Mmmmm, ice cream. Mmmmmm, chocolate bread. Mmmmmm, cake. Mmmmmm, cannoli. Mmmmmm Chocolate Mess. Indeed, those are utterances often heard around the M&M household, and they would be heard around yours as well if you were bombarded on a daily basis with temptations unrivaled in their culinary desirability. As the Green One alluded to in her excellent post last week, every street corner in the city seems to have a bakery they beckons with its sugar-loaded treats. Every diner has a slice of fresh pie ready to serve. The Mr. Softee ice cream truck is literally blaring its siren song on every block. The now-ubiquitous Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins combos are like a double-whammy of caloric temptations. And even a little place called Starbucks offers an array of delectable avant garde snacks. So avoiding dessert is difficult in New York…then again, why avoid it? We use virtually no some restraint, so here are some of our favorite desserts and where to get them:
1. Cake. Melissa and I have somewhat different views here. I like my cake light and airy with a rich butter cream icing. As such, there is no better cake peddler than Magnolia Bakery. Located on Bleeker Street (a street you’ll see repeated often on this blog) in the heart of Greenwich Village, Magnolia Bakery is known for their cupcakes, but also offers some superb cake – my personal favorite is the red velvet cake, with its soft moist came and engrossingly creamy icing. Melissa’s favorite cake place (and my 2nd favorite) is the charming, ultra-feminine Alice’s Tea Cup, so named because of its theme adapted from Lewis Carrol’s book. The cake and cupcakes are excellent (I like the vanilla on chocolate), and of course the tea is good as well. And surprisingly, they make a pretty darn good cheeseburger!
Of course Veniero’s Pastry Shop is world famous for its superb cakes, and its smaller East Village neighbor, Pinisi, makes some very good, fruit & nut laden cakes. Billy’s Bakery (see below) makes a pretty good cake as well. So there are plenty of cake options in the city – almost all within walking distance of each other and us.
2. Cupcakes. As a close relative of the cake, cupcakes are found at virtually all the same places. We could almost just say “ditto” to the Cake section, but there are some differences. My favorite cupcakes are still those produced by Magnolia’s, but the difference between Magnolia, Billy’s, and Alice’s Teacup is razor thin. The reality is you’ll be satisfied with your cupcake at any of these places. Melissa would choose Billy’s over the others, but I would stick with Magnolia.
3. Ice cream. This is a tricky one, because I don’t have a particularly refined palate when it comes to ice cream: as long as it has ice and cream, I’m pretty much satisfied. That said, there are a few places that definitely pique my interest more than others. For starters, I’ll admit that I still like a nice scoop of Jamoca Almond Fudge from Baskin Robbins. Not exactly highbrow ice cream, but tasty nonetheless. Though a nationwide franchise, Coldstone Creamery also offers a nice array of ice cream goodies. Big Daddy’s Diner serves some excellent milkshakes and a big concoction of ice cream, caramel, and apple – I’m not sure exactly what’s in it, but it’s delicious. But my personal favorite ice cream dessert is the Sundae at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse. Yes, of course the steaks are superb (my absolute favorite), but the overpriced sundaes are worth every penny and more. Thick, rich cream, pure warm chocolate cause and excellent vanilla ice cream make this a must-have.
4. Pastries. I’ve never been one for delicate, flaky pastries, but I also will go out of my way to inhale a cannoli at the incomparable Rocco’s. Founded 35 years ago, Rocco’s is now the crown jewel pastry shop of Greenwich Village, and arguably all of Manhattan. Rocco’s makes your cannoli right in front of you, injecting the fried pastry rolls with their delicious home-made cream filling and topping it with your choice of pistachios or chocolate chips – I go for the pistachios. As home-made fresh pastries go, Rocco’s cannoli cannot be beat.
Melissa likes a Rocco’s cannoli almost as much as I do, but she also loves pain au chocolat, especially at a little bakery called Tisserie. Originally from Argentina, this little pastry shop has delicious desserts as well as light deli items, but the chocolate bread is exquisite.
Originally ensconced in Union Square, Tisserie disappointed us both (but especially Melissa) by moving to the netherworld of Midtown – out of convenient walking distance.
Doughnuts fall into the pastry camp, and neither of us are particularly huge fans. I personally prefer doughnuts of the flamingly foppish variety: pink glazed with multi-colored sprinkles from Dunkin’ Donuts. Melissa likes the considerably flintier Boston Creme at the bagel/doughnut stand down the block. The Doughnut Plant in the Lower East side serves up an excellent selection of cake doughnuts – one is enough for a meal of its own.
5. The Cherry on Top. Max Brenner’s Chocolate by the Bald Man is a very important part of our marriage in more ways than one. This little chocolate temple is often derided by hipster New Yorkers because of its schmaltzy vibe and appeal to tourists, but the reality is this place lives up to the hype when it comes to dessert, especially chocolate. CBTBM has an eclectic menu that features provincial French cuisine, but is best known for its unique chocolate offerings, including a Chocolate Syringe, Chocolate Pizza, and the now-defunct Chocolate Mess. For the uninitiated, Chocolate Mess is just that: a heap of chocolate cake, three flavors of excellent ice cream, whipped cream, sprinkles, caramel coated bananas, and…well, isn’t that enough? It is for us, but sadly the Chocolate Mess is inexplicably off the menu. Nonetheless, CBTBM is well worth the frequent visit for its slough of great offerings, including my all-time favorite chocolate milkshake.
I’ll stop here, lest this post become as bloated and overstuffed as my waistline since I moved into the garden of tempting desserts…