Undiscovered New York: Satisfying your sweet tooth

New York is under attack by cupcakes. Giant, fluffy cupcakes, gobbed with sickeningly sweet frosting and dumptruck-sized helpings of candy on top. One moment, Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City is chowing down on one, and the next, our fair city is awash in an unstoppable tidal wave of buttercream and sprinkles – it almost makes you want to go into a sugar coma.

Like cupcakes or loathe them, they’re a symptom of a much larger fact – New York is and always has been a sugar lover’s paradise. From the moment William Frederick Havemeyer founded what was to become the Domino Sugar Company in 1799, the city’s tastes were inextricably linked to this sweet, grainy substance. But even though Domino closed it doors in 2001 and Red Hook’s Revere Sugar Refinery met the wrecking ball in 2007, New York is still very much a sugar lover’s city.

And though we find ourselves in the midst of “cupcake craziness,” it would be a shame to forget the many other divine desserts, sublime sweet shops and bountiful bakeries that New Yorkers are spoiled with every day. Does chocolate make you weak at the knees? Looking for a candy “blast from the past?” Want to try some quirkier sweet fare like Belgian Waffles? Step inside Undiscovered New York’s guide to “Satisfying your sweet tooth.”
In New York, Dessert Comes to You!
Forget getting in a taxi or strenuous activities like walking – sweets are a food best consumed while relaxing. Perhaps that’s why one of New York’s many mobile “dessert trucks” can be a godsend. OK – they don’t literally come to you, but they do move around, offering dessert lovers across the city a chance to sample some first-rate goodies while they’re out and about.

Anyone who’s craving a Liege or Brussels-style Belgian waffle should search out the Wafles and Dinges truck. This roving truck serves some of the most authentic Belgian treats anywhere in the city. They come topped off with a range of awesome toppings, or “dinges,” ranging from fresh fruit, whipped cream and nutella. You can find the truck’s next location by checking out their website or on Twitter.

Another strong contender for best sweet-serving truck is the Dessert Truck. Not only do you get to enjoy your dessert al fresco, their selection is ever-changing and totally delicious. How about some Molten Dark Chocolate Cake, Brioche Doughnuts or Coffee Mousse? And all for only $5-6. Yes please.

Getting Your Sweets Old-School
Candy is a food that is inevitably associated with the carefree days of childhood. If you’re looking to relive those days of old (if even for just an hour), head to Economy Candy on New York’s Lower East Side. The store is one of the last holdouts of the old neighborhood, first opening its doors to sugar-lovers everywhere in 1937. In addition to a huge selection of bulk candy, licorice and chocolate, Economy also stocks quite a few old-school candy favorites, including candy buttons and Big League Chew. How’s that for sweet nostalgia?

And did you know Brooklyn also has its own brand of gum? OK, it was actually created in Italy in the 1950’s – but you’ve got to admit there’s something pretty neat about a city with its own brand of chewing gum. The tiny packs bearing the iconic bridge logo have become a cult favorite among Borough residents. Head to Brooklyn and see if you can find a pack.

Ice Cream Lovers, Unite
Who doesn’t love ice cream? Alright, maybe the lactose-intolerant. But truth be told, New York is a great city for frozen treats, whether you like the good old-fashioned American stuff or something a bit more international. Chinatown visitors will want to stop by the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory where they can sample exotic flavors like Wasabi, Durian and Zen Butter (?!). Italian gelato fans are in the right place too. Discriminating customers of Italian stuff swear by Ciao Bella, and straight from Rome upstart Grom.

If you’re looking for something more “All-American,” head to the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge for the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory which specializes in classic all-natural flavors. Last but not least, for a TRUE New York ice cream experience, grab a cone from Mister Softee – their chocolate-dip soft serve is a favorite summer treat.

When in Rome…Keep an Eye on Your Purse

If someone mentions Rome, a lot of things come to mind. You might think of museums, fountains, narrow streets, the pope, the history….the petty thieves. A recent post by Elizabeth Rosenthal on IHT’s Globespotters blog relates how Rome, while a great city and popular tourist destination, is not the idyllic spot some might expect. Pickpockets and bag snatching artists are out in full force in even the nicest of neighborhoods.

Rosenthal relates a story of a cell phone being plucked from a cafe table when the owner averted his eyes for mere seconds, and another about how she had her wallet taken out of her backpack…on two occasions…along the same street.

I recently posted about Cambodia seeing a rise in bag snatching. While the same kind of “wild west atmosphere” that some people think characterizes Phnom Penh is nowhere to be found in Rome, it does seem ironic that two cities with totally opposite images suffer from the same problem.

Philly Flavor: Capogiro Gelato

It was very random that I found myself eating Mexican Chocolate gelato (with real chipolte) in Philadelphia last week as the Nor’easter blew into town. And so I didn’t mention it. In fact, I forgot about it until I saw my first ice cream truck of the season yesterday.

And now the pleasant and balmy weather has got me thinking it’s a good time to tell you about the spectacular gelato offerings of Capogiro Gelato Artisans. This stuff is good enough to have in any weather, and totally worth losing your umbrella in a ferocious wind for just one taste. That’s exactly what my pal Tamara* and I did as we jumped over puddles in Center City last week to indulge in flavors like Rosemary Honey Goat’s Milk, Lemoncello and Turkish Coffee.

Capogiro has created over 300 of the most amazing flavors, made from local hand-picked Pennsylvania produce and milk from grass-fed cows. The flavor menu changes daily at their two Philly locations — a non-stop rotation of unusual selections. It’s like the Jelly Belly version of gelato, reminding me of that Willy Wonka Everlasting Gobstopper sensation that leaves your mouth stunned at how much it REALLY does taste like Avocado or Bourbon Butterscotch or Blood Orange or Nutella or Tahini. (I wonder if they’ve experimented with a cheesesteak flavor?)

When you visit Philly — you MUST visit Capogiro. Be sure to ask for samples of one or two flavors before making a final decision — It’s fun to test a few out, and is also important to make sure you’ll like what you order! And no worries if you’re not planning a trip to Philly — just find a gourmet grocer that carries pint-size containers of these all-natural heavenly creations and you’ll be all set for summer snacking.

(*Tamara is a regular Gadling Photo Pool contributor who took the delicious photo above. See more of her photos here.)

Getting Good Gelato in Italia

If I’m correct when I reflect back and say this then I had my very first gelato experience ever like two days ago, but it was far from Italy. Considering it was the only gelato spot around for miles a guide to finding the BEST wasn’t really necessary. In that kind of heat I would have taken the gelato from the palms of a bum on a shady Venice Beach side street. In Italia it’s different though. It’s the home of gelato. The real deal. You want to score the best. But how?

Valerie Ng at World Hum fills readers in on telling the best from all the rest. Long lines are a good indication in any place and Italy is no exception. Just be sure to line up behind all the Italians and not your foreign look-a-likes. Search for the signs that read “fatta in casa,” which means the gelato was made in house. Learn how to order, a little gelato lingo and some advanced technique to help get you the best gelato in all of Italy. Check out all of Ms. Ng’s tips. Something tells me she really knows what she’s talking about.