Three Best Desserts

Panna Cotta at Battuto, Banana Splits at Century, Coffee and Doughnuts at Mise

Battuto: 12405 Mayfield Road, Cleveland; 216-707-1055.
Century: 1515 West Third Street, Cleveland; 216-902-5255.
Mise: 10427 Clifton Boulevard, Cleveland; 216-651-6473.

Isn't it about time we stop equating desserts with moral decay? Sure, the three major food groups are not "sweet," "salt," and "fat," but when you consider the positive impact a tasty dessert can have on our attitude, we say it behooves us, from a psychological perspective at least, to partake regularly. Here are three magnificent sweeties to get you started.

This cool, silken "baked cream" is a sweet and slithery Italian concoction that puts the common custard to shame. We haven't spotted it very often on area menus, and we have never found a better version than at Battuto, where the trembling white pudding is topped with delights like plump black cherries or fragrant candied-orange syrup. On the side, sip a frothy-headed cappuccino and savor the feeling of being as sleek and well-fed as a housecat.Imagine our embarrassment when we found out that the enormous upscale banana split we had just polished off by our lonesome was meant for two! But, hey, these things happen. Truth be told, the towering creation of exotic Tahitian-vanilla ice cream, caramelized banana, pecan pralines, and sliced strawberry, mango, kiwi, and pineapple -- all slathered with heavy whipped cream and studded with crisp puff pastry -- was so powerfully good, we might not have shared it anyway.Chef-owner Jeff Uniatowski's tongue-in-cheek version of Coffee and Doughnuts is one of the things we dream about at night. The "doughnuts" are bite-sized morsels of crisp sweetdough, similar to hot and sugary beignets. In warm weather, the "coffee" is an icy cylinder of rich espresso semifreddo. In cooler seasons, it becomes a demitasse filled with a light and creamy espresso mousse. A perfect pairing of gustatory yin and yang, the dessert is a meditation on contrasting tastes, temperatures, and textures.