Editor's note: We've been asking chefs and food personalities to answer that age-old question: What's for dessert? We've heard picks for Paris and Rome, now it's time to come stateside and see what's sweet in NYC.—The Mgmt.
Gail Simmons clearly knows a thing or two about choosing great desserts. She hosts the popular TV show Top Chef: Just Desserts, has worked for chef Daniel Boulud, and is on staff at Food & Wine magazine.
So where does Gail go when she's sampling sweets on her own time? To an awesome assortment of New York City bakeries, pie shops, and gelaterias, to start. Check out her picks below.
View Gail Simmons Guide To NYC Sweets in a larger map
Truffles: I adore Kee's Chocolates in Soho. They have an amazing crème brûlée chocolate. It's perishable and has to be eaten in 24 hours. It has a dark chocolate outside, and the inside is a delicious explosion of crème brulée custard. It's eggy and beautiful.
Pie: I love Four and Twenty Blackbirds, especially their salted caramel apple pie.
Croissant: A croissant that I am addicted to, even if it's untraditional, is City Bakery's pretzel croissant. I love its salty crispiness. It makes all the difference with the buttery, flaky dough.
Gelato: I like L'Arte del Gelato in the West Village. On the Lower East Side, Stellina is my favorite. It's a little gelato place from the restaurant Sorella. Usually I'm a purist about ice cream, I just like a solid flavor, but Stellina puts a lot of chunks in and they all work so well. They have this one flavor that I'm crazy about: the Bananimal. It's banana gelato with caramel and crushed animal crackers in it. Outrageous!
Doughnuts: For doughnuts, I have to give a shout out to The Doughnut Plant, especially their glazed coconut cream doughnut. It has real, fresh coconut cream inside. I love that it's not overly sweet. It just tastes like real coconut, not the synthetic coconut flavor that's reminiscent of suntan lotion.
Whoopie Pies: One Girl Cookies in Brooklyn makes great whoopie pies.
Macarons: So predictable, but I think Laudurée is still the best in the city. There are a lot of great macarons in New York but Laurdurée's have that perfect crisp shell outside, soft inside, and flavor. Sometimes macarons just have coloring without flavor, but at Laudurée the flavors really come through.
Classic French Desserts: Dominique Ansel Bakery makes fantastic kouign amann. He also makes beautiful canelé. I love canelé—they're one of my favorite French pastries of all time. I worked for Daniel Boulud for many years, where I became good friends with a girl from Bordeaux. When I went there for her wedding last summer, I ate a canelé every single day! Dominique really gets them right: dark and caramelized on the outside, moist and airy within. For a classic éclair with a bit of a modern twist, I go to Épicerie Boulud. They make a killer dulce de leche éclair. Éclairs are one of those indulgences I have maybe once a year but they make me really happy.
Cake: I recently ordered my friend a classic birthday cake from Baked in Red Hook, Brooklyn: a dark chocolate layer cake with salted caramel ganache. It was so rich and delicious! I also love Lady M Confections. Their mille crepe cake takes my breath away. I love the texture, it's so smooth and soft—pure decadence.
A Taste of Home: For a taste of my homeland (Canada), I head to Clinton Street Bakery. They make a maple layer cake with maple frosting that brings me right back to my childhood.