Delicious, decadent and divine: Dessert Downtown

As a staff, we decided it was of utmost importance to bring food writing back into our magazine. Everyone loves food. More specifically – everyone loves dessert. What at first seemed like a daunting task, reviewing dessert in downtown Charleston, became significantly more conquerable when each member of the staff submitted their favorite dessert destination, providing me with a guide to my dessert tasting. Read on for my journey through dessert downtown, from crunchy to creamy and everything in between.

The black and white cake at Kaminsky's - a staff favorite for eating dessert downtown. (Photo by Madeline Little)

The black and white cake at Kaminsky’s. This quaint dessert spot is always a hit among the CisternYard staff. (Photo by Madeline Little)

Kaminsky’s – Staff Favorite

When I tell people that I have lived in Charleston since August and still haven’t eaten dessert at Kaminsky’s on Market Street, I always receive the same look: the look that says, “What are you doing with your life?” So, needless to say, when I was given the task of reviewing desserts in downtown Charleston, I was delighted in realizing that I would finally have my chance. Kaminsky’s was the very first stop on my afternoon of dessert-tasting and I ate light all day in preparation.

Black and white coincided quite tastefully in my slice of black and white cake – a classic I could not resist ordering when I saw it so elegantly poised behind the glass dessert case. The icing was subtle, ensuring that the cake’s flavor took center stage.

And it most certainly did.

Each bite was decadently rich and moist. To receive the full effect, I filled my fork with a little bit of black and a little bit of white each time. I tried not to finish it (the portions are much healthier than the desserts), but I tried in vain. Our waitress, Victoria, referred to Kaminsky’s as “more of a destination than a restaurant.” People come from states away, she said, to try the mixed berry cobbler.

Kaminsky’s exceeded my expectations. I knew upon walking into the quaint dessert bar that I had been missing out. While seated at a table for two by the window, as I ate my slice of black and white cake, I listened to “Hotel California” by the Eagles and watched the tourists busily pass by on Market, feeling as though I had been transported back in time – like I was in some sort of old romance movie. Then it started to rain. The raindrops artfully streaked the window, serving perfectly to enhance my feelings of nostalgia and romance. There is an air of mystery within the brick walls of Kaminsky’s. Despite its fame, it retains the environment of a hidden gem, one that we all happen to know about.

A red velvet and salted caramel cookie from King Street Cookies. (Photo by Madeline Little)

A red velvet and salted caramel cookie from King Street Cookies. (Photo by Madeline Little)

King Street Cookies – Managing Editor Gillian Spolarich’s top pick

Second on the dessert crawl: King Street Cookies. If you live in Charleston, you probably recognize the famous cookie shop by its signature gargantuan orange chairs that sit looming in the window, just beckoning you to come in. Be honest – you have probably posed and taken pictures in them. We are all guilty. The owner, Harris Cohen, wanted the unconventional chairs to match the unconventional cookies he planned to create. Mr. Harris – we thank you. We thank you for the “George Washington’s Revenge”: an oatmeal cookie full of chocolate chunks, toffee and tart cherries. We thank you for “Sinfully Cinnamon”: a combination of cinnamon and cream cheese. We also thank you for delivering to us lazy college students.

When I left Kaminsky’s, I felt a little weighed down (in a good way) by the cake, so I planned to only order one cookie. However, my plan fell through the second I walked through the door and smelled the familiar, fragrant KSC smell. I sucummbed to the insistent cravings of my demanding taste buds and ordered a red velvet, one of my favorites, and a salted caramel upon recommendation. And of course I also poured myself a cup of cold milk at the milk bar. Any true cookie connoisseur knows a cookie-eating experience is not complete without milk. I could have easily mistaken my red velvet for a piece of homemade red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and my salted caramel for a warm pretzel. The flavors are consistently authentic and creative. “My outfit is coming up with new cookies,” Harris said proudly. He wears that outfit well. Desire for a good cookie brings me back time and time again.

Jeni's ice cream epitomizes all things creamy and sweet. (Photo by Madeline Little)

Jeni’s ice cream epitomizes all things creamy and sweet. (Photo by Madeline Little)

Jeni’s – Feature Editor Courtney Eker’s top pick

The sign reads: “Our ice creams are created to melt perfectly on your tongue and to bloom for miles.” I, and anyone else who has ever tried ice cream from Jeni’s, can attest to this statement. Yes, the flavors do, in fact, bloom.

How, might you ask, did I manage to consume the entire ice cream cone after my first two decadent stops? Well, my mouth was so dry from the cake and cookies that in the moment, the delightfully cold and creamy (and I mean the creamiest creamy in the world) ice cream felt too good to even consider stopping. The taste helped a little, too. Every time I go to Jeni’s on King Street, I make a conscious effort to try a new flavor. This time, I took a grand leap of faith in my favorite ice cream place and ordered a highly unconventional flavor: toasted brioche with black currant jam. Each bite contained just the right amount of jam, as it was strategically swirled into the brioche to perfectly compliment its counterpart. The flavor – rich and distinct, refreshing and authentic – met all of the sky high standards I hold consistently and confidently for Jeni’s. I have no idea what brioche is, or currant jam, but if either resemble anything close to how my ice cream tasted, I will certainly have to give toasted brioche and currant jam a try in their true forms. Jeni’s is undoubtedly the place to go if you are looking for quality ice cream. Not only do they have unique flavors like “wildberry lavender” and “goat cheese with red cherries” (these two together make for my personal favorite combination), but they also make their own waffle cones. If, like me, you find eating ice cream out of a cone weirdly stressful, flip the cone upside down in your cup and enjoy it that way.

If I had to describe Jeni’s in two words: simply lovely. The porch lights strung across the ceiling, the mason jars adorned with fresh flowers, the white marble counters: these uniquities evoke an illusion of eating homemade ice cream on a back patio featured in Garden and Gun. The chalkboard chock full of unconventional, beautiful flavors adds more to its raw authenticity, while the hanging sign telling customers to “spread the love” instills a sense of community  – as though you and everyone else eating ice cream are somehow connected by this grand “Jeni’s” secret. Waiting in line, I noticed the girl in front of me had with her another girl – a Jeni’s virgin. I overheard her say, “It’s just number one in everything ever.” A simply lovely way to sum it up.

The Nutella custard at Persimmon Cafe toasts its marshmallows to perfection. (Photo by Madeline Little)

The Nutella custard at Persimmon Cafe is topped with marshmallows toasted to perfection. (Photo by Madeline Little)

Persimmon Cafe – Columnist Lauren Findlay’s top pick

My stomach could not at the time handle the scheduled fourth and final destination: Persimmon Cafe. Fearing I would do it some form of injustice by not being able to properly enjoy my dessert, I rescheduled my visit for lunchtime a few days later.

Persimmon was another place I had not been, which resulted in more disapproval from my fellow students as it is undoubtedly a staple on our campus. Attached to The College Laundry, Persimmon feeds you and lets you do your laundry at the same time. The antiquity of the laundromat makes it one of the most unique places downtown to get a killer dessert. Upon recommendation, I ordered the toasted marshmallow plus nutella custard. One of the Persimmon employees toasts the marshmallows using a torch right in front of the customers for every single order. The customer’s job is to blow out the flame when the marshmallows have reached our ideal degree of toasted. The whole presentation exudes authenticity and gives customers a treat beyond just enjoying their dessert. Consisting of warm, toasted marshmallows combined with thick and smooth Nutella custard – this dessert is an immensely pleasing hodgepodge of temperatures, textures and flavors. The environment mimicked the hodgepodge nature of my dessert with its whirl of laundry machines, scattered pots of colorful flowers, people eating and other people doing laundry – all in one place. Quirky, distinguished and refreshing, Persimmon is a must as one cannot help but feel an overwhelming sense of pervading wholesomeness.

As finals season approaches, keep in mind that “stressed” spelled backward happens to be “desserts.” The universe wants you to relieve your stress by going out on the town and treating yourself to something yummy. Whether it be a cookie or a cone – I personally guarantee that any of these divine desserts will help you de-stress.

This article was first published in the April 2015 issue of The Yard.

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