2013 Year in Review of NYC’s Dessert Offerings (1 of 2)

Another year, more bakeries, patisseries, restaurants, etc. More bakeries to try. More bakeries pop up. Just, more sugar in general. And the cycle continues. Note that not all of the confections I list may be located in NYC but for the most part, this was a good year in desserts, y'all.

City Bakery: I'd been meaning to partake in City Bakery's Hot chocolate month (every February), so when I was in Manhattan one Sunday I had the caramel which was light on the caramel but their hot chocolate is THICK. The homemade marshmallow totally makes it though and amps up the sweetness. Did I mention it was rich as hell? And you know what else they have? Gargantuan cookies! The chocolate chip is worth sharing. This cookie was sweet and rich and the center had a doughy like taste to it that was additionally sweet. This is a cookie where you'd need milk or something not sweet liquid-wise to tone down the sugar. Everything was good, but, and maybe I didn't say this, rich. Keep in mind when going to City Bakery all their sweets are large in size, so go in ready to eat hard or go with friends.

Zugar Haus: I don't normally win things but I did win Shay's Valentine's Day pack! Which amped me up to do an interview with Shay for my site. Everything Shay makes is made with care and you can taste it in her chocolate Cassis Sables w/ Raspberry Jam, the perfect cookie for chocolate lovers as the chocolate is dark and intense! The raspberry jam has some seeds and is tart working well with the semi-sweetness of the chocolate cassis sable (the sable has creme de cassis, orange zest & orange blossom water which you taste hints of for the added tart factor). This cookie was fudgy like a bar not so much chewy which was a nice surprise. Because of the flavorfulness of this cookie eating half may be satisfactory (again, sharing means caring) and I'd highly recommend with some tea. On to Shay's chocolate dipped lavender sables hearts--my a fave. This crumbly cookie was light on the orange essence because of the orange blossom water and zest that complimented the lavender blossom. Add in the dark chocolate edge with sea salted orange peels on the side as a lovely touch and interesting contrast taste-wise for the citrus, floral, and butter.

Coolhaus: It was summer. The truck was near my office. So that could only lead to me purchasing something. I tried their strawberry mojito sorbet...wonderfully refreshing. This sorbet had bits of mint in it that are signature to the mojito cocktail and a wonderfully fruity flavor to it sans alcohol. It was sweet and had the right texture for sorbet. An excellent treat for a warm day.
Cannelle Patisserie: New French patisseries seem to be popping up all over NYC. This one is in Jackson Heights. It's a small pastry shop that offers the whole shebang,  savory quiches, sweets, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Their range of cakes are fabulously light and moist and small. The red velvet was a bit dense for cake, but not too much so that the balance of the slightly heavier cream cheese icing was in every bite of cake. Cannelle's prices were very reasonable, especially if you compare getting the same dessert in Manhattan or Brooklyn would've been twice the price. I got a mini red velvet cake for $3 and it filled me up.
Dauphin BakeryDauphin Bakery is known for making gluten-free, soy-free, egg free, peanut free, and dairy free cookies. I tried their salted chocolate chunk and though it was moist (the reason I purchased it) I'm sorry to say that the taste was all kinds of wrong. Not good as a cookie and especially as a gluten-free cookie. There was a chalky taste that made me think paper/cardboard and it stays with you. And an overly grainy texture to this cookie is not pleasant.  Perhaps it's the hemp milk or buckwheat, tapioca, rice flour mix or cane juice and such but I have made gluten free cookies and tried some that have been SUPERIOR. Perhaps it was just a bad day for a cookie.
Whimsy & Spice: When at Smorgasburg I try LOTS of sweets I'm unable to get since they may not have storefronts yet. And thus, I tasted Whimsy & Spice's espresso dulce de leche brownie. Delicious! Moist and almost fudgy, perfect for a brownie. The brownie had chunks of dulce de leche inside and the espresso flavor is hinted at but does not overwhelm, which is great for coffee haters like myself. This was a great find. I also tried their honey lavender shortbread, which was quite good as well with the perfect shortbread texture. I hope to try much more from Whimsy & Spice, soon.
Butter & Scotch: Sooo, I may have invested a good amount of income into desserts from Butter & Scotch (Alison Kave & Keavy Blueher's joint venture) this summer. No regrets on that, people. In order, I had:
  • Strawberry/Darryl Pie Shake! A new confection that includes Alison's (First Prize Pies) strawberry basil pie (which in itself is an amazingly deliciously tangy summer pie) in a strawberry/vanilla milkshake with crust on top. This jammy is huge. Great big chunks of pie inside make it like a liquid pie a la mode. Love it, love it, love it, want more OF it. When I returned to Smorgaburg for the 2nd time no pie shakes to be had. But I remember. Oh, I remember.
  • Apricot poppyseed mini cupcake that I liked because y'alls know I enjoy my citrus. which I liked. Subtle apricot taste in the icing which was on point! Icings are hard and Keavy does them well. And the poppyseeds worked outside of the standard lemon poppyseed items we may see.
  • Lemon lavender cupcake where the lavender is in the frosting and the lemon was also very light in the cake itself.
  • Sticky toffee trifle was a bit warm by the time I had it at Smorgasburg but still ridiculously sweet. One of the sweetest trifles I've had with nuts and all kinds of sticky goodness. Be warned this is a very filling dessert with cream, toffee date cake that includes candied pecans/walnuts, so make sure to have room left in your tummy or refrigerate soon after consuming.
  • Maple bacon cupcake at Grub Street which is a treat if you love your maple because you get it and then some in this cupcake.
Itizy Ice Cream Truck: Congrats to Itizy for their 2013 Vendy Award for Best Dessert! Itizy regularly comes to my neck of the woods so I tried two of their frozen treats. I was not a huge fan of their strawberry balsamic sorbet which was quite icy in texture and not too sweet. The balsamic was indiscernible in this treat and I couldn't get past the icy texture for the sorbet. I ventured for their ice cream the next time I passed them by and had the hazelnut special. While the texture was fine for ice cream I have to say I wasn't too enthused and couldn't recall the taste several minutes after eating it. The hazelnuts were chewy but quite soft due to being in ice cream, and they were also not pralined or sweetened in any way. While there was a lack of sweetness I can say there was also a lack of taste of preservatives which was very nice. It did taste more natural but not very filling.

People's Pops:  Had the strawberry balsamic pop at Smorgasburg DUMBO which was very good and very red! I tasted balsamic in this and along with the strawberries reminded me of those frozen ices on sticks I'd get as a kid. Sidenote: I found it funny people on line at Smorgasburg  thought these guys shaving ice was "so cool" and new. Have they not seen the Latino ladies on street corners in summer shaving ice?

Empire Cake NYC: Otherwise known as the other place you can get homemade twinkies in lieu of the Hostess shortage. I had the mini red/white cookie which is really cake with white icing on it that is chewy and tasty. It won't make you think red velvet immediately but is a solid red cake with chocolate essence. But it may not hold up for red velvet traditionalists. To pair up I had the black/white cookie which is the same deal as the red velvet but with a yellow cake and chocolate icing. Very nice in mini/tiny doses. I also liked the Homemade Empire Cake Twix with dark chocolate. Again, cookie was more like a thin cake so it was soft and easy to eat with a crapload of caramel. A nice confection to have with milk but melts super fast so do not eat on a humid day. You've been warned. Also got their sandwich peanut butter cookie with icing inside which was fine. The cookie was super chewy/flaky and crumbled in my mouth but the icing was meh. In this case the peanut butter cookie may have been good simply as is. Marble shortbread cookie is also fine. It didn't have the greatest flavors in the marble/chocolate resulting in a more bland cookie yet it had a somewhat solid, not flaky, shortbread texture.

Red Rooster: As part of my dessert for Restaurant Week I indulged in the banana cupcake. The cake was fine, not overly ripe with banana flavors, somewhat moist and all, but the icing, the cream cheese icing was fluffy/creamy perfection! Loved it especially with the pralined walnut on top. I could eat a bowl of that stuff on it's own. Mesa Grill: Again with the Restaurant Week! My dessert of choice was the chocolate bread pudding with chocolate ganache and passion fruit. It was good, and chocolatey as heck, but it was not solid like bread pudding should be. In fact it was a gooey chocolate mess. Great for chocolate overload but will not travel well.

Insomnia Cookies: My one gripe with Insomnia is that they show the calorie count for each cookie. Who wants to know how many calories they are consuming while enjoying a cookie?! Be it the size of your palm or the size of your face?!? For me, Insomnia is still one of the top cookie places around for it being good, basic, comforting, and warm, just like Mom (or grandmom or even grandpa [no gender roles here]) makes. Their newest location is at Columbia and that means good and bad things for my willpower for cookies. On my first of several visits I got the ginormous peanut butter chocolate butter cup cookie which was perfection. All kinds of moist and chewy with the big melted chocolate bits on top of PB cups. And what we love about Insomnia is that the cookies are slightly undercooked so that they maintain a good chewiness to them since they come out of an oven/heater! And during winter that means all kinds of comfort. One of my go-to cookies there is the (smaller) peanut butter cookie. Your mouth is filled with all kinds of sweet, melty PB flavors.

Doughnut Plant: I realized I really enjoy DP's doughseeds. These are like mini filled donuts that they vary up during the seasons. Particularly I  liked the coconut lime doughseed available last summer. Fluffy yeast doughnut covered in glaze and shredded coconut with a tangy lime custard inside. And then in fall there was the pumpkin doughseed...good lord! So fantastic. Perfection. I love the doughseeds now. The pumpkin custard inside was deliciously light, the doughnut was yeast, and the pumpkin seeds on top were crispy and toasted to perfection so they had a great crunch. This was SUPERIOR to the pumpkin pie doughnut at Dunkin Donuts. Doughnut Plant continues to impress.

Breads Bakery: At Super Duper Market I had a sample of their chocolate rugelach, which was like a chocolate croissant! Other samples of their bread were crusty and delishly flaky. This means I have to try more buttery goods from here.

Jack's ChedBreadChedBread's staple is cornbread, a variety of it both savory and more like the sweet type you may be used to. Me being me I went straight for the plain with the buttery honey crumble on top that was reminiscent of down home cornbread.
Sweet & Simple: Michelle has a storefront in CT and I went partaking in her lemon scone. It reminded me more of a muffin in texture than a scone but the flavors and glaze were really good and not too citrusy. A great lightness to the lemon that stays with you in terms of the sugar and citrus balance.

Lady M Confections: Mille crepe cake means hello pricey! But it was lovely! And I felt very fancy eating it at Lady M across from Bryant Park. The mille crepe cake is a couple dozen layers of crepes with light creme filling resulting in a decadent and light dessert. So delicious and nice to walk off on a sunny day in Manhattan. You will not feel like a glutton after eating this but you will spend some ca$h. I also purchased the apple galette with apricot glaze. The galette is basically an apple tart with a kind of cinnamony dough under the sliced apples and above the crispy flaky crust. A fantastic mix and familiar flavors with apple and cinnamon rarely ever going wrong together. Lady M may be a nice place to splurge or take someone you really, really like on a date. Hint, hint, dudes.

Meryienda Gluten Free Bakeshop: I met Meryienda's founder Elvira via Cookie Swap NYC and when I had some shortbread I needed to bake and give away she was up for 'em. And kindly gave me some of her gluten free items in return. Thanks, Elvira! Unfortunately, or fortunately, it being holiday season you know sugary treats are in full effect so I shared with my co-workers. But I did save the coconut dream bars for myself. And Dream is right! A kind of crumbly cookie crust (akin to that from key lime pies and such) and atop that a mass of shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and other hearty goodness and you will enjoy it. Gluten free means sans gluten but it doesn't mean no taste and Elvira's coconut dream bar was on par with the coconut dream bar I've had at Amy's Bread back in 2010 (yeah, I remember that far back).