. . . And a Few Favorite Desserts
“Dad, it’s yummy” is the ultimate compliment my 5-year-old daughter bestows on any dessert. I haven’t exposed her yet to the supreme chocolate fondant at Asiate (served with a raspberry granita and fromage blanc in a ceramic Japanese teacup), or the excellently dense apple-walnut strudel produced (with maple ice cream and a spoonful of schlag) by the Austrian pastry wizards at Wallsé. When I took her and a few of her nursery-school classmates for a farewell dinner at Le Cirque 2000, they were struck mute when a tray of towering Napoleons arrived, and refused to lift their spoons until the waiters produced a communal bowl of vanilla ice cream. The same thing happened at the pocket-sized, perpetually crowded, dessert-only establishment ChicKaLicious, in the East Village, where we presented our coats with the coat-check man, took our seats at the glossy white bar, and watched in silent wonder as the two industrious lady proprietors whipped up an elegant apple pudding cake (with Granny Smith– apple sorbet) and a batch of sweet figs steamed in parchment paper, with a sidecar of port-wine ice cream.
Next stop on the great father-daughter dessert ramble is our local downtown branch of the Cold Stone Creamery, where on busy evenings, the line of rotund, eagerly salivating ice-cream fanatics spills out the door onto the sidewalk. The specialties of the house are elaborate “mix-ins” like Oreo Overload (cream-flavored ice cream, chocolate fudge, double-size Oreos, chocolate chips) or the profound Cookie Don’t You Want Some (vanilla ice cream, chocolate chips, cookie dough, fudge, caramel), all prepared to order on a frozen granite stone. From there, we’ll nip around the corner to our neighborhood Beard Papa Sweets Café, the eccentric Japanese establishment where the preparation of excellent cream puffs (a warm choux-pastry shell injected with custard folded with vanilla beans hand-picked in Madagascar and dusted with powdered sugar) has been raised to the level of wacky performance art. And, at long last, we'll conclude our annual sugar binge at Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven, the cavernous new chocolate factory recently opened at the bottom of Hudson Street by the city's own Willie Wonka, Jacques Torres. Through the tall glass windows, my daughter observed the making of chocolate fruit drops and batches of Love Potion No. 9, before proclaiming her favorite treat of all: a simple graham cracker, covered in chocolate. "It's really yummy," she announced between earnest chipmunk-size bites. "Now, where can we go next, Dad?"