Anyone recall, even vaguely, the film series – “Honey, I shrunk the kids?” We don’t remember anything about it, except that eye-catching title. Fast forward almost three decades later, and these Dessert Correspondents would note two things of rather coincidental timing. First, the blockbuster movie of the last two years (if not, arguably, the last decade) have revolved around a set of marvel-ously gifted superheroes and superheroines (pun intended), of which one – Antman – has one of the most curious abilities, that being the ability to shrink to sub-atomic levels. Our second observation is that in the same time frame, of the last year or so, pastry chefs have became increasingly fixated on the art of sculpting desserts into miniature form. To the latter end – because we are your Dessert Correspondents, not movie reviewers – we document the rising popularity in NYC of “life in miniature,” trompe l’oeil desserts, desserts that are not quite what they seem to be. (Please note that restaurant desserts have been excluded from this review, look-out for a forthcoming edition on it, though!).
Once upon a time, if you wanted to feel remotely “healthy” about desserts, you could contemplate adding in some fruit. Today, you could consider eating a “fruit dessert.” That is, desserts that look like fruits, taste like fruit and yet, still fundamentally, a dessert. It’s almost as mind-boggling as watching “Inception” or “Vanilla Sky,” but yielding a definitively, sweeter, happier ending. In NYC, at Lroom, a patisserie-cafe lined with long-stem roses yearning to be clasped between the pearly whites of a tango dancer, pink-pink-pink lights and chairs, and gaggles of 20-30-something year old girls with cameras at the ready for the perfect selfie pout or foodie portraiture session (ourselves included, guilty as charged), we found a Mardi-Gras harvest of photo-realistic fruits, including a dew-drop strawberry, dimpled-skin lemon and a curiously fluffy bao cake. At the other compass points of this dessert trend, we fell into a dreamy state – almost akin to Snow White perhaps – when we encountered the sublime, creamy apple at the currently under-the-radar Patisserie Fouet, were awakened when we beheld a breath of rose at an East Village escapade called Mi Tea, and encountered a vibrant taste of the tropics with Luxamor’s passionfruit cocktail inside a miniature coconut in one hand, and a white chocolate ice cream dessert in the other.
Trompe l’oeil fruits are truly, just the beginning. One step further are dessert animals and plants. From the animal realm, we have sighted a pastry swan at dim sum from the very serene Uluh Teahouse, carefully nibbled into a chocolate mouse from LA Burdick alongside sipping a mug of steaming hot chocolate, crunched through the hard shell of a lobster cake pop from Rebecca Cake Pops at a “dessert festival,” and swirled our tongues around an ice cream fish from Taiyaki while shopping through the streets of Soho. Indeed, we wonder if the burgeoning population of meat-hating millenials would consider any of these? And if not, their meat-free preference could be catered by Spot Dessert Bar‘s tree dessert, perhaps – a multi-layered tiramisu-like creation in disguise.
We have noted previously how today’s most memorable desserts may not necessarily be found in the restaurant setting, and truly, we have seen a wilder, more vivid imagination for wonderment at some patisserie-bakeries in NYC. If you want to hunt down magical creatures in NYC in the manner that one might have during the Pokemon GO rage of a few years ago, we have found a Totoro macaron and cute alpaca faces smiling out of a black sesame-hazelnut-lychee-raspberry dessert mound at the perpetually crowded Bibble & Sip, Minion shortbread biscuits from grocery stores to Minion (and Emoji) macarons from Stache of Goods, and a Pusheen cat cake pop from Recolte, an airy bakery pit-stop we must make before we trot over to Central Park and the Upper West Side. We can also pinpoint the exact moment we fell in love, truly fell in love, with being in NYC to that day we discovered Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a Sugar Sketch unicorn cupcake as our travelling companion. Truly, desserts in NYC have increasingly become a recreation of life and dreams in miniature.