We might be able to sate our sweet tooth with a piece of fruit in the summer, but in the dead of winter, nothing but a dessert made with plenty of cream and sugar will do. And with Valentine's Day right around the corner. whether we're drowning our romantic sorrows or celebrating finding true love, you'd better believe that dessert will be on the menu.
In anticipation of the February 14 holiday as well as the upcoming Best of Denver® 2012, which hits the streets on March 29, we've revisited our list of Denver's five best dessert spots and expanded it to ten -- because you can never have too much of a good thing. Here, in no particular order, are Denver's ten best dessert spots:
Tres Jolie Tea & Champagne Lounge This Littleton shop is half cafe, half purveyor of pretty things, which makes it an ideal stop for a girly afternoon tea, an occasion that -- let's be honest -- is basically just an excuse to cram your face full of confections. Order the tea at this spot, and you'll get a tiered platter of adorable fruit tarts, frosted cookies, scones with clotted cream and jam, squares of chewy caramel coated in chocolate, and peach bombes. Or make a beeline for the pastry case, where selections change daily. Our favorite is the Sunny, a dense, buttery cookie loaded with sunflower seeds and chocolate chips. Since the cafe closes at 4 p.m., you might need to eat dessert first at Tres Jolie -- but there's nothing wrong with that...
Linger We're paralyzed with indecision every time we look at the dessert menu at Justin Cucci's joint at the edge of Highland, mostly because just about everything that pastry chef Samm Sherman creates sets our hearts aflutter. As with the rest of Linger's menu, nothing on this dessert list is simple -- and everything is surprising. How about a peanut butter cup with bruleed bananas and cabernet jelly coulis? Or Mississippi mud pie made with miso-butterscotch and powdered-sugar-dusted Italian doughnuts served with espresso mousse and lemon espuma?
Colt & Gray We frequently have a nightcap at Colt & Gray, where we're almost always talked into a dessert, too. Highlights of Jenna Hodges's board of after-dinner sweets include excellent classics -- like sticky toffee pudding and potted cheesecake glazed with salted caramel -- and some creative, delicious twists. Concord-grape jelly doughnuts with peanut brittle ice cream, for instance. Or lemon bread pudding drizzled with white chocolate and sided with a scoop of pink peppercorn ice cream.
Crave Jessica Scott is the woman behind the magic at this downtown Denver dessert spot, and she's crafted a melange of indulgences that we're happy to nibble at teatime and after dinner. Smaller cookies and tarts fill out Crave's daytime selection, while nights finish with molten chocolate cake, sticky toffee cake and a swoon-worthy peanut butter-chocolate twenty-layer cake. Even the cocktails at Crave are dessert-like, as are the breakfast pastries -- particularly the decadent chocolate croissant.
Pinche Taqueria Skip the churros at Pinche Taqueria and you're in for a lifetime of fried-food-related regret. Because the churros here are transcendent. They come stacked like a little log cabin of sugar- and cinnamon-coated sticks of dough, hot from the fryer, so crisp they're brittle on the outside, and hot, fluffy and sweet inside. You dip each one in a teacup of rich, creamy hot chocolate. And then you double-dip. And then at the end, you drink the rest of the chocolate without shame -- because there are people erroneously forgoing dessert all over the city, and you can't let it go to waste.
ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro Chef Lon Symensma proves he's also got pastry chops with the dessert board at ChoLon, which is tight and well-suited to the rest of the Southeast Asian menu, often offering specials that play up the tropical fruits native to the region. While we love the chocolate cake sided with peanut butter ice cream, we're particularly partial to the doughnuts, served warm and dusted with cinnamon and sugar alongside a scoop of caramelly Vietnamese coffee ice cream.
D Bar Desserts Star chef Keegan Gerhard hit a sweet spot in Denver's dining scene when he opened a joint that put the focus on dessert (though his savory menu is certainly worth sampling, too). He attracts a full house every night with his innovative list of final courses, which range from a slice of cake paired with a creamy shake to a chocolate caramel tart to fluffy doughnuts, served with dipping sauces and jams.
Pizzeria Locale The lesson we learned the first time we dined at Pizzeria Locale: Save room for dessert. Because by the time we'd stuffed our pieholes with pizzas, salumi and salads, we were begging for mercy -- but we still couldn't stop ourselves from ordering a round of sweets. We're particularly fond of the delicate butterscotch pudding, the saltimboca -- pizza dough stuffed with nutella -- and the housemade gelati and sorbeti, all of them worth the trip to Boulder even if you skip the pizza pie.
Bittersweet Olav Peterson nabbed pastry chef Danielle St. John from D Bar, and since she took control of the sweets at Bittersweet, she's been rolling out better and better finales. We've swooned over her seasonal fruit-focused ice creams and the shortbreads topped with berries. Our favorite, though, could be the s'more, a plate pooled with chocolate and housemade marshmallow fluff, stacked with a crumbly housemade chocolate graham cracker and crowned with strawberries.
1. Olivéa Yasmin Lozada-Hissom is an absolute wizard with pastries, and she crafts desserts with an innovative touch, a mastery of technique and a mind for balance. We're constantly delighted by what she comes up with, whether it's the best chocolate-and-fleur de sel caramel tart we've ever had, doughnuts injected with lemon and ricotta (one of our 100 Favorite Dishes of 2010), or creme fraiche panna cotta. In a town with many great dessert-makers, Lozada-Hissom is truly a cut above. And that's what earned Olivéa the Best Desserts nod in the Best of Denver® 2011.
Have other favorites? Tell us about them below.
More Best of Denver® Lists - Denver's five best restaurants for blind dates
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All of these lists are also available on our Best of app; see it in action at http://bestof.voiceplaces.com/denver-boulder.