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$10 and Under: Our Favorite Desserts

We will be the first ones to admit it: we love dessert. Now, that might not sound like much of an admission. Really, who doesn't love dessert? But we...LOVE dessert. Case in point -- when dining out, it is not uncommon for us to order dessert first, on the off chance we won't have room left after the main course. Often is the evening that we'll have a second dessert to reward ourselves for finishing the first one. And on more than one occasion, we've had nothing but a multi-course dinner consisting only of desserts. While we wouldn't go so far as to call ourselves dessert experts, it's safe to say we know a thing or two about where to go for a sugar rush. So today we've picked a few personal favorites to share with you, depending on what kind of dessert is on your mind...and how much money happens to be in your purse.

$10, Redwood Ice at Red Medicine -- From a visual standpoint alone, the beautifully composed plates at Red Medicine are nothing short of works of modern art. Scrolling through photos on their Yelp page has the feel of perusing a catalogue from a MOCA exhibition. Fortunately, the flavors of the dishes are just as artfully constructed. Case in point: the Redwood Ice dessert. Under a thin "canvas" of almond praline lies an icy bowl of complex flavors, including jasmine, orange blossom, and red currant. Break through the praline and mix the different textures together for a truly unique dessert experience unlike any you'll find in LA. The only downside of this masterpiece is having to destroy it in order to enjoy it.  

$9, Butterscotch Budino at Bottega Louie -- Is there anything that Bottega Louie DOESN'T do well? It's quite remarkable how a menu this expansive manages to be so many delicious things all at once, and their desserts are no exception. There is probably no better end to a downtown dining excursion than their Butterscotch Budino. Of course, there are quite a few stellar renditions of this Italian-style pudding around (the budino at Mozza 2 Go is a standout as well ), but the velvety version here is a cut (er, spoonful) above. We learned a valuable lesson after our very first visit -- while most of the dishes at Bottega Louie are perfect for sharing, you will want one of these, topped with Chantilly whipped cream, all for yourself.

$8, The UFO at Umami Burger -- We read somewhere that one should try and avoid use of the word "yummy" when describing a particular food item. And yet, as we embarked upon our second consecutive UFO at Umami Burger, that word and that one word alone fully consumed our brains as we consumed each bite, blocking out any other critical culinary adjectives. In retrospect, it's possible that "mmmmmm" or "ooey gooey" or "@#$% that's good!" would have more eloquently conveyed our feelings towards this dessert creation that drowns a warm, tempura-covered oatmeal cookie in melting ice cream. 

$7, Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar at Animal -- One of LA's most notorious (and we mean that in the BEST way possible) desserts, The Bacon Chocolate Crunch Bar at Animal is certainly the least vegetarian/kosher item on our list. While it may not be huge in stature, its rich blend of chocolate and smoky bacon gives it a big wallop of chocoporktastic (it should be a word!) flavor. The lovely salt & pepper ice cream paired with this bad boy -- which tries its damnedest to cut the richness -- complements the dessert perfectly. Is it for everybody? No. Is it for those who believe that a love of all things swine shouldn't be limited to appetizers & entrees? You better believe it. 

$6, Everyday Sundae at Milk -- We would be remiss if we didn't have at least one sundae on this list. But which one? Some people swear by the Banana Split at Sweet Rose Creamery. Those willing to make the drive to Canoga Park rave about the ice cream sodas at Jerry's Soda Shoppe. For us, it doesn't get any better than the Everyday Sundae at Milk. It may be as traditional as desserts get, topped with hot fudge, whipped cream and peanuts (and even the obligatory cherry on top), but that doesn't change the fact that it’s so damn good. Try as we might, we can't resist writing the following: we could eat this sundae (wait for it)...every day. (Editors note: The Everyday sundae actually costs $6.50, but with all the money we've helped you save over the years, we're willing to bet you can cover the extra 50 cents.) 

$5, Deep-Fried Twinkie at Beer Belly -- As we were not blessed with genetics that allow us to eat whatever we want without later scaring people on the beach, we generally believe that if we're going to indulge in something deep-fried, it better be really freakin' good.  And the Deep-Fried Twinkie at Beer Belly is just that. While you can find fried Hostess pastries at just about any carnival or theme park, they are but a distant cousin to this waffle-battered marvel. Make no mistake -- there is not even a hint of a nutritional value to this deep-fried wonder, unless you consider the accompanying strawberry puree and chocolate-chip ice cream as fulfilling your daily fruit and dairy requirements. But then again, you're not going to Beer Belly for anything but gluttonous gourmet gorging. 

$4, Marshmallow Cloud Cupcake Dipped in Chocolate at Joan's on Third -- Despite the ever-increasing number of cupcake options around town, time and time again we find ourselves opting for the classic LA cupcakes you can only get from Joan's on Third. And in the spirit of our go-big-or-go-home approach to all things sweet, we're all about the chocolate-dipped Marshmallow Cloud Cupcake. While it resembles a cupcake sporting a garden gnome hat, it is actually a Joan's chocolate cupcake topped with a towering dollop of marshmallow hiding inside a chocolate shell. In a time of cupcake greatness, this one literally stands tall above the rest.

$3, Pineapple Chile y Limon at ink.sack -- Please don't hate us, but, yes, we're putting fruit on this list. Not just any fruit, mind you. We're not pulling the old "Mom" trick of slicing up apples and calling it "nature's dessert." No, we'll have none of those lies and nutrition-oriented slight-of-hand here, thank you. But we just couldn't leave off the spicy, juicy Pineapple Chile y Limon from ink.sack. These vacuum-sealed bags of spiced tropical goodness pack more flavor than entire pies we've eaten (oh, like you've never finished an entire pie by yourself before!). Plus, you can pretend you're eating healthily...after scarfing down a sack of fried chicken sandwiches.

$2, Ice Cream Sandwich at Diddy Riese --  Your carefree days of collegiate bliss, sleeping in late, and carefully scheduling your own four-day weekends may have by now been replaced by 6 a.m. alarm clocks signaling another mind-numbingly banal workday, chained to a desk in never-ending servitude to the empty pursuit of the almighty dollar (wow, this just got real dark real quick). However, should you find yourself near Westwood at some time around midnight on a Saturday, with a wicked sweet tooth for something reminiscent of those joyous days gone by, you just might find yourself standing shoulder-to-shoulder in line outside of Diddy Riese with a bunch of puffy-looking UCLA undergrads. Your plans for the week ahead may differ greatly, but your mission for the evening is identical -- a perfectly-proportioned scoop of your favorite ice cream flavor squashed between two fresh-baked cookies. 

$1, Maple Bar at Bob's Coffee & Donuts -- Shopping at The Grove is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon in Los Angeles...until you look at the receipts you've accumulated from Nordstrom, Barneys CO-OP, and Zara, at which point you start to consider seeking out the services of a financial adviser.  At times like these, you and your buyer's remorse can take comfort next door at the Farmers Market, where a maple bar can be bought for under a buck at Bob's Coffee & Donuts. Sweet and simply delicious, these moist, chewy (and quite thrifty) confections are an ideal shopaholic's dessert. Just be careful not to get any crumbs on your purchases, lest you violate the terms of their return policy.

written by A. Joos

Aug 07, 2012 - 07:24 AM

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