache and raspberry sauce.

The Harry Waugh Dessert Room was named for Bern Laxer’s good friend Harry Waugh, an internationally known wine connoisseur. The idea of dining in a separate room originated when Laxer was having dinner at Waugh’s home in London. Laxer brought back this idea to his restaurant to create a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere for patrons while indulging in dessert.

Climbing the stairs to the Dessert Room was like beginning the next course of the meal. The Dessert Room is composed of 48 separate booths made from 100 percent homegrown California redwood. Each booth looks like a large, upright wine barrel with tables and chairs inside.

“The wine-aging vats were disassembled in California and brought to Tampa,” said Amy Honeyman, the Dessert Room manager. “They were built to give the feeling of dining in your own little wine barrel.”

These individual booths are closed in and provide optimum privacy. It creates an exceptionally cozy and romantic atmosphere. Inside each booth is a six-channel stereo that includes jazz, classical, progressive, new age, contemporary and live piano. The piano is located at the front entrance of the Dessert Room and, combined with the dim lighting, it makes for an intimate setting.

Also featured inside some of the booths are magnified pages of 18th-century cookbooks that provide what Honeyman calls “great conversation pieces.” Even without the cookbook pages, the desserts are conversation starters within themselves.

The Framboise macadamia Decadence is chocolate at its best. At first glance, it looks like the brownie only chocolate lovers can dream about. The first layer is made with a crushed macadamia nut crust that sits under a rich chocolate cake. It’s covered in a rich chocolate ganache and drizzled in tangy raspberry sauce swirls. The whole thing is served with a scoop of Bern’s homemade dark chocolate ice cream.

Bern’s ice cream is not your typical pint of Ben and Jerry’s. All ice creams are homemade, and flavors range from Dark Brazilian Snow to the popular macadamia nut ice cream, created by Laxer himself.

“The macadamia nut ice cream is a secret recipe,” said Christen Worobec, assistant pastry chef. “We go through about 30 gallons of the macadamia syrup per week.”

The Frangelica Sweet Potato Bavarian-Filled Roulade was heavenly – add it to the list of things to eat before you die. This dessert looked like a large chocolate sushi roll filled with a sweet potato purée. It’s then drizzled in a milk chocolate sauce and sprinkled with candied hazelnuts. On the side was a serving of Bern’s homemade milk chocolate ice cream.

The Dessert Room is booked for Valentine’s Day, but it still offers a fantastic dining and culinary experience for any occasion. Hershey’s chocolate will never taste the same.