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Traveling Gourmet: Sweet Dreams are Made of This

by Rich Rubin

Let’s go on a sweet journey that will take us from ice cream to butter tarts to donuts to matcha cakes, with anything and everything in between. Happy indulging! You deserve it.

Rich Rubin

Sometimes you’re just in the mood for a mid-day treat, or you’re planning to skip dinner entirely and just eat dessert! This is when you need a special place devoted to satisfying your craving for something sweet, without bothering with all that appetizer/main course stuff. Yes, you’re allowed to jump right into dessert, and the places I explore below are perfectly suited to helping you do that. I set two ground rules here, 1.) They have to specialize in dessert. They’re not just a restaurant that serves great desserts. You might find the occasional savory or sandwich, but at all these places, sweets are the main thing on the bill of fare. 2). They must have a place to sit. You’re on the road, you don’t want to be schlepping your treats back to your hotel room. (Well, after tasting some of these you probably WILL get a few to take back, but first we’re going to enjoy them in situ.) So let’s go on a sweet journey that will take us from ice cream to butter tarts to donuts to matcha cakes, with anything and everything in between. Happy indulging! You deserve it.

Palm Springs, California
Opened about a year ago, Kreem is an ice cream and coffee place—can you imagine a better combination? Yes, the coffee is terrific, but it’s the house-made, small batch ice creams that are a revelation. It’s creative without being fussy, and you can choose from an array of unique flavors such as lemon meringue pie, cranberry/cinnamon, or strawberry/rose. More traditional types can always select vanilla bean or mint chip, but let’s throw caution to the wind and splurge on Vietnamese coffee, s’mores, or the unique “Funky Cold Medina” (orange blossom ice cream with pistachios and halvah. I hear you say, “Oh, but my boyfriend is a vegan, so we don’t go to ice cream places.” Well, guess again: they offer a wide variety of vegan flavors, from turmeric/ginger to piña colada to chocolate cacao nib. The seats in the jaunty interior are likely to be full with devoted customers, and it’s easy to see why Kreem has so quickly built a following. With the staff behind the counter offering tastes and clearly in love with the job they’re doing, it’s as pleasant (and delicious) a spot as you’re likely to find in Palm Springs—or anywhere. 170 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs CA. Tel: 760-699-8129. www.ilovekreem.com

Dark Decadence
at Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Bakery

Seattle, Washington
With its chewy outside and runny interior, molten chocolate cake is possibly my favorite thing in the world, and to find a
place dedicated to this spectacular dessert is a pleasure indeed. While their original branch is in the Ballard neighborhood,
I love the Capitol Hill location at the heart of the gayborhood. Take your place in the humongous lines (that never seems to change), confident that it will move quickly and a fabulous treat awaits you at the end. My favorite here is their original “Dark Decadence.” This aptly-named delicacy is delivered in a little dish on a wooden board with a scoop of ice cream. Cut into the thin nest of cake crust till you arrive at the splendid gooeyness that oozes out. If you want to check out some other flavors the cakes are relatively small, saving you from really going overboard. There are such flavors here as milk chocolate/hazelnut and peanut butter cup, as well as a “molten cake of the month,” which when I visit is wild elderberry. There are dessert drinks (butter beer, anyone?), shakes, and such treats as sourdough cobblers and bread pudding, but trust me, you want to go with the choice that gave this place its name. 1650 E. Olive Way, Seattle WA. Tel: 206-258-2591. www.getyourhotcakes.com.

Butter Tarts at 13th Street Bakery

St. Catherine’s, Ontario
“A bakery within a winery?” I hear you ask. My answer: “well, why the hell not?” The two are, after all, perfectly complementary. Not only does this spot in the heart of Canada’s Niagara Wine Region offer great wines, they also have a topnotch bakery featuring a variety of wonderful creations. They’re best known for their butter tarts, an Ontario specialty
that’s basically butter, sugar and eggs baked in a pastry shell and is every bit as sweet, sinful, and astounding as it sounds (the 13th Street version took home the “best butter tarts” award from a Canadian food magazine). Cast an eye over their cases, though, and you’ll find a wealth of ever-changing delights from cookies and fruit pies to scones, carrot cake, and brownies. I’m betting, though, that it’s those butter tarts that catch your eye! Take a seat in the lovely interior among shelves full of jams and jellies, locally-produced cheese, 13th Street wine, and other goodies, or take your baked goods to a bench among the spectacular art works of their outdoor sculpture garden. You’ll soon come to realize that fine wine and mouthwatering baked goods are the perfect combination. 1776 Fourth Ave., St. Catherine’s Ontario, Canada. Tel: 904-984-8444. www.13thstreetwinery.com/13thstreet-bakery

Ted Drewes Strawberry Concrete

St. Louis, Missouri
It’s not really ice cream, it’s frozen custard. For those who care, frozen custard is lower in fat and calories than ice cream, since it’s made with a combination of whole and non-fat milk. It also has eggs in it, which accounts for the “custard” name. Most of all, though, it’s delicious. My nephew Zach first brought me to Ted Drewes’ Chippewa Street location (they have another on South Grand) and I’ve been a devotee ever since. I’m obviously not alone, since they’ve thrived for almost ninety years. While you can get a malt or sundae, my recommendation is a “concrete,” which is pure unadulterated frozen custard, soft and creamy but so solid they serve your little dish upside down to prove it won’t run out of the cup. Choose flavors from brownie to butterscotch, raspberry to graham cracker, pretzel to (my favorite) cookie dough. You could do chocolate, strawberry, or mint, but with such a wide range of exotic flavors, why not go with Scotch Oatmeal Cookie or Abaco Mocha? Take a seat at one of the outdoor tables and watch the traffic go by on the street, part of the original Route 66. On a steamy St. Louis summer night, there’s nowhere I’d rather be. 6726 Chippewa St., St. Louis MO. Tel: 314-481-2652. www.teddrewes.com

Scottsdale. Arizona

Sweet Dee’s Matcha Cake

This new spot in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale is a welcome addition to the foodie scene: French-inspired and contemporary, with a wide range of pleasures from traditional to unexpected. Stop in for a morning treat or afternoon enhancement, enjoying your baked goods at a long counter along the wall or at an outdoor table in sunny weather (which is pretty much almost always in Scottsdale). Macarons are a favorite here, in such creative flavors as vanilla/prickly pear or champagne. Donuts, too, are a standard, and you might find a chocolate sprinkled or maple-glazed variety when you visit. No-bake/gluten-free brownies are a joy, and the “cruffins” (a cross between croissants and muffins) combine the flakiness
of the former with the moistness of the latter. The baked goods look as good as they taste: a mango/kiwi strawberry mousse tart is an extravagant mound, with a light creamy filling in the center of a round wall of strawberries, while matcha cake is a series of elaborate swirls and shapes in cream, gold, and the singular hue of this green tea powder. 7350 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale AZ. Tel: 480-994-6733. www.sweetdeesaz.com

Assorted Cupcakes at Sweet Freedom Bakery

Philadelphia. Pennsylvania
Sweet Freedom Bakery is a place you might have considered unthinkable: a bakery that’s vegan, kosher, and uses no gluten, soy, corn, peanuts, or refined sugar. Best of all, it’s amazing. When I lived in Philadelphia, I was a regular, and I don’t have any of these restrictions. That’s because the baked goods here are just so damn good. Cupcakes range from carrot to banana chocolate chip or lemon/raspberry. Chocolate chip cookies are heavenly, but why not give yourself a little extra boost with Double Mint chocolate chip cookies? Loaves from zucchini to banana to cinnamon/sugar are rich and moist with the perfect
amount of sweetness balancing the ultra-fresh flavor. Brownies, blondies, muffins (cinnamon/apple, lemon/poppyseed, orange cranberry), donuts (chocolate, lemon/coconut, pumpkin, apple cider): the selections are downright endless, and served from behind the glass counters at this cozy spot right on Philadelphia’s well-known South Street. Deliciousness and healthy eating are not mutually exclusive. At Sweet Freedom, they go hand in hand. 1424 South St., Philadelphia PA. Tel: 215-545-1899. www.sweetfreedombakery.com

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