America’s Best Desserts: Chef Deb Pellegrino Shows Us the Sweet Life

Chef Deb gets kinky with the desserts
Chef Deb gets kinky with the desserts

Chef Deb gives whole new meaning to edible underwear. (Photo: Courtesy Deborah Pellegrino)

Forget the diet, vacation is all about letting go and taking in the full experience. And that means eating dessert!

And who knows dessert better than Chef Deborah Pellegrino, ultimate pastry chef and winner of “Food Network Challenge: Chocolate Myths.” As Executive Pastry Chef for Harrah’s Resort and Showboat Atlantic City, this Jersey girl makes the shore a sweeter place one plate at a time.

On her off time, she’s paid her way across the globe on private boats, cruise lines, and shore shacks by baking up desserts that please even the most hardened seamen. Her motto: travel to taste something that makes you feel alive — like glorious glorious sugar.

Here, Chef Deb’s top 10 desserts from across the country, from late-night cookie bombs in Vegas to island culture on a (pie) plate in Key West.

Choclate Sea Salt Buddino yum
Choclate Sea Salt Buddino yum

Salty sweet amazing: Chocolate Sea Salt Buddino (Photo: Courtesy FIG)

Chocolate Sea Salt Buddino

Where: The Ordinary, Charleston, South Carolina

“What is there to say? It inspired me to use sea salt in anything I can put it in! And with olive oil croutons, so crispy and tender at the same time, the balance of sweet and salty were like the parting of the sea.” [Note: Chef Deb originally ate this at FIG, sister restaurant to The Ordinary, although it’s no longer on the menu there.]

Related: WATCH: Beyond the Cronut – Tasting New York Chef Dominique Ansel’s Latest Creation

Key lime pie in Key West with a kiwi drizzle (Photo: David Mihalcik/Flickr)

Black Bottom Key Lime Pie

Where: Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery, Key West, Florida

“It seems obvious — Key West and key limes — duh, but believe me you gotta go and taste the island culture in their signature item. Love Kelly’s version with kiwi and lime drizzle. Heck, it’s so good, forget the drizzle and use a shovel to get that sauce on there!”

rhubarb savarin modernist masterpiece
rhubarb savarin modernist masterpiece

David Burke’s masterclass: a seasonal rhubarb savarin. (Photo: David Burke Primehouse)

Rhubarb Savarin

Where: David Burke Primehouse, Chicago

“Okay, pretty much every chef, baker, artist, or anyone working in a creative industry cites David Burke as an inspiration — he made American chefs cool and gave us legitimacy. While dessert fanatics will always bring up his classic lollipop tree, it was his rhubarb savarin that made my taste buds fall in love. This moist cake is finished with a mandarin hollandaise, lychee sorbet, and violet candy.” [Note: since they use seasonal rhubarb, you can only find this deliciousness in the spring.]

funnel cakes frying into deliciousness
funnel cakes frying into deliciousness

Making funnel cake. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Funnel Cake

Where: After-hours Street Carnival on Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee

“At 2 a.m., after a music-filled, bar-hopping night, it was the most crispy, flavorful funnel cake fried-to-perfection-and-gently-coated-in-sugar I’ve ever had.”

beignets at cafe du monde
beignets at cafe du monde

Cafe au lait and warm beignets at Cafe Du Monde (Photo: Stef Noble/Flickr)


Where: Café du Monde, New Orleans, Louisiana

“Yes, they’re famous — and they’re really that good. The combination of the strong chicory coffee with the ever-so-hot pillows of tender fried dough, smothered in 10x powdered sugar there is no clean way to eat them and I don’t care! Three is not enough.”

Related: Our Favorite Pie Chart: America’s Best Pies

oreos get made into a thick slice of cookie cake
oreos get made into a thick slice of cookie cake

Sammy D’s Oreo goodness in cake form (Photo: Caesars Entertainment)

Chocolate Oreo Cake

Where: Sammy D’s, Atlantic City, NJ

“The perfect marriage of sweet, crunchy, salty, soft, creamy, and yum! It’s hard to not eat more than just two pieces.”

Related: Cool Off with These Best Ice Cream Shops in America

foie ice cream sandwiches, only in san francisco
foie ice cream sandwiches, only in san francisco

Foie ice cream sandwiches (Photo: Humphry Slocombe/Facebook)

Foie Gras Ice Cream

Where: Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Shop, San Francisco

"If it’s in San Fran two things have to be true: one, it’s gotta be unique; and two, it’s gotta taste amazing! And no more is this evident than at Humphry Slocombe. Exotic ice creams such as cucumber, golden beet, and Elvis (the Fat Years) — banana ice cream with peanut butter brittle — are all pretty on the level, but my palate craves sweet and savory. My favorite is Foie, as in foie gras, as in goose liver. Sounds a bit off, until your tongue experiences the power of fowl.”

coca cola cake from charleston
coca cola cake from charleston

Coca Cola cakes cooling at Jestine’s Kitchen (Photo: Jestine’s Sweet Shop/Facebook)

Coca Cola Cake

Where: Jestine’s Kitchen, Charleston, South Carolina

"I wanted more! It is so delicious. I think the name says it all: Coca Cola mixed into a cake. At first, you’re like ‘huh?’ and then you take a bite and you’re like ‘Classic.’ ”

Related: The Best Fried Chicken in America

boston cream pie
boston cream pie

Boston Cream Pie at the Omni Parker House (Photo: Yi-Chien Chang/Flickr)

Boston Cream Pie

Where: The Omni Parker House, Boston

“The British are coming, the British are coming — for Boston Cream Pies! If you enter this Mass institution, then you best get their wicked velvety, chocolately concoction. Articles, stories, and TV programs have featured this famous sponge cake, but it needs mentioning again. It’s literally that good.”

fried oreos in vegas
fried oreos in vegas

Fried Oreos and a fried Twinkie at Mermaid’s Casino in Vegas. (Photo: Nick Sherman/Flickr)

Fried Oreos

Where: Mermaid’s Casino, Fremont Street, Las Vegas

“Hard, crunchy, classic all-American cookies dipped in a batter that blows up around this treat, almost like a lifesaver, when fried. It’s a soft and cake-like doughy pillow around a warm yet still-a-little-crunchy chocolate creamy pocket of love.”

Related: Why Don’t We Have These?! Fast-Food Bites Found Abroad We Wish We Had Here

A 10-year lifestyle vet, Jordi Lippe has been a regular on numerous national talk shows and news programs like MSNBC, TODAY and Wendy Williams. Jordi currently lives in Manhattan where she cooks, writes, cuddles with her chihuahua Taco and is on a constant mission to hunt down the best truffles in the city.

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