Best Cheap Surprise
Kinder Surprise Egg
7561 Center Ave., Ste. 49A, Huntington Beach
For $2.25, you can have some of the best chocolate on the market—and a wacky German toy to tinker with while you stuff it down your trap. That's the beauty of Ferrero's Kinder Surprise Egg, available by the piece or dozen at Huntington Beach's Euro Market, Bakery & Deli. Beneath the crinkly orange-and-white wrapper lies an egg-shaped layer of smooth, two-tone milk and white chocolate. Inside that tongue-melting treat sits a pastel plastic capsule containing . . . well, that's the surprise. Toys range from Lego-like robots to wooden trains and puzzles. Note: The small pieces make the toys a bad idea for kids under 5.
Best Chocolate Shop
17290 Newhope St., Fountain Valley
(714) 432-0708 www.bodegachocolates.com
The now-famous home of the chocolate "Virgin of Guadalupe" also happens to make and sell damn good chocolate. Headquartered in Fountain Valley, the chocolatier sells dark, creamy confections that the truest connoisseur would appreciate.
Various locations www.gelatoparadiso.net
You can get ice cream anywhere. But gelato? No, you have to look for gelato. Why? Well, anyone with a freezer and a scoop can sell ice cream. Gelato, on the other hand, has to be made fresh on site. Gelato Paradiso is the best of those places, where it's presented in rippled heaps and in more flavors than Newport Beach has silicone implants. Each milky serving is sweet but not cloying, cold but not freezing—like ice cream, but better.
Best Birthday Cake
Marble Cake at French's Cupcake Bakery
French's Cupcake Bakery
273 E. 17th St., Costa Mesa
(949) 642-0751 www.frenchsbakery.com
French's marble cake, covered in frosting and laden with twists of vanilla and chocolate sponge cake, is childhood in a box. Even if it's not your birthday today, it'll sure feel like it as you dig into those choco-vanilla (with a touch of almond) depths, watching co-workers dig plastic forks and fingers into the rest of the cake. It'll be gone in less than five minutes.