L'Arte del Gelato
Affogato alla Cioccolata Calda: L'Arte's buttery mascarpone gelato meets hot chocolate with billows of fresh whipped cream. Chocolate shavings and one cigar wafer finish it off. The hot chocolate alone is intense, but drinkable and far from thick. Sink that spoon in for a bite of barely sweet cream and gelato, a quick melt into deep chocolate.
There are only positive things to say about Motorino's Tiramisu. The ladyfingers are cakey-soft from an overnight soak, it's generous with chocolate powdered over the surface and between the layers, and the cream, yolk-rich and dense, makes for a velvety mouthful. It's a dark, luxurious, espresso-laced affair. What's not to love?
ChikaLicious Dessert Club
ChikaLicious takes a cookie éclair—so named because of that cookie-like crunch over the shell surface—slices it open horizontally, and fills it with vanilla bean soft serve and a pour of hot fudge. Fork and knife required. Messy, but wonderful, with soft-serve and dark fudge melting into the hollows of the choux pastry.
El Quinto Pino
El Quinto Pino's Ensaimada is made from lard and baked a deep brown, the top thoroughly dusted in powdered sugar. Pull off a piece, and the exterior will separate, crackly crisp, positively crunchy. The interior, while moist, is more dense than fluffy, and begs for a cup of Cafe con Leche.
The Arctic Circle is a well-composed dessert, a strong clean burst of three complementary flavors. A creamy tower of goat cheese parfait is savory with the slightest hint of sweet. Slice down the middle to reveal a sunny center of tart passionfruit curd—the chilled curd holds its shape for the first few bites, and then dares to ooze as you hit the core. There's a blueberry sorbet quenelle to finish.
Columbine's Whoopie Pie is at that ideal point between cake and cookie—it's soft, verging on fudgy, but still a coherent cookie. The marshmallow cream spooned in the center doesn't look like much, but take the first bite, and the fluffy cream oozes out so that it's all distributed evenly without making a mess.
Lupa's Tartufo is a chocolate-covered orb of hazelnut gelato, with crushed biscotti cookies and a single cherry at the center. This gelato is pure hazelnut in flavor, more nutty than sweet. Crushed hazelnuts adorn the exterior with warm dark chocolate sauce pooled around the tartufo. A layer covers the gelato, just soft enough to gently give with a push of the spoon.
The Chocolate Room
The fact that one of the best simple chocolate cakes in this city comes from The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn is no surprise. Three layers of dark chocolate cake, consistently moist, with an even, delicate crumb. It's inconspicuously tender and soft, a melt-in-your mouth type of cake. Frosting is buttery and even darker than the cake itself, smooth and rich, though not overwhelming in the least. It comes closer to a ganache than a classic frosting and is layered over with a gentle hand—thin layers of luxury.
Duane Park Patisserie
There's one communal table at Duane Park Patisserie. Sit down, breathe in the scent of baking pastries, and order an eclair. The choux pastry is slightly cool, and piped tight with pastry cream, a vibrant vanilla bean-studded mouthful. Utterly luxurious, the crackle-thin layer of chocolate easily gives way at first bite.
The sweets at Petrossian—cakes, pastries, cookies—blow me away time after time. There are only few New York bakeries that never fail to impress, and this is one them. Meet the Petrossian Blueberry Tart ($7.50). The tart shell is the highlight and nothing short of perfect: just browned enough, at the finest intersection of crisp and flaky. It's not as buttery as one would except, but breaks into shards with each forkful. A filling of marzipan and an overflowing bounty of fresh blueberries, with a slight glaze for shine, candied orange, and a shake of powdered sugar. Delicious.