There's something white and fluffy in the air this winter: powdered sugar. Maybe it's our collective attempt to stave off the winter blues with something sweet. Maybe it's because knitwear tends to be very forgiving. Maybe it's because no matter how many cold-pressed matcha bars open in this city, New York will never be L.A.—we'll always want dessert.
Whatever the reason, a slew of new pastry shops has opened in recent months, slinging flaky Italian doughnuts, old-fashioned chess pies and glorious whipped cream-coated meringues. From a doughnut shop in a West Side car wash to a malt shop-meets-cocktail bar, here are six of our favorite new sweet spots.
Butter & Scotch, Crown Heights
When you enter this malt shop-meets-cocktail bar, a neon sign instructs you to "Eat Pie." If you're wise, you will obey, namely with a slice of s'mores pie ($6) topped with a torched-to-order pillow of marshmallow. If you're really wise, you'll make it a pie shake ($11), complete with Blue Marble ice cream. Battle the sugar high with a Honeychile Rider ($10), a spicy honey and gin cocktail from the self-proclaimed Drunk Bakers. Plus, the week-old storefront is open until 2 a.m. on weekends, making it the perfect spot to slide into a retro vinyl banquette for a boozy-sweet nightcap.
Petee's Pie Company, Lower East Side
Owner Petra "Petee" Paredez opened this sunny storefront just before Thanksgiving, aka prime pie time—a smart plan for a business that traffics in local apple and brown butter honey pecan pastries, among other nouveau-meets-retro selections. Try the almond chess pie ($5 for a "nice big slice," $30 whole), laced with amaretto and an almond emulsion, or the orange cream cheese-slathered cardamom rolls ($3), which swap cinnamon for cardamom and pecans for almonds to excellent effect. Paredez is wisely a proponent of the all-butter crust and committed to using local flour, produce and dairy.
Merveilleux from Aux Merveilleux de Fred and almond chess pie from Petee's Pie Company
Aux Merveilleux de Fred, West Village
A cake made up entirely of meringue and whipped cream? This is why we love the French. Frédéric Vaucamps's cult Northern France sweets shop has landed in New York for its first foray outside of Europe, and we're digging the delicate, cloud-like signature sweet merveilleux ($2.25 each). Two "hats" of meringue bookend freshly whipped cream, then more cream is spackled all around the cake sandwich before a tumble in chocolate shavings, hazelnut bits or whatever else Vaucamps dreams up. Sure beats dry, crackly macarons.
Underwest Donuts, Hell's Kitchen
Get your car washed and eat some of the best cake doughnuts in the city all in one fell swoop. Clearly, Scott Levine opened up his doughnut den along the West Side Highway with multitaskers in mind. The former Chanterelle chef focuses on cake doughnuts, cranking and frying smallish, super-moist treats out of the sliver of a kitchen he runs, in funky flavors like the much-lauded halva ($2.50). We're partial to the tart coco-raspberry ($1.75) sprinkled in a pretty pink sugary mix, ultrarich dark chocolate ($2.50) and soon-to-be-instant-classic brown butter ($2.50).
Pies 'n' Thighs, Lower East Side
The second location of the ever-popular Williamsburg fried chicken-and-pie destination, Pies 'n' Thighs Manhattan offers many of the same Southern-inflected sweets that Brooklynites have come to know and love. That means rich, gooey slices of bourbon pecan ($4.50) and pillowy banana cream pie ($5), plus a new flavor of saucer-size cake doughnut: a tangy sourdough made with a natural yeast rye starter ($3). It pairs best with a raised pecan butter crunch doughnut ($3).
Elsie's Doughnuts, Crown Heights
New York may have its fair share of doughnut shops, but this new takeaway window, with its menu of Italian-inspired options, is jockeying for a position as a neighborhood favorite. The marmellata di albicocche ($2.50) takes your plain jelly doughnut, throws it on the ground and hands you a sugar-dusted beacon of sweet apricot jam spilling out from between layers of flaky dough. There's no gluten in the celiac-friendly apple cider doughnut (two for $3), and non-doughnut fans (they're out there) can snag a just-sweet-enough chocolate pistachio scone ($3). Don't worry if you have trouble with the Italian names–pointing is universal.
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