Appetite: More tantalizing sweet spots

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Well hello, Sift Cupcakes

Last week, I indulged my sweet side with a romp through several notable new candy stores and dessert offerings -- here are several more to dive into:

While we await the menu launch at the new Dandelion Chocolate factory (read more in my recent chocolate article), the beautiful space sells Dandelion's exquisite bars, and boxes of collaborative chocolates with two other local greats, Feve Artisan Chocolatier and Kika's Treats.

Using Domori Italian chocolate in their truffles (like Ants on a Log with celery seed, peanut butter, currant, dark chocolate), there are many other reasons to visit tiny-but-charming Chocolatier Blue Parlor on Berkeley's bustling 4th Street. Take ice cream with flavors like sweet lime, green apple yuzu, fresh mint or Munich malt beer. One unforgettable sundae of months past? Thai coconut sundae using sweet lime ice cream, topped with roasted peanuts and a coconut dacquoise.
 
Newly opened Dolce Amore is a peaceful rarity on traffic-laden Van Ness, transporting me to Italy. Serving Illy Coffee and Gelato Classico in a sleek, white and black space, they showcases miniature art from international artists in museum-like display, with a warm welcome from staff selling Norman Love and Swiss chocolates, pricey ($12.50-$14) sandwiches on Acme Bread, using Straus milk, and blending up gelato shakes- I like a strange-yet-winning mix of pumpkin and peanut butter.
 
Akin to NY's Magnolia Bakery, Sift Cupcakes is a darling pink and white striped shop off Fillmore Street with goods from rice krispy bars to macarons, ranging a little heavy on the sweet meter for me. But Stud Muffin, a brown sugar beer cake with a salted caramel frosting and cayenne dusted bacon, maintains balance, and a seasonal pumpkin spice cupcake with coffee buttercream is even better. If I'm going sweet, red velvet whoopie cookies (a whoopie pie made with cookies) layered with peppermint cream are ideal Christmas indulgences.
 
Not one to typically be a fan of "free" anything when it comes to food (bring on the fat and flavor!), I'm as surprised as anyone to be recently smitten with pies from a fairly new gluten-free bakery in Humboldt County: Natural Decadence, sold at most Whole Foods in SF. Gluten, nut, egg and dairy free, these pies are intense with flavor, particularly a fluffy, decadent pumpkin and blessedly tart lemon sans meringue. Moist crust made of their gluten-free graham crackers seals the deal.
 
Thankfully even in the winter months, we can find vibrant Pop Nation popsicles - the best in the Bay. My favorites include mango coconut black sesame, strawberry cream rosemary, and banana pudding at varying farmers markets, with local farms the source of many of their seasonally changing ingredients (find locations on Twitter @thepopnation).

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