May 18, 2024


Free For All Food

CNY’s best desserts of 2020: Our critics pick their favorites

It’s a shame that our society has fallen victim to the diet culture. Too often at the end of a fancy meal, we skip coffee and dessert and ask for the check. Central New York is full of talented chefs who create delicious endings to their meals.

Our food writers—Jared Paventi, Jane Woodman and Charlie Miller—wouldn’t be doing their job if they left without documenting the sweetest part of their experience.

Here are some of our favorite desserts of 2020:

Blueberry-chocolate custard: Eva’s European Sweets

Dinner from Eva's European Sweets, Solvay, N.Y.

Blueberry custard tart, a dessert from Eva’s European Sweets, Solvay, N.Y. Jared Paventi | jaredpaventi@gma

Address: 1305 Milton Ave., Syracuse

Phone: (315) 487-2722

From Jared Paventi: Think of it as cheesecake but without the dense richness of cream cheese. Eva’s European Sweets rotates its desserts regularly—you won’t go wrong with any of them—and this was featured on our springtime visit. A flaky tart crust held an egg custard that was drizzled with chocolate and topped with fresh blueberries. It mimicked the flavor of creme brûlée, but without the caramelized sugar.

Chocolate mousse: Brick-N-Barrel

Dinner at Brick-N-Barrel, Baldwinsville, N.Y.

Chocolate mousse with fig and mulled wine from the Brick-N-Barrel, Baldwinsville, N.Y.Jared Paventi | jaredpaventi@gma

Address: 7 Syracuse St., Baldwinsville

Phone: (315) 720-3859

From Jared Paventi: Brick-N-Barrel’s chocolate mousse was as aesthetically pleasing as it was delicious. Dots of mulled wine and pureed fig and a dusting of crushed walnuts circled the plate. At the center was a large scoop of a semisweet chocolate mousse. Clearly homemade, the mousse managed to be airy but heavy, as if the cocoa, eggs and cream had been whipped into submission. The marks of fig and wine added complex flavors to each bite.

Peach cobbler: Chi’Soul Food

Dinner from Chi'Soul, Syracuse, N.Y.

The exceptional peach cobbler from Chi’Soul, Syracuse, N.Y. Jared Paventi | jaredpaventi@gma

Address: 2859 S. Salina St., Syracuse

Phone: (315) 373-0136

From Jared Paventi: The $4 cup of peach cobbler caused an almost irreparable ripple in marriage. As I wrote in June: “My wife and I ended up fighting over every spoonful until it was gone. Loaded with brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and peaches, this dessert floored us. It tasted homemade; not housemade in a restaurant kitchen, but as if it came out of the oven at Burke’s house and she was sharing some with us.”

To be honest, the same could be said about all of the desserts here.

Peanut butter pie: Prison City Pub & Brewery

Dinner at Prison City Pub & Brewery, Auburn, N.Y.

White chocolate drizzle falls down the side of a slice of peanut butter pie at Prison City Pub & Brewery, Auburn, N.Y. Jared Paventi | jaredpaventi@gma

Address: 28 State St., Auburn

Phone: (315) 604-1277

From Jared Paventi: The beer was exceptional and the Brussels sprouts were otherworldly, but the pie is worth discussing further. The decadent filling made from cream cheese, heavy cream and peanut butter was sweet and salty. Though creamy and dense, it wasn’t as hefty as a cheesecake. The pie sat in a chocolate cookie crust, was studded with chocolate chips, and received a generous drizzle of white chocolate. It paired perfectly with the Hitman stout.

Apple bourbon crumble: Meier’s Creek Brewing Co.

Dinner at Meier's Creek Brewing Co., Cazenovia, N.Y.

Apple bourbon crumble dessert at Meier’s Creek Brewing Co., Cazenovia, N.Y. Jared Paventi | jaredpaventi@gma

Address: 33 Rippleton Road (NYS Route 13), Cazenovia

Phone: (315) 815-4022

From Jared Paventi: The closest thing we can liken this seasonal dessert from Meier’s Creek Brewing Co. to is an apple crisp, but without the oats. Apples and cherries were poached with brown sugar and bourbon, then topped with a brown sugar streusel. It was served warm over drizzled caramel with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Cake: Finally Ours

Dining In Review: Finally Ours

The size of this slice of dark chocolate cake from Finally Ours required a dinner plate.Jane Marmaduke Woodman

Address: 3788 W. Seneca Turnpike, Syracuse

Phone: (315) 928-6857

From Jane Woodman: Finally Ours is one of the best diners in an area that takes justifiable pride in the quality of its diners. We discovered long ago that they make some of the best reuben sandwiches in CNY, and they’re handling takeout well.

One of the best features of out recent takeout from Finally Ours was the dark chocolate cake we ordered. While the raspberry pie was good, the cake was not only excellent but enough for at least two people. The layers of rich, dark chocolate cake were supported and enhanced by a thin frosting of equally dark chocolate.

This was probably the best chocolate cake we ate in 2020.

Apple Crisp: Moro’s Kitchen

Dining In: Moro's Kitchen

Like the bread pudding, the apple crisp from Moro’s Kitchen suffered from the drive in appearance only.Jane Marmaduke Woodman

Address: 8 Jordan St., Skaneateles

Phone: (315) 685-6116

From Jane Woodman: We dream about Moro’s chocolate croissant bread pudding. Of course we ordered it when we reviewed their takeout menu a while ago. We were surprised to be equally taken with the apple crisp.

Moro’s apple crisp tastes like the best apple pie you ever had. Ornamented with berries, the pie was pretty and fresh tasting even after a long drive home. Apple pie is a simple thing, so quality of ingredients and skillful blending of those ingredients makes all the difference. The difference in this apple pie, like that in the wonderful bread pudding, was memorable.

Triple Berry Cake: Strada Mia

Dining In: Strada Mia

Desserts from Strada Mia.Jane Marmaduke Woodman

Address: 313 N. Geddes St., Syracuse

Phone: (315) 883-5995

From Jane Woodman: There was a lot to like about the large servings we ordered for takeout from Strada Mia. The lasagne was especially good, and we ate for two days on our two dinners. But we found the desserts most notable, even though they are not listed on the online menu.

The heavy, rich chocolate cake was good, but it was the triple berry cake that would be our first choice the next time. Though the creamy, rather delicate cake was kind of a mess by the time it came home, it was so good that we didn’t care what it looked like. Light and rich at the same time, the cake had turned into something like the best pudding ever.

Bread Pudding: Limp Lizard

Dining In: Limp Lizard

Bread pudding from Limp Lizard was huge and good, even before a drizzle of dark rum.Jane Marmaduke Woodman

Address: 4628 Onondaga Blvd., Syracuse

Phone: (315) 472-7831

From Jane Woodman: We didn’t expect to find one of our best desserts of the year at a barbecue restaurant, but a lot of things have happened this year that we didn’t expect. This was one of the happy surprises.

Limp Lizard offers a bread pudding that beats many we’ve had. Packed for the journey home with whipped cream in a separate container, we were able to preserve its appearance. There was so much of the rich pudding that we were happy to share it. The advantage of takeout, in this instance, was the dark rum drizzle we were able to add, but we’d bet that, once everything returns to normal, we could have a little side of rum or bourbon at the restaurant.

Make-your-own s’mores: The Foggy Goggle

Foggy Goggle

The Foggy Goggle’s menu describes the toast-your-own s’mores as enough for two, but we found it to be plenty for four. Jane Marmaduke Woodman

Address: 1135 Toggenburg Road, Fabius

Phone: (315) 683-5842.

From Jane Woodman: Though not the most sophisticated dessert we enjoyed in 2020, the make-your-own s’mores at The Foggy Goggle were certainly the most fun. Every moment of our dinner there had been entertaining, from the server’s gift of a taste of “pickle chowder” to skiers coming down the floodlit slope outside the picture windows.

However, when our server admonished us to avoid putting out our marshmallows by waving them around and catching our hair on fire, we all burst out laughing. With the large sterno setup in the middle of the table, we managed to have fun and a good, familiar dessert without once setting ourselves aflame.

The Chocolate Beast: Chelsea’s

A taste before opening Chelsea's Restaurant & Bar

The Chocolate Beast at Chelsea’s Restaurant & Bar on Onondaga Hill.Charlie Miller | [email protected]

Address: 5076 Velasko Road, Syracuse

Phone: (315) 478-6773

From Charlie Miller: Chef Terrence McRae served La Bête Noire, also known as The Chocolate Beast, at a soft opening before the restaurant’s official opening in early October. It’s a flourless chocolate torte with macerated strawberries, chocolate deco, whipped cream and raspberry purée. He said it was an experiment. I didn’t think it could get any better, but he’s since mastered the dessert list.

Snickers cheesecake at Chelsea's

The Snickers cheesecake at Chelsea’s Restaurant & Bar, paired with an Irish coffee and a maple bourbon Manhattan.Charlie Miller | [email protected]

A few weeks ago my wife and I split his Snickers cheesecake when we popped in for a drink (Remember, New York requires patrons to order food if you’re going to sit at the bar during the pandemic.). It was the perfect accompaniment to my smokey Manhattan and her Irish coffee.

Coconut Cream Pie: Gracie’s Kitchen

Look What I Found: Gracie's Kitchen

Today’s homemade pie at Gracie’s Kitchen by Suzy O’Neill: Coconut Cream.Charlie Miller

Address: 527 Charles Ave, Solvay

Phone: (315) 299-7078

From Charlie Miller: Most customers come here for breakfast or lunch. It is, after all, a diner. You won’t know what you’re missing if you walk out the door without a pice of Suzy O’Neill’s homemade pies. Her sister, Mary Mandolfo, owns Gracie’s Kitchen. Suzy bakes about four pies a week for the diner. I was lucky enough to eat there when she brought in a coconut cream pie. It went so well with the custom-made coffee served at Gracie’s.


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CNY’s best dishes of 2020: Our critics pick their favorites

Dining Out reviews

Hidden Gems of CNY

How ‘brutal’ has 2020 been for CNY restaurants? Can it get worse? (See closings list)

Charlie Miller finds the best in food, drink and fun across Central New York. Contact him at 315-382-1984, or by email at [email protected]. You can also find him on Twitter @HoosierCuse.