Serious Eats: Sweets

Gift Guide: For a New Yorker's Sweet Tooth

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

When shopping for food gifts you need to keep a few things in mind. The gift in question should:

Perhaps the easiest way to answer those concerns is with dessert, and if you're shopping for someone with a sweet tooth, New York's many bakeries, sweet shops, and specialty stores have you covered. Here are some stocking stuffer ideas to get you hungry.

Cookies

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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

There are many places to buy cookies, but Levain Bakery's massive and well-loved specimens are some of the most distinctive. You can get them at the bakery's Upper West Side and Harlem locations or online, where a gift box of four cookies goes for $27 plus shipping. That's a lot, but bear in mind that each six-ounce cookie is really the biomass of four lesser cookies, and they keep well enough to arrive in peak condition after shipping. Plus: keep an eye out for more cookie recommendations next week.

Chocolate, Bars

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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

There are plenty of chocolate makers in New York, but Red Hook's Cacao Prieto makes some beautiful—and delicious—bars, $10 for 4.2 ounces online (retail prices vary). The chocolate is buttery smooth with clean, natural cocoa flavors. Crunchy additions like cashew and dried cranberry or pistachio and apricot are done well, not just distractions from supbar chocolate. (And if you're shopping around, their cacao nib-infused rum is aces, too.) For made-in-not-New-York chocolate shopping, The Meadow has the best selection of bean to bar chocolate you'll find in the city. They ship, too.

Chocolate, Fancy Things

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[Photograph: Kathy YL Chan]

If your gift recipient is into fussy, fancy-looking desserts, La Maison du Chocolat is basically the fancy, fussy-looking gift bag they've been waiting for. Elaborate sweets like this edible pistachio and chocolate sculpture await inside, $8 to $9 apiece. Though hardly a value, Maison du Chocolat uses excellent chocolate as their base, and any restaurant pastry department would be lucky to produce fancy stuff like this.

Chocolate, Candies

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[Photograph: Niko Triantafillou]

A wide category with plenty of options, but can I suggest chocolate-covered bacon or pretzels at Roni-Sue's (be sure to check out their new shop) or beer pretzel caramels from Liddabit? Or kick it old school with the honeycomb sponge from 85-year-old Aigner's or top-notch peanut butter cups from Jomart.

All of the above take online orders for shipping.

Brownies (and Cakey Comestibles)

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[Photographs: Donny Tsang]

Cupcake (and brownie, and whoopie pie) ass-kickers Robicelli's just opened their Bay Ridge bakery (more on that here) and sell their wares elsewhere around the city as well as online. Beer brownies, Scotch, walnut, and espresso brownies, cajeta and cinnamon brownies—they have 'em all. The cupcake flavors go into even bolder territory.

Speaking of affordable, portable, cake-like things, I'd be remiss to ignore the incomparable chocolate babka from Breads Bakery, which is about 50% butter and 50% chocolate. It's a hefty loaf with tempting tear-apart braids that will set you back ten bucks, not a bad deal, and way better than giving a fruitcake.

Macarons

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[Photograph: Alice Gao]

If pretty in pink is what you're after, and for a beautiful stocking stuffer it may, LadurĂ©e has our vote for the best macarons in town—just stick to the classics like caramel and stay away from the overly perfumed flavors. Macaron runner-up La Maison du Chocolat also makes some excellent versions, all with chocolate if you swing that way.

What Else?

Anything we missed? What sweet gifts do you give during the holidays?

More NYC Gift Guides

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the New York editor and ice cream maker in residence at Serious Eats. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

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