Where dessert is concerned, summer might just be our favorite time of year thanks to ingredients, like fresh strawberries, refreshing mint, and tart blueberries. There’s an abundance of stone fruits and berries that are just hitting their peak at this time of year, which means lots of sweet and juicy desserts. Chefs and shops around the city are showcasing the best of what the season has to offer, creating standout seasonal dishes, like grilled peaches at Seersucker in Williamsburg, cool corn ice cream pie at Momofuku Ssam Bar and even green tea-ramisu with blueberry compote at Spot Dessert Bar.
So what are you waiting for? Savor the sweet taste of summer while you still can…
The Pimm’s Cup Ice Cream at Je & Jo
Address: 515 W. 47th St., btwn. 10th & 11th Aves.
Phone: (212) 967-4856
Ice cream and hot summer days go hand in hand, but no one has mastered the pairing quite like the folks over at Je & Jo. What started out as two friends obsessing over Cookie Dough ice cream is now a full-fledged small batch ice cream company with a brick-and-mortar storefront and a couple of roaming tricycles. Je & Jo doesn’t just serve your plain old version of cookie dough ice cream. Theirs is an elevated form of the old favorite, combining creamy housemade ice cream with freshly un-baked cookie dough chunks. And in honor of summer, they have a few special flavors combinations, like fresh sweet Local Corn ice cream with Honey Cayenne Shortbread Cookie Dough and Peach ice cream with Cobbler Crisp Cookie Dough. But our favorite seasonal flavor is a riff on the Pimm’s Cup. It’s a refreshing mix of Cucumber and Mint ice cream with Citrusy Sugar Cookie Dough scattered throughout. One little wooden spoonful and you’ll just want to sit, eyes closed, and savor the last remaining moments of summer.
The Sweet Corn Budino at Locanda Verde
Address: 377 Greenwich St., at N. Moor St.
Phone: (212) 925-3797
When it comes to desserts, Locanda Verde’s Karen DeMasco can do no wrong. She has a knack for using seasonal fruits to create balanced dishes that are at once homey, and yet exciting. Like her sweet corn budino. The base of this dreamy dessert is a creamy, corn-based pudding that’s made by steeping corn kernels and cobs in milk. It’s a magnificent example of how this summertime staple can shine when it’s prepared properly. Then comes the seasonal fruit sorbetto (right now it’s a peach raspberry, but DeMasco has previously featured a blueberry sorbetto), which adds a level of contrasting tartness to the budino’s sweetness. The best part: The caramel popcorn that comes on the side, adding a clever crunch to this sweet package.
The Corn Ice Cream Pie at Momofuku Ssam Bar
Address: 207 Second Ave., at 13th St.
Phone: (212) 254-3500
David Chang’s Ssam Bar is best known for its bo ssam and whole rotisserie duck feasts, but with pastry genius Christina Tosi on board, the dessert menu is not optional. Tosi, who won Rising Star Chef 2012 at the James Beard Awards, has a unique talent for combining improbable ingredients to create sweet masterpieces. Take her compost cookies, for example. It’s an unspeakably good, salty-sweet combination of coffee, potato chips, pretzels and oats. For summer, she showcases one of the season’s most anticipated crop: Sweet Corn. She crumbles up her Corn Cookies (available at Milk Bar) and uses them to create a thin pie crust. Then, she fills the crust with her Cap’n Crunch-and-cereal-milk-ice cream. The whole thing is topped off with a sprinkling of fragrant, Thai basil slivers and sherry vinegar-macerated berries from the Greenmarket (we’ve seen everything from blueberries to strawberries, even pineapple on top). If you wanted to keep it all to yourself, we wouldn’t blame you.
The White Miso Semifreddo at Spot Dessert Bar
Address: 13 St. Marks Pl., at 1st Ave.
Phone: (212) 677-5670
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the East Village, there’s a stylish and serene gem called Spot Dessert Bar offering a unique take on all things dessert. If you haven’t sampled the craftmanship of chef Ian Chalermkittichai (Kittichai), you’re in for a treat. He has a talent for injecting exotic flavors he grew up on into classic, American desserts. (They had me at “oreo soil.”) Right now, they’re offering a selection of Tapas-Style Desserts that call upon the produce and the colors of the season. From the Soft Cheesecake with blueberry compote to the ”Yuzu Eskimo” with blackberries, raspberry foam, chocolate pearls and oreo soil, summer is well represented. But our favorite is the White Miso Semifreddo — a dense, buttery cake with a thick layer of white miso ice cream (similar to an ice cream cake!), served with a tart raspberry sorbet and a side of fresh berries. The whole thing is topped off with a delicate almond tuile — an exciting, and somewhat unexpected dessert with a thoroughly Asian twist.
Address: 329 Smith St., btwn. President & Carroll Sts. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) ) 422-0444
This small, neighborhood spot in Carroll Gardens will literally transport you from Brooklyn to the deep South. The vibe is relaxed and soft-spoken – it oozes Southern hospitality – and the food is simple, but irresistible. Chef and owner Robert Newton, an Arkansas native, recreates the food he grew up on with whatever’s available at the Carroll Street greenmarket, at local farms, and from indie purveyors. That means his menu changes frequently to incorporate what’s in season. For summer, he finds inspiration in Peaches, grilling them, then adding an over-the-top combination that involves a scoop of “Cold-Smoked” vanilla bean ice cream, a spoonful of a refreshing Sweet Tea Sorbet, and a sprinkling of Pie Crust Crumbles. Be sure to get a little bit of everything in each bite. When eaten all together, it curiously reminds us of peach pie.
The “Strawberry Shortcake” at Print Restaurant
Address: 653 11th Ave., btwn. 47th & 48th Sts.
Phone: (212) 757-2224
How many restaurants have bragging rights to a resident forager? That’s right. Print has its own forager, Johanna Kolodny, who scours New York’s greenmarkets and local farms to get her hands on the best of what the season has to offer. With that kind of dedication to sourcing ingredients at the peak of their ripeness, you can rest assured you’ll always find uber-seasonal items on the menu, like Corn Soup, Saute Zucchini, Squash Blossoms, and Green Tomatoes. And then, there’s Print’s Strawberry Shortcake, which is anything but run-of-the-mill. It’s made with juicy tri-star strawberries, handmade crème fraiche, and freshly picked tarragon. The shortcake itself is super moist, the berries tangy, the tarragon frozen then shaved into a bright green granite. Each element on its own is alluring, but all together, the flavors and textures create a wonderfully refreshing summer dish.
The S’mores Cake-cup at The Bees Knees Baking Co.
Address: Artist and Fleas Market, N. 7th St. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (718) 316-3092
We’ll be the first to admit it that S’mores taste good all year round. But where they really taste their best is on a beach at sunset. (Who’s with us?) Unfortunately, ocean-side snacking isn’t always an option. Luckily the Bees Knees Baking Co. in Brooklyn has come up with a solution: The S’mores Cake-Cup. You’ve got the required chocolate (in the form of milk chocolate cheesecake layers) with alternating layers of marshmallow frosting, topped off with a graham cracker crumble. They’ve transformed the summer staple into a portable treat that you can enjoy anywhere, anytime, whether you’re spending your summer on a beach or stuck at your desk. It might just be our new favorite way to eat a s’more.
The Yuzu Compressed Watermelon at Park Avenue Summer
Address: 100 E. 63rd St., at Park Ave.
Phone: (212) 644-1900
If there’s one place that’s dedicated to highlighting the season’s bounty, Park Avenue is it. The restaurant reinvents itself, from the menu to the décor, four times a year, according to the season. For summer, the dining room is a bright, sunny yellow and the menu is lined with colorful fruits and vegetables. The dessert menu is seasonally-minded with a Cherry Brioche Toast, a Roasted Peach Crepe, and a summer Blueberry Bread Pudding. Our favorite is the Yuzu-Compressed Watermelon. It’s a beautiful, vibrant dish composed of sweet watermelon, creamy cantaloupe sorbet, and an unexpected yellow bell pepper foam. But it’s more than just a pretty plate, capturing the essence of summer.