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Denver's restaurants have flawlessly executed classic desserts, infusing originality and topping them with artistic flare. The last course may very well be the first thing on your mind.
Warning: Once you taste The Greenwich's Basque-style cheesecake, you may not be able to think about anything else for days. This lighter, creamier style of cheesecake will consume your thoughts and take over your dreams; it's just that good. Finished with a drizzling of olive oil, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a torched top (trust us), this is one of the best desserts in Denver. If for some reason you're cheesecake averse, their German chocolate zucchini cake with bourbon buttermilk glaze and creme fraiche mousse is worth an order, too.
There's a lot to love about Noisette. The French restaurant in LoHi is visually stunning, and the dinner menu is elegant and refined. But it's the dessert menu by pastry chef Lillian Lu that just might be the most loveable of all. The French Culinary Institute of New York-trained chef knows her way around eclairs, macarons and croissants, all of which are available daily (at least until they sell out) at the attached bakery. If you find yourself in the gorgeous dining room for dinner, save room for the tarte Tropezienne, a sweet brioche bun split and filled with fluffy vanilla bean cream.
The Bindery is known for putting sophisticated twists on classic menu items, and this extends to the most important meal of the day. (Dessert, of course.) Take the carrot cake, gussied up with slivered almonds, lime mascarpone icing and ginger ice cream. Or the dark chocolate brownie, made over into an Eton mess (a traditional English dessert of berries, meringue and whipped cream), complete with thyme macerated raspberries. Bonus: The grab-and-go pastry counter means snagging a chocolate croissant or hand pie doesn’t even require a reservation.
Renowned for its sublime sugar highs, D Bar, celebrity chef Keegan Gerhard’s restaurant in Uptown, knows exactly how to channel your sweet spot — through sugar-dusted beignets enveloping Nutella in all its creamy, dreamy glory; ice cream floats and milkshakes; Gerhard’s heralded three-layer chocolate cake iced frosted with Madagascar chocolate; build-your-own sundaes; and even liquid dessert libations like the 50 Shades of Chai with chai liqueur, vanilla vodka, vanilla ice cream and earl grey sugar.
It's hard to miss Little Man Ice Cream in the Highland neighborhood — just look for the 28-foot-tall milk can and you'll know you're in the right place. There's usually a line, but it's worth the wait for this handmade, locally sourced sweet. In addition to standards like butter pecan and mint chocolate chip, sample innovative flavors like Bhakti chai and salted Oreo. Little Man also offers vegan ice cream and sorbet for the dairy-averse, so it'll make everyone's day. You can also find Little Man Ice Cream at the Milkbox Ice Creamery in Denver Union Station.
The pastry programs at Ace Eat Serve and Steuben's, both umbrellaed under the Secret Sauce restaurant group, are diabolically good. From the lychee panna cotta with raspberry rosewater compote and lemon macaron at Ace Eat Serve to the turtle pecan tart that loads a pecan crust up with salted caramel, chocolate pot de creme and brown butter ice cream at Steuben’s, the post-dinner finales are innovative masterpieces of finesse and refinement, while flavor profiles deftly straddle the line between sweet and savory.
There’s always something fantastically wacky and wonderful to try at this progressive West Highland dessert emporium from Ian Kleinman, a molecular magician and science lab wizard who taught Denver that things like Twizzler space foam, exploding whipped cream, spun sugar, clouds of smoke and pomegranate fizz pop-rocks reach way beyond Willy Wonka’s fictional candy factory. Just make sure you book ahead for the show; tickets are required.
Fried ice cream seems more counterintuitive than, say, fried dough. But the crunchiness of Las Delicias' ice cream, covered in cornflakes and deep fried, perfectly complements the airy, powdered sugar-dusted sopapillas. Drizzle with honey and you've got the hottest/coldest combo in Denver. If you're not quite ready for a double dose of deep fry, try the sopapillas with classic vanilla-bean ice cream at Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.
Chocolatier Gonzo Jimenez is a member of Christina Tosi’s Bake Squad, the elite team of bakers assembled to create over-the-top treats on the popular Netflix show. So yeah, you know he’s good. He also co-owns Miette et Chocolat with pastry chef David Lewis, where your jaw will drop over the edible creations coming out of their Stanley Marketplace kitchen. From one of the best chocolate chunk cookies in town to picture-perfect pastries to one-of-a-kind chocolate masterpieces that double as works of art, you’ll feel like a kid in a very sophisticated candy shop.
Crossing any cultural, historical and intellectual barriers is the molten chocolate lava delight found all over the state. A moist chocolate cake exterior with a gooey molten center, complete with powdered sugar, thinly sliced almonds or a mound of fresh fruit — it's everything the quintessential chocolate dessert should be. Whatever the name, wherever the restaurant, each provides an original take on the mouthwatering modern classic. Celebrate the success of this coco indulgence with Corridor 44's version, which is topped with whipped cream and berries.
It’s a simple mathematical equation: Love plus cookies equals victory. That’s the motto of Kristy Greenwood, the founder of Victory Love + Cookies, an itsy-bitsy shop in Highland (look for it inside the Denver Bread Company) that turns out remarkably good cookies (the chocolate-chip are a cult favorite), along with booty bars, shortbread layered with dulce de leche, milk chocolate, Nutella wafers, Rice Krispies and a flourless chocolate brownie. They’re rich, decadent and delicious — and best consumed cold. If you’re in the Cookie Monster camp, Greenwood’s goodies will make you roar with glee.
Start your day with dessert! With two locations in Denver and one in Englewood, you're never too far from this bakery's signature Duffeyrolls: cinnamon rolls made with a proprietary dough recipe. The Original is a classic crowd-pleaser, but we also love the Zesty Orange, Irish Cream, Mountain Maple, English Toffee and Pecanilla Crunch flavors, all perfect to dip in a cup of dark roast coffee.
Crème brulee: the classic dessert order. You know you can't DIY without risking serious bodily injury (a dessert requiring a blow torch, really?) and someone else at your table is probably craving it, too. At Chocolate Lab, the crème brulee — touted by many as the best in Denver — is finished with orange zest and, of course, dark chocolate.
It's no wonder baklava's origins are foggy. It seems that every known ethnicity wants to claim this delicious, age-old dessert. Maybe the best in Denver is at Jerusalem Restaurant, where each layer of the baklava's crunchy phyllo dough fully absorbs the simple sauce of butter, water, sugar, vanilla, honey and cinnamon to boast unceasing flavor. Chopped nuts, also the product of hours basking in the sweet sauce, add a muted crunch. It's no wonder that, located near the University of Denver, the restaurant has become a go-to for ravenous co-eds. The baklava glistens in a puddle of syrup as it arrives at your table, but after eating a well-seasoned lamb kabob or falafel, you'll be the one soaking it all up.
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