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And for Dessert

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Save room for dessert all around St.Louis

By Lori Barnes

St. Louis


Dessert: My favorite meal of the day. If my calorie consumption were unlimited, I’d have dessert after every meal. If I knew it were my last day on Earth, I’d spend it eating nothing but desserts. Knowing this about me all too well, my darling husband planned a birthday trip for me with a full itinerary of the best desserts in town. Chocolate, gelato, pastries, cupcakes and even dessert cocktails were all on the list and planned with precision down to the last detail. Where was this magical place filled with sweets? St. Louis, Missouri—the Gateway to the West.

Noah (my husband) curated our trip to tour the culinary offerings from each of the famous neighborhoods of St. Louis. Although it was most certainly not my last day on Earth, each restaurant he chose was specifically selected for its notoriety in dessert offerings, so each meal could have a sweet, happy ending.

Discover delicious St. Louis restaurants
© McElroy Fine Art Photography

Our journey began downtown. The area of the city that houses Busch Stadium, the City Museum and, of course, the Gateway Arch. First on the list was Blondie's Coffee, Wine and Dessert Bar, a classy, yet casual and cozy café. We ordered two lattes and the namesake pastry—the blondie. Noah and I both marveled at the picture-perfect designs in the lattes’ frothy milk—almost too pretty to drink. The blondie was almost the size of the plate it sat upon, covered in rich caramel sauce and a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream. Noah dug right in, while I meticulously portioned the perfect amount of each component on the plate to create the ultimate first bite. The pastry melted in my mouth as soon as it touched my tongue—full of buttery goodness and crunch from the bits of walnuts baked in. Noah was five bites in before I finished my first. Something I’ve come to expect when agreeing to share; he doesn’t share quite the same passion as I for sweets. We sipped the rest of our coffee, I slid my finger across the almost empty plate to savor the last few drops of the creamy caramel sauce and off we went to sightsee.

It was summer in the Midwest so after seeing the sights, we needed something cold and refreshing. We asked a few of the locals where they find their favorite frozen treats, and we received several excellent recommendations including Bella’s, a small-batch frozen yogurt shop with out-of-the-box flavors made in-house. Bella’s boasts that they offer something for almost anyone—vegan, low fat, non-fat, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and even kosher options are all on the menu.

 Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery in St. Louis, MO
 Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery in St. Louis, MO
 Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery in St. Louis, MO © Richard M. Rubin from Flickr

Someone also suggested Clementine's Naughty and Nice Creamery—St. Louis’ only micro-creamery serving the most decadent ice cream made with local ingredients—also in small batches. Clementine’s was named by Buzzfeed and Yelp as the most popular ice cream in the state of Missouri, and they won our vote because of their alcohol-infused flavor offerings. I ordered the Brandy Alexander, which was very strong but in all the right ways, mixed with the coconut chocolate fudge. The coconut chocolate fudge was so rich and creamy you’d never know it was vegan. Noah chose the maple bourbon ice cream with pecans and the Italian butter cookie in a house-made waffle bowl. He said both were “heavenly,” which is a big deal coming from my mountain-man husband who would never use such a word for just any ordinary thing.

Learn why St. Louis is quickly becoming a food destination

We returned to the hotel to rest before our dinner reservation. Noah said he’d done quite a bit of research to find the most exquisite dining experience in downtown. I couldn’t wait to see what he had planned.

We arrived at Vin De Set, a lovely husband-and-wife-owned French bistro in Lafayette Square. Our table on the rooftop had a beautiful view of downtown—we could even see the Arch. While we studied the menu, our server greeted us and provided a little background on the offerings. We learned that a large portion of the ingredients on the menu are grown in the restaurant’s own greenhouse. We sipped our wine and discussed plans for the remainder of the weekend. Before we knew it, dinner arrived and we devoured each scrumptious bite, excited for the sweet finish. Our waiter recommended—or more insisted on—the maple mascarpone cheesecake. I am glad he did, too, as it was out of this world. A creamy base with a hint of maple and a drizzle of caramel sauce beautifully balanced by fresh berries. I almost licked the plate when we were done.

Fitz Bottling Company in St. Louis, MO © Jess Dewes
Fitz Bottling Company in St. Louis, MO
Fitz Bottling Company in St. Louis, MO

We departed Vin De Set and decided to grab a nightcap at another restaurant nearby. We entered Bailey's Chocolate Bar, also in Lafayette Square, and took a seat at the bar. Even though we had no plans to eat anything else, I had to look at the menu simply because of the location’s name. It was a chocolate lover’s dream come true. The menu listed decadent desserts made from scratch, like hazelnut torte, brownie royale and chocolate bomb. I made a mental note to be sure to return during our next visit, while Noah ordered two of Bailey’s signature chocolate martinis. We walked back to the hotel, and crawled into bed with full hearts and happy stomachs.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, we made our way to midtown where we would spend the day exploring The Loop, known for its music scene and an eclectic selection of boutiques, and the Central West End.

We had strict instructions from my parents to stop at Fitz’s Bottling Company to pick up a case of their nationally acclaimed signature soda and root beer to bring home with us. We sat and watched the bottling on the vintage bottling equipment located right inside the restaurant. Besides draft root beer, Fitz’s is a local favorite for burgers, house-smoked barbecue, craft beers and famous floats. 

Explore St. Louis brewery scene after dessert
© The Chocolate Pig

Knowing I’d be a sucker for the name, Noah planned a lovely lunch at The Chocolate Pig, a hip and modern café in Central West End. We ordered some light appetizers to share for lunch so that we wouldn’t fill up before dessert. Since there were so many desserts to choose from, we couldn’t decide on just two. The dessert menu was unique. Our first selection was the Milk & Cereal—malted milk ice cream with caramelized bananas and salty pork rinds, plus a little dulce de leche. Next was the Candy Bar, filled with maple-bacon ice cream, hazelnut and toffee then topped with a caramel drizzle. We also decided to share the Chocolate Pig Shake (which arrived with two straws)—a creamy, dreamy chocolate shake laced with top-shelf bourbon, topped with dark-chocolate-covered bacon, chocolate whipped cream and bacon-smoked salt.

After lunch, we took a walk around the very pedestrian-friendly business district, followed by Forest Park and the Saint Louis University campus. We had to do something to work off all the calories we’d been consuming. We then repeated our afternoon routine of a nap at the hotel before dinner.

Charlie Gitto’s on The Hill in St. Louis, MO © Charlie Gitto Jr.

No trip to St. Louis would be complete without a visit to the famous neighborhood housing some of the best Italian eateries in the country—The Hill. That evening, we would be dining at Charlie Gitto's on The Hill, a family-owned landmark in St. Louis known for stellar Italian food for more than 35 years. Service was outstanding, entertaining, informative and attentive—each dish the server recommended was better than the one before. It was a progressive dining experience full of edible delights. But the best part was, of course, the finale… tiramisu and Italian cream cake. The tiramisu was the perfect balance of bitter espresso, rich chocolate and creamy mascarpone between fluffy ladyfingers and topped with shaved chocolate. The Italian cream cake was very light and delicate with just the right amount of sweetness. We sipped coffee and savored each bite, as we knew this was our last dining experience for the trip. It was the perfect ending to an amazing trip.

The next morning, we pulled out of town with the Arch in the rear view. I fell asleep not far into the drive with visions of sugar dancing in my head. I’m still blown away by my husband’s thoughtfulness and attention to detail. This may have been our first trip to St. Louis, but it certainly won’t be our last… There are too many other desserts still left to eat.

Taste your way through St. Louis signature foods