If it's important to you to be on the crest of a trend, you need to start ordering desserts with your meals.

Desserts - dark, decadent, gooey desserts - are back. After a decade of all those get-fit, lose-weight, be-healthy, live-longer trends, the American people have at last latched onto a trend worthy of our deepest devotion.Restaurants across the nation report a 10 percent increase in dessert orders over the past 18 months, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Salt Lake City appears to be experiencing the same surge. "Sales in our retail bakery are up 30 percent over what they were in 1988," said Tom Guinney of Gastronomy, Inc. Gastronomy is the parent company of Pierpont Cafe, Market Street Grill, Market Street Broiler, New Yorker and Baci.

All the company's restaurants - except the Baci, which won't open for two weeks - are experiencing a growing demand for desserts at about the national rate, Guinney said.

Desserts' renewed popularity comes as a surprise after five years of languishing dessert sales between 1982 and 1987.

"America is rediscovering its sweet tooth," said Jim L. Peterson, president of the national association.

Guinney attributes the popularity to the wonderful array of desserts out there. "In some restaurants you are paying all the way up to $9 and you are buying an art object, a painting on a plate."

The most popular desserts are the simple, basic American desserts such as puddings, cream pies, ice cream, cakes and malts.

Simple desserts are part of the latest trend in cuisine: simple American classics.

"Some of the hottest restaurants in New York are selling meat loaf, pot roast and short ribs," Guinney said. "The `30s and `40s are back. Cafes are in. Diners are in."

That means nouvelle European and California cuisines are dying out. "We're out of the phase of baby liver tossed in hazel nuts with raspberry," Guinney said.

It's chicken pot pie now. And for dessert, people want old-fashioned chocolate malts, chocolate cakes and vanilla puddings. Even mousse is on its way out.

"Classic chocolate cakes, bread puddings and fresh fruit in any form are popular right now," Guinney said.

Malts and sodas are appearing on the menus of some of the most expensive restaurants, he said. He is considering putting them on the menus of the New Yorker and the Market Street restaurants.

Customers not only want their desserts American, they want them rich American.

"They want the very best chocolate, eggs, cream - and a lot of it," he said. " People will watch the calories on the entre or eliminate the appetizer and then end their meal with a fantastic dessert."

As part of the American trend, Guinney is adding cream pies to his menus. "In the New Yorker, you didn't see a coconut or a banana cream pie. But well-made cream pies are coming back."

The Upper Crust, a bakery that sells desserts wholesale to several local restaurants, says the dessert trend has been a boon for business. The bakery has picked up five new restaurants in the last 18 months, said David Miller, managing partner of the business.

He isn't as familiar with the trend toward simplicity as Guinney is, but he is confident that whatever trend hits Salt Lake City will have chocolate in the center.

"This is such a chocolate community," he said. Miller has managed restaurants in Chicago and Los Angeles but he said he has never seen a passion for chocolate like Salt Lake City's. "We have eight varieties of chocolate cake and they sell on an incredible level."

Restaurants are using dessert's new popularity to ensure their own popularity. "If people have an absolutely wonderful dessert, that is the impression they will carry away from the restaurant," Guinney said.