With gasoline prices creeping upward of $3.50 a gallon, no one is going to travel from North Shore to South, from Nassau to Suffolk (or vice versa) unless there's an unforgettable treat at the end of the drive. Here are five bakery confections well worth the time and fuel. And why stop at one? None costs more than a gallon of high-test.
The cost: $3.75
For some unfathomable reason, this traditional Sicilian breakfast treat has made few inroads on American territory. But what could be better than an ice-cream sandwich on rich, eggy bread? Spiga's estimable brioche is split and filled with the bakery's homemade gelato. Choose among chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, espresso-chip, tiramisu, black cherry and stracciatella (vanilla laced with chocolate). A fine breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert or snack.
The elemental perfection of proprietor John Muscarello's Napoleon is compromised by neither chocolate nor nuts, fruit nor caramel. Between layers of incomparably crisp, buttery puff pastry, the ethereal crème patisserie tastes faintly of vanilla. The pastry gets most of its sweetness from a blanket of confectioners' sugar - which will inevitably wind up on your sweater. Enjoy your Napoleon in Jean Marie's dining room for $2 more.
The cost: $2.75 and $3.50, respectively
Where: 170 Main St., Port Washington, 516-304-5214
Michael Mignano, the creator of last year's Main Street Bar (a Snickers that died and went to heaven) is at it again. His Midnight Kiss is a riff on a certain Italian-made confection. Instead of using a chocolate-hazelnut cream, Mignano embeds ganache with crushed, candied hazelnuts and sets a lump of that on a hazelnut cookie. The lump is topped with a hazelnut, then enrobed in dark chocolate. The Chocolate Joy starts with a chocolate-wafer base onto which two layers of coconut macaroon filled with almond-studded caramel are grafted. The whole thing is enrobed in chocolate and topped with shredded coconut, almond and sea salt.
The cost: $1.75
Where: 57 Wall St., Huntington, 631-424-0803, fiorellodolce.com
Long Island's best croissant is all these things at once: crisp and tender, light and rich, and intensely buttery. It is the creation of baker-co-owner Gerard Fioravanti, who learned his craft at Manhattan's Ceci-Cela, under the direction of legendary pastry chef Laurent Dupal. The plain is unbeatable, but you could mix it up with chocolate ($1.85), almond ($2.45) or a filling of Black Forest ham and Swiss cheese ($2.75). These usually sell out before noon.
Since he opened Blue Duck in 1999, Keith Kouris has been perfecting Old World baking; he now produces Long Island's most extensive range of artisanal breads. There's a special place in his heart (and in his spacious production facility) for rye bread, which he makes in almost a dozen varieties, all of them using a sour-rye starter, among them New York sour rye, French pain de méteil and pain de seigle, and limpa, a Swedish rye with raisins, fennel, caraway seeds, orange peel and coriander. The very rye-est is ruisleipa, a dense, ring-shaped 100 percent rye bread from western Finland. (Many of Blue Duck's rye breads also are sold at local Whole Foods stores.)