If Dr. Seuss owned a pâtisserie, it would probably look something like Three Tarts Bakery. Whimsical and welcoming, Three Tarts specializes in updating classic desserts to surprising levels of sophistication. All of the treats are tiny enough that you can try a few different desserts, and still have room for an infused lemonade or iced chai. Their menu changes seasonally, but always manages to retain its sense of imagination.
Three Tarts’ inspiration comes in large part from customer feedback. The bakery is currently testing ice cream sandwich ideas submitted through Facebook, and during the month of August, they’ll be having another contest for marshmallow flavors (August is also lemonade month, with a new featured flavor each week!). They also take some of their inspiration from Japan — chef Kiyomi Toda-Burke has introduced yuzu, shizu, lychee, and more into their rotation of desserts.
Patterned aprons, greeting cards, children’s books and toys, and other kick-knacks line the walls, blending seamlessly with the bright and cheery baked goods. The bakery even pairs gift items with a dessert, creating custom mugs filled with truffles or any other combination you can imagine.
Faced with a pastry case stocked with chocolate truffles and pretty pastel macarons, the bell jars of gourmet marshmallows resting modestly behind the counter may not catch your eye immediately. But Three Tarts’ marshmallows, light on the tongue and bursting with flavor, couldn’t be further from the plasticky store-bought version you may have in mind. This summer’s selection features raspberry, vanilla, mango, passion fruit, strawberry basil, and yuzu marshmallows; in the winter, you’ll find more hot chocolate friendly flavors, like espresso. Try them on their own, sandwiched in a s’more, or take home a box of ten for a fun snack or unique gift.
Claire: All of the fruit flavors stay true in taste to their fruity originals and pack a powerful punch of flavor, but yuzu, a sour Japanese fruit, blew away the competition. Most of the marshmallows tended toward the sweet side, but the yuzu flavor had tangy zest that was a perfect pick-me-up for a muggy summer afternoon.
Alice: As someone not inclined towards fruity-herbal flavors, I was awestruck by the marriage of sweet and tangy strawberry with crisp, light basil. And the beauty of the pastel pink and green cube. Not to mention its texture, which was the rough equivalent of a feather pillow. Their vanilla marshmallows, though less adventurous, are equally delightful. Imagine you left a bowl of extra-rich French vanilla ice cream out until it melted into a thick, frothy and mousse-esque glob. That is what these marshmallows are like. Except chewier.
After a quick kiss by the counter-top blowtorch, the blistering marshmallows (mine was strawberry basil) are reduced to sugary globs, quivering between two hearty chocolate chip graham crackers. Just be careful not to bite down in the wrong place, or the whole thing might erupt, unleashing a stream of sticky marshmallow lava.
Maria: Among Three Tarts’ many flavors, my favorites are raspberry and passion fruit. They are both very juicy, sweet (but not too sweet) and have a strong flavor; plus, they smell so good! Don’t leave without tasting their marshmallows in a s’more. I recommend trying the raspberry marshmallow in your s’more – it’s so fluffy and pairs well with the chocolate in their homemade graham crackers.
Ice Cream Sandwiches
As with many of Three Tarts’ in-store items, the ice cream sandwich flavors change weekly; we tried a “gimlet” (lime ice cream and juniper sorbet sandwiched between lime cake, with a tiny bit of gin for authenticity) and a memorable combination of goat milk ice cream, strawberry balsamic swirl, and chocolate cake.
Claire: The two ice cream sandwiches on tap offered excellence on either side of the dessert spectrum between chocolate and fruit. I liked how the sharp, citrusy bite of the gimlet contrasted with the creamy texture of the ice cream and sponginess of the cake; on the other hand, the pairing of sweet, sour, and savory elements in the chocolate sandwich was ingeniously innovative.
Alice: I don’t know what a gimlet is, so I have no idea how true to form the sandwich is. But I do know that the delicate lime ice cream blends seamlessly into the tart juniper sorbet, and that the layers of spongy lime cake are substantial enough to stand up to the most overzealous of ice cream eaters, whilst being soft and chewy enough to soak up the meltier edges of the sandwich’s middle layer.
Three Tarts’ concoction of goat’s milk with balsamic strawberry swirl has all the components of highbrow Ben and Jerry’s: dense ice cream base, thick gooey swirl, and an indulgent baked good. The “base” is a sweet-cream-esque goat’s milk ice cream, the “swirl” is a potent strawberry-balsamic puree, and the “baked good” are two slices of something halfway between sticky cake and fudgy brownie.
Maria: I especially loved the chocolate cake+goat cheese+strawberry ice-cream sandwich: a chocolate biscuit with a goat cheese ice cream and little amount of strawberry swirl in it – so good!
Biscotti, rice pudding, and other tasty options
Who knew something as simple as dash of sea salt and pepper would add such a distinctive, spicy kick to dessert? The pleasantly
crunchy, bite-sized sea salt and black pepper biscotti would taste great dunked in coffee. We loved the rice pudding, which was layered with regular white rice, black “forbidden rice,” and tiny chunks of apricots. The savoriness of the rice was still present, despite the overall sweetness of the dessert, and the contrast of the two types of rice added a subtle contrast, and made each bite taste slightly different.
*For our friends with dietary restrictions: Three Tarts’ homemade marshmallows are kosher/halal and gluten-free, but not vegetarian.
— Claire Heyison, Alice Preminger, and Maria Guryeva
Three Tarts Bakery. 164 9th Ave (btwn 20th St and 21st St). (212) 462-4392. Mon-Sat: 10AM-8PM; Sun: 10AM-6PM. 1 to 18th St or 23rd St, C/E to 23rd St.