By Judy Hevrdejs, Tribune Newspapers
1:00 AM EST, January 23, 2014
You need not be a sugar lover to enjoy "New York Sweets," the latest book from Susan Pear Meisel, an admitted sugarhound. Nor do you have to be a baking enthusiast.
But if you're a traveler with a passion for tracking down interesting sugar-coated retailers, Meisel's "New York Sweets: A Sugarhound's Guide to the Best Bakeries, Ice Cream Parlors, Candy Shops, and Other Emporia of Delicious Delights" (Rizzoli, $29.95) might prove invaluable.
Citing the city's "explosion of creative new sweets," Meisel's book aims "to cover this exciting renaissance in the world of sugar."
So she's packed this almost-200-page book with 100 purveyors of sweets, from shops to trucks and market stalls. She added her location photos and tested 50 recipes from shops such as Serendipity 3 (Frrrozen Hot Chocolate) and Francois Payard Bakery (Flourless Chocolate Cookies).
Meisel's book is tourist-friendly and divided into four area-focused chapters: "Greenwich Village and SoHo," "East Village and Lower East Side," Midtown and Uptown," plus "Brooklyn and Queens." There's an index each for recipes, shops and shops by neighborhood.
The usual suspects — Magnolia Bakery, Momofuku Milk Bar, Dean & Deluca, Eataly and Jacques Torres Chocolate — are included. So are a few legendary places, including the century-plus-old Ferrara Bakery & Cafe. Also in the mix: a Swedish candy store called Sockerbit; Babycakes, a vegan bakery; Puddin', which offers customers several puddings and 19 toppings to choose from; and Rice to Riches, a shop that sells more than 20 flavors of rice pudding.
If you're undecided about which brownie or doughnut to eat, Meisel offers 10 pages dubbed "Sweets Sampler," each focusing on a single sweet with photos of six examples, as well as Meisel's comments. Of chocolate chip cookies at Olive's, she writes: "This is a chewy and moist cookie, with thin layers of chocolate chunk laced throughout." Of Birdbath's interpretation: "Large enough to be crunchy on the outside and thick and chewy on the inside, this one is a classic."
Some purists may question her inclusion of, say, a certain scone or croissant. And if you're expecting foodie mag glamour photos or the snippy commentary found at some online sites, look elsewhere. Meisel offers straightforward information, with a focus on retailers offering locally sourced components.
The book "celebrates desserts and the places where you can buy the best, most inventive and delicious treats," writes Meisel, who grew up in New York, satisfying her sweet tooth with her grandmother's blintzes, The Horn & Hardart Automat's warm vanilla custard and Ebinger's Bakery's blackout cake. "My criteria for selecting these purveyors, confectioners, bakers and artisans were not scientific. ... Each place had to be doing something in a way that set the shop apart. There had to be an individual spirit present in their creations."
And this is Meisel's fan letter to them all.
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