With a predilection for the over-sweet, saccharine and colourful, desserts in New York are oftentimes, superficially beautiful (and highly Instagrammable), yet substantively lacking. How about its chocolate? We constructed a DIY tour visiting a quintet of hidden secrets and tourist drawcards in the Flatiron and Union Square neighbourhoods of Manhattan. Join us below, and let us know your favourite chocolate spots too!
Waterfalls of chocolate
- Dessert destination: Venchi, 861 Broadway, Flatiron/Union Square, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Chocolate waterfall (free to view). It was a hazy summer almost a decade ago when we first encountered Venchi in Milan. With a cone of Stracciatella chocolate gelato in one hand, and one of its classical, book-shaped chocolate boxes in another, we traipsed around Milan with complete joie de vivre. Eights years later, Venchi has arrived in New York City, complete with a (fake) chocolate waterfall. (Our partner-in-crime-on-dessert-adventures who is akin to a walking science encyclopedia, believes that in a creative simulation of the viscous effect of molten chocolate, Venchi’s waterfall is, in fact, glycerin-like liquid cascading over a wavy brown plastic board backdrop). Here in New York, the same signature, book-shaped gift boxes filled with chocolate bars and block snaps are available, as well as a hot beverage menu and ice cream bar. For these Dessert Correspondents, Venchi has become our go-to place to stand at the ice-cream-curtained entrance, gaze at that chocolate waterfall, and dream dreams of chocolate. Mmmmm…..
A hidden chocolate factory
- Dessert destination: Chocolate Moderne, 27 West 20th Street, Flatiron, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Bonbons. In a time when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate independent from paid content (authored by traditional media and cyber-influencers alike), these Dessert Correspondents have come to believe that “word-of-mouth” remains the most reliable source of the best food adventures today. And when we were told of a “secret” chocolate factory in the middle of Manhattan, our brain stems tingled with excitement. To access the hidden secret of Chocolate Moderne, you enter via what appears to be an office lobby, ascend by elevator nine floors high to a long corridor of closed doors and laboratory-like, gleaming lights. Confused, you peer around and wonder if you are in a restricted area. The correct door is the red door. And behold, the intoxicating smell of chocolate drifts past you when you open the door. Chocolate Modern focuses on wholesales, but is open to the public, and on all of our visits, the wife-and-husband team have been an absolute delight with whom to swap chocolate stories. Made from fine Valrhona chocolate, the range of chocolate flavours is extensive, with chocolates with hearts of caramel predominating Chocolate Moderne’s repertoire. Our favourite bites at Chocolate Moderne however, are those inspired by global adventures — the chocolate nibbles infused with the likes of yuzu, kumquat from the Orient, fig and baklava from the Middle East, and pudding and trifle from the United Kingdom.
- Dessert destination: The City Bakery, 3 West 18th Street, Flatiron, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Hot Chocolate (approx. $5.50, plus tax). Midway on our DIY chocolate tour on an icy winter weekend, you will come to agree that a mug of hot chocolate sounds like a positively, fabulous idea. City Bakery is an old-school-style cafeteria-cum-diner. Locals and tourists alike make a horseshoe loop around the counter where the service staff aren’t particularly friendly, and then, gather their paper cups of hot chocolate, and maybe a paper plate graced with a chocolate cookie or pretzel croissant, to eat at the side tables or upstairs mezzanine level. Served as is, or with a giant sponge of a marshmallow for $2 extra, City Bakery’s hot chocolate itself is lukewarm. If you prefer a bittersweet, somewhat cloying, hot chocolate – rather than a creamier variety – this cup is for you.
Nutty for Nutella
- Dessert destination: Nutella Cafe, 116 University Place between 12th and 13th Street, Union Square, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: Nutella Crepes (approx. $6, plus tax). Can you remember when you were children, dear readers? Was Peanut Butter your best friend, or was it Nutella? If it was the latter, the recently-opened Nutella Cafe near the border of Union Square and Greenwich Village demands your attention. Visit with a dessert accomplice – one of you order, one of you hunt for a table. Bypass the overpriced alfajore-like Nutella biscuits and almost $7 Nutella croissant (!). Order without hesitation, the crepes – a large triangle richly slathered with Nutella, and as you fancy, flecked with icing sugar, strawberries, bananas or blueberries, and accompanied with towers of whipped cream or orbs of ice cream. Take one bite and you will forget the long wait around the block if you arrive at peak eating times (we recommend before 11am or around the 3-4pm mark to avoid the lines), the traffic policeman at the door, and the cramped noisy seating. Join the hype.
- Dessert destination: Blue Stripes Cacao Shop, 28 East 13th Street, Union Square, Manhattan.
- Short and sweet story: “Panckwich” ($11.50 plus tax), Ferrero Rocher Ball ($12 plus tax). All those years ago when these Dessert Correspondents were in late high school and early college days, Max Brenner in Melbourne was our go-to haunt. Today, in 2019, we have grown up (although our sweet tooth has not!). Likewise, the “grown-up” version of Max Brenner may be found at Blue Stripes, a cute cafe-style boutique a few shops away from the Nutella Cafe, serving chocolate desserts in a multitude of different ways: chunky slices of chocolate cakes and mousse-cakes, chocolate ice cream swirled into churro cones, hot chocolate “cloud” beverages and decadent chocolate milkshakes, chocolate fondue with mini-doughnuts or fruits for the dipping, chocolate pizza, etc etc. Our favourite nibbles from Blue Stripes are the mini-pancakes layered with bananas and caramel and encircled with an inner tube of dark chocolate, and the gigantic Ferrero Rocher-inspired ball drizzled with chocolate. Although not chocolate creations, the pastry selection are perfect creations of flaky buttery goodness, and shouldn’t be missed, either.