We abide by a simple (but very important) rule: Calories don’t count when you’re traveling. This guideline grants us the freedom to enjoy gelato in Italy and churros con chocolate in Spain with joyful abandon — it also means that any treats that we pick up on the way back to the airport can be relished guilt-free upon our return home.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite places to procure sugary souvenirs from cities all over the world (because really, who needs another kitschy keychain, anyway?). From cake shops in Denver and Hong Kong to gourmet candy outposts in Barcelona, we’re smitten with the way each destination sends its customers home with a little taste of the city’s flavor profile.
Calliope, New York
Husband-and-wife duo Eric Korsh and Ginerva Iverson have earned quite a bit of attention for their Parisian bistro’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. One of the best-kept secrets of this East Village favorite is its after-dinner menu, which features a handful of delectable confections priced just right at $9 a piece. We recommend stopping by for a raspberry crème panisse, baba rhum with whipped cream and Diplomatico rum, or Valrhona chocolate cake and hazelnut cream. A to-go box filled with leftover morsels or an extra serving or two makes even the lengthiest airport delay (not that those ever happen in New York City) a delight.
Happy Cakes Bakeshop, Denver
It seems that cupcake shops are the new Starbucks of the world, in that there seems to be one on every corner. We’re not complaining; after all, we never met a cupcake we didn’t like. Denver locals have sworn their loyalty to Happy Cakes, a cheerful enclave that doles out mini, regular and jumbo concoctions in flavors that run the gamut from classic chocolate on chocolate, vanilla on vanilla and red velvet, to daily flavor specials such as maple curried sweet potato, stuffed French toast and even Jack and Coke. The shop is closed on Sunday, so if you’re hoping to snag a dozen mini cupcakes before jetting to the airport, make plans to stop by on Saturday.
Pâtisserie des Martyrs – Sébastien Gaudard, Paris
Leave it to chef Sébastien Gaudard — the former head pastry chef of legendary Parisian gourmet food company Fauchon — to weave flour, sugar, fruit and chocolate into edible magic at his namesake dessert shop. A carefully wrapped box of his macaroons in flavors such as lemon, strawberry or pistachio makes for a thoughtful (and delicious) gift for a loved one back home. If doigts de fée are on the menu, we suggest purchasing a few of the “fairy fingers,” which are light meringue treats made in classic flavors such as vanilla and raspberry.
The Mandarin Cake Shop at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Artistic presentation is a hallmark of Hong Kong’s best dessert shops, and The Mandarin Cake Shop at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong takes this philosophy to new heights with towering masterpieces made entirely of cake. In addition to the stunning visual displays protected in glass cases, chef Yves Matthey also oversees the creation of a wide selection of perfectly portioned pastries and breads. An “Oriental” gift box filled with rose petal jam, oolong tea, mixed spiced nuts, XO Sauce and cookies is an ideal souvenir that makes the long flight home a little more enjoyable.
Papabubble started in 2004 as one small shop specializing in handmade candies; today, the company has grown into a worldwide hit, with shops popping up in trendy neighborhoods of foodie cities such as Tokyo, New York and Seoul. If you find yourself in Barcelona, do yourself a favor and stop by the original store to pick up a few brightly colored lollipops and a jar or two of chopped caramel sticks to share with the kids (and kids-at-heart) in your life.
L’Artisan du Chocolat, Los Angeles
Good news, Francophiles: You don’t have to jet off to Paris to pick up a box of chocolates made in the traditional French fashion (though we certainly would never deter you from doing so!). If you find yourself in Los Angeles, a visit to L’Artisan du Chocolat will curb your craving. The pretty chocolates that line the shelves of this deceptively nondescript store come in classic flavors such as raspberry, rose petal and Earl Grey. Take a peek at the “avant-garde” menu, where you’ll find more daring flavors such as Greek kalamata olive and Korean garlic. Hey, when a chocolate shop’s client list includes Bellagio Las Vegas, it’s safe to assume that a few risks in the kitchen can pay sweeping dividends.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Adelo, Papabubble, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Grou, L’Artisan