It's the final chapter and lingering endnote to our meal, but dessert is often unjustly treated as an afterthought. The inevitable "have you saved room for dessert?" is posed by the waiter almost as a dare. The sweet-seekers among us are shamed into silence when our dining companions answer with a puritanical, "Oh, I couldn't possibly…I'm stuffed." But, unlike the dessert-dodgers out there, some of us are not stuffed. And hell yes we've saved room.

Fortunately, the number of superior pastry chefs in town is rising like a sweet brioche bread pudding, and all of them are doing their part to bring due attention to the final course. Melissa McKinney, of the dearly departed Criollo Bakery (and Bluehour before that), has mercifully re-emerged as pastry chef at Roux (1700 N Killingsworth St., 285-1200) . In case you were wondering, this is fantastic news! Bourbon chocolate pudding soufflé with chantilly cream, as well as caramel pot de crème with raspberry and pecan shortbread, echo Roux's Louisiana cuisine, while vanilla-bean ice cream melting

into fresh, organic peach crisp transcends regionalism—

and all expectations.

Whether you're capping off a meal at any of these establishments or on a dessert-only mission, here are four more reasons to save a little room in your belly.

Any item featuring the outstanding housemade ice creams at Siam Society (2703 NE Alberta St., 922-3675) is a good bet. Chef Adrienne Inskeep's take on the (happily) ubiquitous flourless chocolate torte is topped with cardamom ice cream, and a molasses ginger cake shares the plate with caramel sauce, candied ginger and banana rum ice cream. Arriving from L.A. earlier this year, clarklewis (1001 SE Water Ave., 235-2294) pastry queen Roxana Jullapat has wasted no time embracing Portland's local jewels. The results: classic comfort items with an unexpected twist. A nectarine-blackberry cobbler with brandy cream and verbena ice cream, as well as an ice-cream shake made with Viridian Farms blueberries and sugar-snap peas, appeared on the menu in late summer.

The pastry chefs at Andina (1314 NW Glisan St., 228-9535) give cannoli an Andean treatment with passion-fruit mousse, mango-lemongrass sorbet and a crispy quinoa grain coating. Ditto the Torta de Chocolate, a dense, cinnamon-infused chocolate cake topped with a toasted-corn praline and lúcuma ice cream. Perry's (2401 NE Fremont St., 287-3655) has been faithfully sating sweet teeth in Northeast Portland since 1983. Desserts here are a study in "old-school" American standards, sans irony: Think chocolate bread pudding with espresso ice cream, carrot apple cake with tangerine cream-cheese frosting, old-fashioned chocolate cake, hearty fruit pies and brown-sugary berry crisps. The banana-coconut cream pie with warm dark-caramel sauce (weekends only) is absolutely drive-across-town worthy. Admit it, you do have room for dessert.