The Sweet Side

Taste & Travel - - Dining -

NEW YORK IS A SUGAR-LOVER’S PAR­ADISE.

From Mag­no­lia Bak­ery, whose cup­cakes be­came hugely popular af­ter fea­tur­ing on Sex and the City, to the cur­rent ob­ses­sion with sugar in all its guises, ev­ery taste is catered for in the Big Ap­ple. Mag­no­lia Bak­ery still churns out their fa­mous fluffy cup­cakes ev­ery day, in flavours such as Red Vel­vet, Snick­er­doo­dle and Choco­late with Caramel, Co­conut and Pecan Ic­ing. But don’t just head straight for the cup­cakes; the charm­ing, dainty layer cakes are a treat, rem­i­nis­cent of a doll­house af­ter­noon tea.

But depend­ing upon what you look for in a cup­cake, you might find one of the hun­dreds of other ver­sions the city has to of­fer more your style. Billy’s Bak­ery re­minds us of grandma’s kitchen, with rustic, tra­di­tional cup­cakes — co­conut-lovers, here is your first stop. Gluten in­tol­er­ant? You can choose your sweets with­out a sec­ond thought at Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bak­ery. They also of­fer wide range of de­li­cious dairy-free and ve­gan cup­cakes.

The cup­cake, beer and wine pair­ings at Sweet Re­venge are a one-of-a-kind ex­pe­ri­ence. Per­haps a Mex­i­can Vanilla cup­cake with spiced ap­ple fill­ing and a salted caramel frost­ing, paired with a Chilean Chardon­nay? Or lime chif­fon with mango buttercream, ac­com­pa­nied by a Mango Bellini? With 25 wine and cup­cake pair­ings, 25 beer and cup­cake pair­ings and a short cookie pair­ing menu, this is a grown-up ex­pe­ri­ence not to miss.

But cup­cakes are just the be­gin­ning — Two Lit­tle Red Hens makes the ‘best cheese­cake in NYC’ ac­cord­ing to Se­ri­ous Eats. Alice’s Tea Cup has a sto­ry­book vibe, with out­lets named Chap­ter I, II and III. Alice in Won­der­land-themed af­ter­noon teas are served on three-tiered stands, with such de­lights as pump­kin scones (flavours change daily), ba­nana Nutella cake, or lap­sang sou­chong smoked chicken breast, goat’s cheese and ap­ple sand­wiches. For af­ter­noon tea fans, there are a num­ber of venues around the city serv­ing a tra­di­tional tiered tea — from the fa­mous Ritz Carl­ton Cen­tral Park, to the Bri­tish-themed Tea & Sym­pa­thy, where English scones can be en­joyed with jam and clot­ted cream. Rice pud­ding, an­other tra­di­tional English dessert, has been taken to new lev­els at Rice to Riches, a spe­cialty rice pud­ding store that serves a huge va­ri­ety of flavours. Try the French Toast, Co­conut or Tiramisu — but please leave your calo­rie coun­ters at home.

Home to some of the world’s best pas­try chefs, New York is packed with patis­series and dessert restau­rants by the likes of Fran­cois Pa­yard, Pichet Ong, Christina Tosi and Do­minique Ansel. FP Patis­serie and Fran­cois Pa­yard Bak­ery serve tra­di­tional, finicky French pastries. While Pichet Ong’s bak­ery and dessert restau­rant are now closed, Ong con­sults on menus across the city. He has lent his ex­per­tise to such ven­tures as Cop­pelia, a 24-hour Cuban diner that is mak­ing waves with Tor­rejo De Oliva, an olive oil, bread pud­ding-like cake served with black­ber­ries. Christina Tosi, a James Beard Award­win­ning pas­try chef, heads up the dessert branch of David Chang’s Mo­mo­fuku em­pire. Mo­mo­fuku Milk Bar is world-renowned for its unique sug­ary cre­ations, such as ce­real milk soft­serve; a com­post cookie packed with potato chips, pret­zels and butterscotch; and ‘crack’ pie, a but­ter-egg-cream-sugar rich caramelized custard pie with an oat­meal crust.

Do­minique Ansel is the name be­hind the fu­sion-pas­try cre­ation that took the world by storm.

Do­minique Ansel Bak­ery is the home of the Cronut, Ansel’s sig­na­ture pas­try repli­cated around the globe. With a two-hour line ev­ery morn­ing for ro­tat­ing monthly flavours such as Rasp­berry and Ly­chee, it’s worth ar­riv­ing at 9 am af­ter the line has dis­si­pated. More of­ten than not, the last batches of Cronuts are mak­ing their way out of the kitchen, ready for those not quite so keen on a 5 am start to snap one up.

But the hype around the Cronut of­ten ob­scures some of Ansel’s other im­pres­sive cre­ations. The DKA (Do­minique’s Kouign Amann) is a bet­ter bet for break­fast: ten­der, flaky crois­sant dough and a caramelized crust are a per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to a strong black cof­fee. For an in­stant sugar coma, his Frozen S’More is an in­verted ver­sion of the favourite camp­fire treat — a frozen custard cen­tre cov­ered in choco­late wafer chips, en­cased in a torched-to-or­der house­made honey marsh­mal­low, is served on a wooden stick that’s been smoked over ap­ple­wood chips to give the whole dessert that camp­fire flavour.

It’s not just the crois­sant-dough­nut fu­sion that’s mak­ing waves around the world — the good old-fash­ioned dough­nut has been trans­formed in re­cent years into much more than a cheap gassta­tion sugar fix. The gourmet dough­nut craze sweep­ing the globe is said to have started right here in New York City at Dough­nut Plant. Off to a rocky start two decades ago, owner Mark Is­real of­ten had trou­ble con­vinc­ing lo­cal busi­nesses to stock his gourmet dough­nuts, as the snack was seen as lit­tle more than cheap junk food. But us­ing his grand­fa­ther’s recipe, he de­vel­oped de­li­cious, unique va­ri­eties us­ing fresh sea­sonal fruit and roasted nut glazes.

Th­ese days, gourmet dough­nuts are known and loved by many — though Williamsburg’s Pies ‘n’ Thighs are loved more than most. New York Mag­a­zine lists th­ese as the best in the city — th­ese are more your tra­di­tional, dense, cake-like dough­nut. From cin­na­mon and nut­meg sugar coated, jam filled or glazed with gin­ger and grapefruit, they are fill­ing and best at­tempted with a friend.

While in Williamsburg, drop into Mast Broth­ers Choco­late for an ar­ti­san choco­late ex­pe­ri­ence un­like any other. About as deep into the Brook­lyn ar­ti­sanal food move­ment as you can get, the Mast Broth­ers have been mak­ing their bean-to-bar spe­cialty choco­late since 2006, and are renowned world­wide for their clean, crisp Amer­i­can-made choco­late. You can taste all of their sin­gle-ori­gin bars in store: an in­trigu­ing global adventure for the palate. High­lights are the Pa­pua New Guinea bar: rich, dark and smoky; the part­ner­ship bar with Port­land’s own ar­ti­sanal cof­fee roaster, Stump­town; and the Vanilla and Smoked Choco­late which comes as a block or in hand-rolled truf­fles.

Just around the cor­ner you will find OddFel­lows Ice Cream Co. and some of the most ob­scure ice cream flavours you will ever come across. From corn­bread; chorizo-caramel swirl; manchego, pineap­ple and thyme; miso, butterscotch and cherry, to tobacco-leaf smoked chile and huck­le­berry, this small-batch cream­ery uses lo­cally sourced dairy and of­fers 10–14 dif­fer­ent flavours of ice cream and sor­bet daily.

If you are plan­ning on stay­ing in Man­hat­tan but still want an ice cream fix with a dif­fer­ence, Big Gay Ice Cream has three venues across Man­hat­tan, and starts with old-school vanilla soft serve, adding toppings that range from toasted cur­ried co­conut to olive oil and sea salt. You might want to head here af­ter brunch at Clin­ton St Bak­ing Com­pany, just a short walk away. New York Mag­a­zine twice voted Clin­ton St’s pancakes the best in the city, and th­ese un­be­liev­ably fluffy cre­ations stud­ded with ei­ther wild blue­ber­ries or ba­nanas and wal­nuts live up to ex­pec­ta­tions. What makes them truly ex­cep­tional is the maple but­ter ac­com­pa­ni­ment — a pot of liq­uid gold — warmed and ready to pour over the top.

Only a few hours left in the Big Ap­ple? There are ways to take the sweet side of New York home with you. Stop in at tourist favourite Dy­lan’s Candy Bar for mul­ti­ple lev­els of sugar con­fec­tions. If you pre­fer small-batch ar­ti­sanal foods, Brook­lyn-based Lid­dabit Sweets makes candy bars just like the ones you find at su­per­mar­ket check­outs, but th­ese are made by hand with lo­cal, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents. They don’t just cre­ate repli­cas of your old favourites — The Dorie is filled with dark co­coa cook­ies, salted caramel ganache, sautéed dried apri­cots and black pep­per, while The King is made from peanut but­ter nougat sand­wiched be­tween brown sugar but­ter cookie, and a layer of fresh ba­nana ganache.

New York is al­ready known as a gourmet dream des­ti­na­tion. But some of the world’s most cre­ative, bound­ary-push­ing and in­ven­tive chefs trade in sugar there. So on your next trip, why not in­dulge in the sweeter side of New York?

THIS PAGE Do­minique Ansel’s Rasp­berry Ly­chee Cronut.

THIS PAGE CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT Big Gay ice cream; Rice to Riches; Christina Tosi of Mo­mo­fuku; New York Times Square.

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