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gotham, sweet gotham

Gotham, Sweet GothamBy Suzanne Lemon

Chocoholics—or those with a sweet tooth—will liken New York to a Willy Wonka fantasyland.

Movie buffs might want to indulge their sugary whims in places to eat that have appeared on the silver screen. For instance, in the movie “Serendipity,” John Cusack sips a fancy cuppa joe in the café Serendipity 3 (Upper East Side/(212) 838-3531), revered for its frozen hot chocolate. And in “You’ve Got Mail,” Meg Ryan forlornly waits for Tom Hanks in Café Lalo (Upper West Side/(212) 496-6031), where she might have eased her anxiety with the “Raspberry Cascade,” “Chocolate Madness” or one of the other hundred or so temptations.

If you have a penchant for the unique, the Big Apple does not disappoint. Consider the prix-fixe three-course dessert menu at ChikaLicious (East Village/(212) 995-9511), presenting an amuse, “main course” and petit fours—tantalizing tidbits rotate daily and have featured eclectic choices such as a warm chocolate tart accompanied by pink-peppercorn ice cream and red-wine sauce. The flavors of rice pudding at Rice to Riches (NoLita/(212) 274-0008) woo the adventurous with catchy phrases like “Fluent in French Toast” and “Coconut Coma.” Toppings, not to be outdone, include “Mischief,” “Heart Throb” and “Logic.” (Although initially suspicious, the author vouches that this definitely is a tasty treat.) If it's simply a good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie you crave, why not go with one of the biggest and best? The Chocolate Chip Walnut and Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip behemoths at Levain Bakery (Upper West Side/(212) 874-6080), crisp on the outside and chewy within, are worth the journey to the bakery's tiny West 74th Street digs (there's also a Harlem location). And for sticky yet luscious chocolate babka that’s so popular it’s shipped nationwide, visit Breads Bakery (Union Square/(212) 633-2253).

Cupcake purists make a beeline to Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC (East Village/(855) 462-2292) for moist vegan morsels that are free of refined sugar and gluten, yet surprisingly sweet—die-hards can indulge in frosting shots. “Sex and the City” fans will remember Magnolia Bakery (West Village/(212) 462-2572), where characters Carrie and Miranda savored the creamy concoctions—coconut, lemon and red velvet are among the sugary repertoire. (As a personal challenge, try to eat one without getting icing all over your face.) Empire Cake (Chelsea/(212) 242-5858), lauded for its beautifully designed tiered masterpieces, also adds a touch of elegance to classic snacks such as snowballs and Swiss rolls. And if the cronut craze has captured your fancy, head to Dominique Ansel (SoHo/(212) 219-2773) for the sublime sensation of chewy, crunchy goodness—even if you don’t get there early enough to snatch up some of these gems, fanciful éclairs and other luscious pastries await you at this destination.

Junior’s (Times Square/(212) 302-2000) creamy cheesecakes have been satisfying the cravings of Brooklynites since 1950—now there are locations at Grand Central and Times Square. Divine inventions include brownie marble swirl (chocolate addicts, this one’s for you), apple crumb and raspberry swirl—and yes, there’s a sugar-free, low-carb version, but why bother? You’ll be tempted to sample more than one of the cute mini cheesecakes at Eileen’s Special Cheesecake (NoLita/(212) 966-5585)—not only a steal at $3.90 each, but light and airy, with such palate teasers as banana and pumpkin (the author highly recommends the chocolate-cappuccino variety).

Chocolate connoisseurs make the pilgrimage to Jacques Torres (SoHo/(212) 787-3256) to shop for truffles, bonbons and other confections coated in velvety goodness and to observe employees creating these masterpieces in the factory. The fillings in Kee’s Chocolates (SoHo/(212) 334-3284) burst with heavenly flavors like jasmine, lemon basil and Earl Grey. If that’s not your cup of tea, the macaroons and chocolate bars are pretty darn stellar, too. Max Brenner Chocolate by the Bald Man (West Village/(646) 467-8803) prepares specialty milkshakes, crepes, fondue and other wicked delights. For something extraordinary, try the cake & shake combo, chocolate chunk pizza or a “shot” of ganache, then shop for edible novelties afterward.

The East Village also has its share of innovative chocolatiers. In the mood to grab a table and have a treat? The Cocoa Bar, (212) 677-7417, is a cozy place to enjoy a hot coffee or cocoa (or a combination of both) along with such nibbles as pralines, truffle, turtles and chocolate-covered espresso beans. Roni-Sue Chocolates, (212) 677-1216, also stimulates taste buds with surprising savory ingredients including chile peppers and bacon—their cocktail-influenced creations capture the essence of margaritas, mimosas and other popular libations at traditional restaurants.

This is just a small sampling of the decadent delights you can indulge in—you’ll have fun making your own discoveries, as you realize that the Big Apple is indeed a candied one.

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New York, NY

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City Population

8,175,133

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Sales Tax

The sales tax in New York City is 8.875 percent. The tax on hotel rooms is 14.75 percent plus $2 per room, per day occupancy fee. Car rental tax is 19.875 percent.

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