In a health-conscious age where being smart about your food choices is encouraged and even commended, sugary concoctions have had to move to the backburner to make room for nourishing snacks such as smoothies, fruit and granola bowls, and frozen yogurt. As a result, having dessert has become the ultimate guilty pleasure, something many have reserved for special occasions and holidays. This tasty repast is not to be underestimated however, for in the struggle to compete with an ever-evolving sugar-condemning food industry, the art of sweets has had to develop in inventive new ways in order to stay afloat.
It’s hard to believe that Extraordinary Desserts, a San Diego staple, has already been around for almost two decades. Opened by Paris-trained chef Karen Krasne, this popular destination offers up a constantly revolving selection of fruit tarts, cookies, cobblers, mousses, cakes, homemade ice cream and sorbets, and breakfast pastries. Laced with fresh edible flowers or speckled with gold flakes, each dessert is an eye-catching work of art in itself. If your appetite is on the lighter side you prefer to enjoy a steaming beverage instead, don’t overlook their extensive gourmet coffee and tea menu. With a new location in Little Italy since 2004, business has never better, as you’re sure to find out when you see the constant throng of people in line impatiently waiting for their own small taste of heaven.
Little Italy: 1430 Union Street, San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 294-7001
Balboa Park: 2929 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 294-2132
If cakes and pastries aren’t so much your poison of choice and you prefer to get right down to the nitty-gritty of sweets—chocolate--, perhaps Eclipse Chocolate is the place for you. As one of the few artisan chocolate makers in San Diego, sculptor William Gustwiller approaches his craft with a zealousness unmatched by most. His philosophy of using top-quality couveture chocolates, all-natural ingredients, and organic spices results in unusual yet delightful flavor profiles. If you happen to chance into this toothsome sanctuary, be sure not to miss trying one of Gustwiller’s signature Lavender and Sea-Salted Caramel Truffles or the unlikely, but nevertheless tantalizing Salted S’Mores Platter with a chocolate cookie, house-made marshmallows, 72% chocolate-blood orange olive oil fondue, and exotic sea salts—enough to make even Willa Wonka green-eyed with envy.
North Park: 2121 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92104 (619) 578-2984
After stepping into this new patisserie/chocolatier, you’ll have trouble believing you’re still on the corner of 5th and University in Hillcrest and not in a trendier downtown location. The swanky and clean white interior complemented by bright green accents in the hanging lamps and subtle plant arrangements gives the angled space a unique boutique feel. The sinful selection of neoclassical French pastries and chocolates are no less posh and ignite the palate with imaginative ingredients added to traditional delicacies. Be sure to sample one of their macarons with unusual flavors such as Pistachio Rasberry, Vanilla Bean Orange Blossom, Lavender, Maple with Soy Bacon, or Peanut Butter and Banana with Poppy Seed.
Hillcrest: 3896 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 295-5232
Many North Park locals would say that this trendy dessert spot is exactly that: heaven sent. Offering up a wide array of yummy desserts, aromatic teas, specialty drinks, and fizzy Italian sodas, this is a great place if you’re looking to share a late-night bite in a tasteful yet relaxed environment. True to the nature of North Park cuisine, there’s something for everyone: if you’re that rare breed of vegetarian that doesn’t eat dairy, try their vegan Sinless Chocolate Seduction Cake with strawberries and chocolate soy ganache.
North Park: 3001 University Avenue, San Diego, CA 92104 (619) 793-4758
For an interactive dipping experience to be enjoyed either intimately with a lover or communally with family or friends, check out the conveniently located Forever Fondue in Mission Valley or La Jolla village. While they specialize in the full-course fondue meal of cheese followed by fish, meat, or vegetables, and last but not least, chocolate, you can certainly take advantage of their dessert-only option. For that rich indulgence, choose from either milk, white, or dark chocolate and dip from a selection of pound cake, cheesecake, Rice Krispy treats, marshmallows, strawberries, pineapple, and bananas. If you prefer liquor infused chocolate with a twist, the menu also features specialties such as the Chocolate Emperor (milk chocolate, macadamia nuts, and Grand Marnier), the Dirty Angel (white chocolate with Amaretto Disaronno), and the Irishman (milk chocolate and Bailey’s Irish Cream).
Mission Valley: 6110 Friars Road # 101, San Diego, CA 92108 (619) 295-7792
La Jolla: 909 Prospect Street, La Jolla, CA 92037 (858) 551-4509
Situated in an inviting 1889 Craftsman house near Balboa Park, Babycakes offers a cozy atmosphere with fun and inexpensive treats. Sink into an overstuffed couch with one of their many-flavored gourmet cupcakes and enjoy the antique strewn surroundings, open-beamed ceilings, and brick fireplace. If you prefer to sit outside under a blossoming cotton tree to enjoy San Diego’s flawless climate, do so in comfort and serenity on the back garden patio. If cupcakes aren’t your thing, Babycakes also offers fruity tarts, bakery items, cheesecakes, and salty treats such as stuffed croissants, quiche, and chicken pie.
Hillcrest: 3766 5th Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103 (619) 296-4173
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