Written by Suzanne Lemon
As a writer traveling on assignment to the Big Apple, I couldn’t help but notice that a handful of artisanal chocolatiers and innovative bakers had set up shop in the Bowery area of the East Village. With visions of bonbons and other decadent delights beckoning from charming window displays, I set out to conduct some firsthand research. I feel compelled to share my sugary findings with AAA TravelViews readers.
You have to look hard to spy Bond Street Chocolate’s mocha-colored sign embellished with its pretty pink logo at 63 E. 4th St. Although the shop is tiny, its confections are big on taste—the two that I sampled, mojito and Earl Grey tea, were deliciously unique. If you’re not afraid to experiment with flavors, this is the place—you won’t be disappointed. And I loved the chocolate-sculpted Buddha’s dusted with 24-carat gold.
The day was chilly and rainy, and the Cocoa Bar (21 Clinton St.) was the perfect place to be under such circumstances, since a frothy hot chocolate with espresso perked me right up. To complement my silky smooth beverage, I ordered a diverse selection of tidbits: a caramel-filled turtle, a macadamia cranberry cookie with white chocolate chunks and some chocolate-covered espresso beans recommended by the proprietor. (Yes, I skipped lunch.) I grabbed one of the window tables in the cozy bistro and watched East Village life drift by from my chocolaty perch.
Roni-Sue’s Chocolates is at 120 Essex St. in the Essex Street Market, conveniently located by the Delancey Street subway stop. The neon sign gives the shop a retro kind of feel, but the chocolates are innovative morsels—the owner likes to experiment with a variety of ingredients to create clever combinations. One collection blends chile peppers with dark chocolate—the mixture of sweet, salt and heat packs some punch, but those who favor hot spices will be hooked. Another collection captures the essence of popular cocktails (think mimosa and margarita), while the seasonal May flowers assortment includes floral infused truffles like rose, hibiscus and lavender.
Roni-Sue definitely thinks out of the box. I couldn’t bring myself to try the maple/bacon lollipops or chocolate-dipped bacon—maybe next time for breakfast. (By the way, the market is a great stop for lunch or for purchasing local breads, cheeses and other gourmet foods.)
Babycakes, a funky little spot at 248 Broome St., challenges the theory that all-natural, organic desserts suffer in the taste department. The bakery caters to all walks of life—the health-conscious, those with dietary restrictions and folks simply on the lookout for scrumptious baked goods. One of their claims to fame is a wholesome version of a Hostess chocolate cupcake. It was hard to decide what treat to choose from the packed display case, with tantalizing flavors like pumpkin cinnamon, banana maple and brownie mocha teasing the palate. I went with an agave-sweetened brownie, which was gluten, egg and daily free (who would know?), savoring it as I checked out the celebrity photos on the wall.
Note: I must share one last tip with connoisseurs of chocolate chip cookies about a place outside of East Village. Levain Bakery, on the Upper West Side, offers the heavenly Chocolate Chip Walnut, a behemoth of a treat that’s crispy on the outside and satisfyingly chewy on the inside. The pilgrimage to the tiny bakery is a must for any chocoholic worth his or her salt.
During my escapade, I merely scratched the surface of the sweet possibilities that Manhattan offers. Feel free to dish up on any mouthwatering discoveries you make while touring the city.
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