Dessert cafes bring your day to a sweet conclusion

December 25, 1997|By Kathryn Higham | Kathryn Higham,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you're looking to indulge yourself during the holidays, here are some dessert cafes worth visiting.

Almost everyone knows about Vaccaro's, the Italian bakery in Little Italy. The best part about the cafe is its location, on the corner of Albemarle and Stiles streets. On the afternoon we visited, the air outside was filled with the wonderful smell of garlic as restaurants surrounding Vaccaro's got ready for the dinner crowd.

Inside, the staff was decorating the Christmas tree and stacking gold boxes of panettone in the window.

The display cases at Vaccaro's are loaded with tempting desserts, from frozen tartufo and gelati to the restaurant's signature rum cake and Italian pastries. Our favorite dessert there is a specialty of the house -- a chocolate cannoli. The cannoli shell stayed extra crisp, encased in a coat of chocolate. Inside was thick ricotta cream, studded with chocolate chips.

My cappuccino, served in a tall glass mug, was on the weak side. But I loved the simple sugar cookie -- stamped with Vaccaro's name -- that was tucked into the whipped cream on top of the coffee.

For a daytime dessert, there's Wolford's European Bakery on Chesapeake Avenue in Towson. (It's only open until 7 p.m. at the latest.)

This small cafe offers a few tables in a bright, appealing atmosphere. The bakery cases are in full view, but simple touches, such as the green and white tiled floor, lace curtains and the strains of a Viennese waltz in the background, add a bit of charm.

The pastries and layered cakes may entice you at Wolford's, but don't miss the apple puff -- a whole, peeled Granny Smith wrapped in pastry and drizzled with icing. Cut into it and cinnamon syrup oozes from the apple's core. Wolford's serves an oversized cappuccino in a jumbo cup, with dark coffee flavor and a frothy head of steamed milk.

The macadamia nut torte is a standout at the Desert Cafe, a cozy eatery in Mount Washington Village that specializes in Middle Eastern food. Coated in the darkest, richest chocolate ganache, the torte is made with a moist, buttery filling and has whole nuts on top of a chocolate crumb crust. A few decadent bites go a long way.

The torte, a chocolate raspberry cake, a cranberry cheese tart and the rest of the desserts offered at the Desert Cafe are made by local bakers. You can take a look at them in the display case by the front register before getting a table. We sat downstairs, where cut-out stars hang from the ceiling and branches of curly willow are intertwined with lights. Our black marbled table was decorated with fresh blooms in a tiny green pot, and sugar packets in a pretty demitasse cup.

For a dessert spot downtown, stop in at Louie's the Bookstore Cafe, where all the cakes, pies and cookies are house-made. There were more than a dozen to choose from when we visited.

We especially liked Louie's pecan pumpkin pie. Full of spicy flavor, the dense pumpkin custard was set into a hand-fluted crust, and topped with a ribbon of pecan streusel. The pie was a nice change from the super-indulgent desserts offered at most restaurants. If you're in the mood for something simple, Louie's may be a good choice. There's usually a coffee cake, pound cake or biscotti available.

Louie's has a dark, well-worn, arty feel, with deep crimson walls, oversized paintings, and classical music playing softly in the background. By mistake, we sat downstairs in the smoking section, where the mahogany bar stretches the length of the large dining room. There are non-smoking tables upstairs.

One of the nice things about eating at Louie's is being able to wander through the bookstore afterward. With all the desserts I had to eat for this review, perhaps it's time to peruse the books in the diet and exercise section.

Vaccaro's

222 Albemarle St.

410-685-4905

Hours: Open until 10 p.m. Mondays; 11 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; and until 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express

Wolford's European Bakery & Cafe

31 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson

410-410-828-4760

Hours: Open until 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, until 6 p.m. Saturdays and until 5 p.m. Sundays

Credit cards: All major cards

The Desert Cafe

1605 Sulgrave Ave.

410-367-5808

Hours: Open until 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays

Credit cards: None accepted

Louie's the Bookstore Cafe

518 N. Charles St.

410-962-1224

Hours: Open at least until midnight weeknights, later on weekends

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express

Pub Date: 12/25/97

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