It’s a question every man faces. You’re on a date. The waiter offers dessert. Your date looks at you as if to say, “Your call, cowboy.”

What do you do?

Keanu Reeves voice: WHAT … DO … YOU … DO?

I recently had the opportunity to sample desserts prepared by Manuel Ortega, the pastry chef at the Napa Valley Grille’s Westwood location in Los Angeles. The desserts, such as his Warm Nutella Brownie (pictured above), were paired with various wines; in the case of the brownie it was Taylor Fladgate 20 year Tawny. They made a delicious pair. I asked Ortega about ordering dessert and, more specifically, ordering wine with dessert. The 37-year-old chef, who speaks with a slight accent from his native Argentina, shared his opinions on ordering dessert wine, avoiding coffee at dessert and the benefits of a venue change at the end of the night.

Made Man: When a man is on a date, what should he consider when he orders dessert?
Manuel Ortega: I would choose something that is not incredibly heavy and that doesn’t obscure the meal that preceded it. Fruit options are more palatable, especially if you’ve had a couple glasses of wine and a big meal. Stay on the lighter side. It’s always good to share a dessert. It brings a sense of intimacy.

MM: Do you recommend ordering a glass of wine with dessert?
MO: I do. I really like wine. Know what to order. If you order a dessert that is really heavy, you don’t want chocolate and champagne. Go with a darker port or stay with the red wine from the meal. Red wine and chocolate are phenomenal. If you had white wine for your whole meal, maybe you do want a glass of champagne with a fruity dessert. Try to balance it out.

MM: What about coffee for dessert?
MO: I do not like coffee for dessert. The strength of the coffee aroma and the heat kills whatever thought went into building the dessert. If your mouth is super-hot and you’re eating a cold dessert, your taste buds are totally numb.

MM: I often hear that when it comes to wine, there are no rules. The example everyone uses is that it’s now OK to order red wine with fish.
MO: That’s true. What a lot of people miss on is ordering a super-sweet wine with a super-sweet dessert. Get one or the other. You don’t need both. If you order a super-sweet dessert, get a lighter white wine.

MM: How do you like your dessert?
MO: I like to have dessert by itself after dinner. I don’t like to stay in the same place for hours and hours. I like to go someplace to have a beer or a drink and then someplace to eat and then I’ll stop by another place and have dessert. Sometimes I just go out for dessert. (Staying in one place) puts so much pressure on the whole experience if you’re sitting down and you’re having drinks and then you’re having dinner and the scenery has not changed. It makes it a lot more fun to go elsewhere. It breaks the monotony. And sometimes you don’t want dessert. (Laughing) Sometimes you’re ready to bolt.

(Joe Donatelli is Senior Editor of Made Man. He recently wrote about Macrobiotic Food. E-mail him at jdonatelli[at]