ORIGINAL DESSERTS: THE PARFAIT Friday, February 10, 2012

Not too long before the dawning of the modern refrigerator, at a time when we still stored our perishables in bins lined with blocks of ice, we (and by “we,” we mean the French) craved treats that were at once sweet, filling, creamy and cold.

Ice cream (and gelato) had been around a while (centuries, really), but it would still be a few more years before we started dressing them up like sundaes.

So, for a while, they were at an impasse. And then someone had a brilliant idea.

No one is certain who first made what would become known as the first parfait, but the French, and subsequently, everyone else, fell in love with it.

It was, in a word, perfect. Literally. Parfait, according to the O.E.D., translates, from the French, as “perfect.”

And what about this relatively new dessert was so perfect? Simply that it could be made with just the right amount of just about anything.

In its endless variations, the parfait, served in a tall glass and eaten with a long spoon, is a layered and striped dessert that can be made with cakes, fruits, whipped cream, yogurt, nuts, Jell-o, puddings, custards and anything else one might think fitting.

The next time you’re in, ask your server for the day’s parfait flavors, or stroll on up to our magical, rotating pastry case and have a looksy at the perfectly cold (but not too cold) winter dessert.

Besides, who screams ice cream in February, anyway?