Eat dessert first

Sweat treats don’t have to come after dinner—they don’t even have to be chewable

It’s like drinking a melted chocolate bar—in a good way.

It’s like drinking a melted chocolate bar—in a good way.

Fall desserts too often rely on pumpkins: pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie and pumpkin custard. This year, forget the pumpkin—unless it’s being carved with an image of Einstein in a ghost mask. Perfect desserts for autumn weather can be as simple as hot chocolate, as decadent as baklava and possibly even include some entertainment. No matter what the season, dessert is one the most important meals of the day—morning, noon or night.

Go for the marshmallows

For those who think hot chocolate is not a dessert, it’s time to lay off the Nesquik. Hot chocolate should be just that: rich chocolate that’s hot and drinkable, a not-watered-down version of what’s found in convenience stores. Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates offers three varieties: classic American, European sipping chocolate and Oaxaca Spicy Hot Chocolate. The latter combines semisweet chocolate, cinnamon, chilies, vanilla and ginger. It’s rich and extremely smooth. Customers can choose either fresh whipped cream or housemade vanilla-bean marshmallow toppings. Suggestion: Go for the marshmallows. The most delicious part is savoring the chocolate-drenched puffs at the bottom of the cup. For a really sweet treat, get a chocolate-chip cookie to dunk in the hot chocolate. It may be gourmet, but it tastes like grandma’s secret recipe and, thankfully, doesn’t come at a gourmet price.

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates
1801 L Street
(916) 706-1738
Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Frostbitten, nice try

It may be cold this fall. It may be rainy. And those insides may want nothing more than to be warmed up. But sometimes it’s impossible to fight a craving for ice cream. The solution is simple: an ice-cream sandwich. And not just any ice-cream sandwich, Masullo Pizza’s perfection of an ice-cream sandwich. OK, so they don’t really call it that—even though that’s the rightful name. A heap of Vic’s vanilla ice cream is snuggled between two crispy caramelized oatmeal cookies. Then the sandwich is rolled on its side in toasted almonds. It’s angelically delicious and sinfully huge. Luckily, the restaurant offers this dessert year-round. So embrace frostbite.

Masullo Pizza
2711 Riverside Boulevard
(916) 443-8929
Hours: 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Drama dessert queen

Forget dinner and a movie. Skip right to dessert, accompanied by live theater. Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre is a cozy 39-seat space in a Victorian house with regular musical, comedy and dramatic performances. Patrons at these shows won’t have to fork over extra cash for Twizzlers or soda pop during the intermission. At Thistle Dew, dessert is included in the ticket price. Audience members get a choice of rich chocolate cake, cheesecake, apple pie or other fruit pie varieties, plus coffee and tea.

Thistle Dew Dessert Theatre
1901 P Street
(916) 444-8209
Tickets are $20 and reservations are required

Little bakery on the corner

Sometimes dessert cannot wait until after dinner. In that case, New Roma Bakery offers scrumdiddlyumptious desserts at the crack of dawn. The little bakery on the corner of 18th and E streets presents shelves of usual morning goods: fresh bread, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls dripping with frosting. Yet the best way to satisfy an early-morning sweet tooth is with baklava. The flaky layers of phyllo dough, glazed with sticky and sweet syrup, are served plain or with a variety of toppings, including pecans or chocolate and almonds. It’s the true breakfast of champions.

New Roma Bakery
1800 E Street
(916) 443-2346
Hours: 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards accepted only with purchases of $10 or more

Best thing not on the menu

This oasis just off the grid is popular for Sunday-morning brunch and dinner dates. But those who favor the scenic outside setting or that intimate table in the corner may miss the sweet feast for the eyes—and the stomach—at the front counter. Tower Café’s desserts are the best thing not on the main menu: lemon tarts, apricot almond decadence, crème brûlée, carrot cake. The presentation is exquisite and the flavor even better. Yet, with oodles of gourmet desserts available, the classic apple pie (a la mode) is primo. The healthy slice of tender Granny Smith apples, pecan and brown-sugar crumble in a flaky butter crust is a supreme dessert to share on a late night.

Tower Cafe
1518 Broadway
(916) 441-0222
Hours: 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 8 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday