Cupcake Crawl Across Manhattan: NYC’s Sweetest New Pursuit

There are pub crawls, there are babies’ first crawls, and now there are cupcake crawls. In a city with cupcake shops as ubiquitous as gay bars, and double-decker Sex and the City tour buses, it’s shocking that it’s taken so long to adopt a crawl devoted to the frosted, crumbly-on-a-bad-day, chocolate-filled-at-its-best treats. Alas, now it’s happening, and SugarTooth Tours is pioneering the movement. Starting next Wednesday, April 17th, the official “Cupcake Crawl Across Manhattan” commences with its three-hour crawls happening most Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 2pm to 5pm.

Three hours of consuming large quantities of cupcakes from six of NYC’s top cupcake shops takes stamina and a steely will to uncover the city’s finest desserts, but lucky for you, there’s a good deal of walking (and some subway action) involved on this pursuit – giving you the time to reflect on all you just consumed and come to the most mindful and informed decision. And also "burn calories."

I don’t want to spoil all the fun, but you can bet that (my favorites) Sweet Revenge & Billy’s Bakery are stops on the tour, among some other surprises. Wear sweatpants, come hungry, leave suga-buzzed.

Get the Cupcake Crawl details & follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

The Top Alcoholic & Creative St. Patrick’s Day Desserts

Whether you’re heading to a St. Patrick’s Day potluck or intending to fawn tipsily over a plate of sweetness at the end of your pub crawl, the mission is clear: you need something sweet and St. Patrick’s-themed. Thankfully, some of NYC’s best dessert spots are offering special treats that lovingly combine not just the green theme, but also alcohol. And here they are:

The Beer Cream Puff at Puddin‘: Soda bread-inspired puff with an orange glaze, cherry compote, and filled with pudding soaked in Brooklyn Brewery’s Dry Irish Stout. Info here

The Black & Tan cupcake at Sweet Revenge: Chocolate cake infused with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, topped with ChocoVine-laden cream cheese frosting. Info here.

The Banana Bread Pudding at Bounce Sporting Club: Topped with butternut squash ice cream and paired with three homemade Jameson shots: banana, eggnog, coquito. Get it Sunday at their Sunday Funday party, info here.

The Irish Chocolate cupcake at Sprinkles: Belgian dark chocolate cake topped with Bailey’s Irish cream cheese frosting. Info here.

The Leprechaun Milkshake at Melt Shop: Green vanilla milkshake topped with four-leaf clover sprinkles. Info here.

The Guinness Chocolate Cupcake at The Windsor: Guinness-infused chocolate cake with Bailey’s buttercream, served in a jar. Info here.

Discover the latest parties & openings with the weekly BlackBook Happenings email, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here

 

Photo: UrbanDaddy

It’s National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day! NYC’s Five Best PB Dishes

For kids, peanut butter is the ideal snack, and for adults, it’s the stuff of nostalgia. One bite into that PB&J-no crusts-white bread sandwich is like taking a trip back to the playground and swinging on the jungle gym. Which is why today—National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day—is one of our finest (national) holidays. For one day, it’s your chance to delight in the protein, healthy fat, crunchy-filled spread that is peanut butter. So put down that spoon you so commonly dig into your PB jar, get out of your apartment, and head to one of these restaurants for the best sweet and savory peanut butter dishes around.

1. The Sesame Noodles at Sammy’s Noodle Shop & Grill: Heaping platter of peanut butter-sesame-lathered thick, coarse noodles. Very effective hangover cure. Request them heated up.

2. Any dish from Peanut Butter & Co.: Every single item on menu has PB in it. Classics like PB&J club, shockers like spiced PB-Thai chicken sandwich. Flavored PB spreads available for take-home.

3. The Rogue Burger from Rogue & Canon: Peanut butter, crispy pork belly, aged cheddar, & onion marmalade on a potato roll. Speechless.

4. The Maple Bacon Dates from David Burke Kitchen: Medjool dates stuffed with sweet & spicy peanut puree, broiled and crispy. 

5. The Sweet Revenge Cupcake from Sweet Revenge: Signature cupcake with peanut butter cake, chocolate ganache center, and peanut butter fudge frosting. The namesake for a reason.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here. Download the free BlackBook City Guides app for iPhone and Android; Subscribe to the BlackBook Happenings email newsletter.

The 12 Things You Must Do In NYC On 12/12/12

Whether you think today is magically auspicious or a reminder that the clock’s quickly-a-tickin’ to Dec. 21st doomsday, the greatest takeaway is this: we must seize the day. So get out there and make today your best. Make it amazing. It just might be your last…

1. Breakfast at Clinton St. Baking Company: since it’s a weekday, the line is shorter than ever, bringing you that much closer to ordering their signature blueberry pancakes and sugar-cured bacon, and being lifted to the celestial heaven that is fluffy pancakes.

2. Put on a sweater and puffy jacket, rent a bike from the Waterfront Bike Shop, and ride across the Brooklyn Bridge and into DUMBO’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. There is no better view of this sparkling gem of a city than on that 129-year-old bridge and from that grassy park.

3. Sweeten the day with the city’s best cupcakes at Sweet Revenge. Today’s specialty offering is the eggnog cupcake with spiced cream cheese frosting, though the major must-get is their signature namesake treat: the Sweet Revenge with peanut butter cake, ganache center, and peanut butter fudge frosting.

4. Drink the day away at Chelsea Brewing Company and frolic drunkenly along the Hudson River. End your tipsy journey with mouthfuls of the giant peanut butter and blackberry jam doughnut and carrot cake doughnut at Chelsea’s Doughnut Plant.

5. Visit West Garden Spa for an “afternoon delight” if ya know what I mean, guys.

6. Rent that helicopter and soar across NYC like a bird. A 15-minute ride above the Statue of Liberty is just $169, which is what you’d pay anyway for dinner-and-drinks-for-two at West Village haven of deliciousness: Perilla.

7. Go ice skating in the heart of Central Park at Wollman Skating Rink, and wrap your hands around a steaming, frothy cup of hot chocolate from nearby  Jacques Torres at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

8. Have a tea party with all of your best friends at English cottage-inspired Tea & Sympathy, and go nuts over their scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam, kettles of vanilla mint tea, welsh rarebit, and chicken pot pie.

9. Watch the city melt into dark at sunset from the Top of the Rock observation deck.

10. When 5pm hits, head straight to cocktail favorite Mother’s Ruin for their spicy Brazilian coconut cocktail and devour their bready, cheesy, greasy, beautiful grilled cheese.

11. Finally talk to that adorable person you always see on the subway. Flirt, ask them out, make a move.

12. Because no one wants to go back to their apartment (and roommate), end the night in luxury at the Bowery Hotel

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here

Top NY Dessert Spots to Bitch About a Break-Up

Breaking up sucks. You lose a friend, a conveniently-located place to crash, someone to eat the other half of your fries so you don’t, and semi-regular sex. But the one thing you gain? The right to eat and bitch as much as you very well please hell fucking YES.

Here are our top dessert spots to bitch about a break-up, all across New York. Grab your best friends and the best cookies, cupcakes, pastries, and ice cream in town, and let it allll out. 

BlackBook & Nerve Dating: The First Date (Photo Slideshow Inside)

When two media publications — with some of the hottest and trendiest readers — hookup, you know something good is bound to happen. And last Saturday night, it did. BlackBook and Nerve Dating sent two people — who have never meet in-person before and have only communicated via Nerve’s dating site – out on a date to three venues of our choice. These spots are consistently lauded by BlackBook readers and are popular check-ins on Nerve Dating:  Westville for dinner, Sweet Revenge for dessert, and Smalls Jazz Club for late-night grooves. After the date, each wrote their own candid account of how it went. 

May we introduce: Mike and Raydene’s first date.

Mike’s Testimony:

Mike

Though I’m still a novice in the world of online dating, I’ve tested out many of the usual suspects: Match, OkCupid, DateMySchool, etc. There are several things that I like about Nerve Dating over these competitors. In fact, I prefer Nerve so much that I have deleted my accounts from these other sites. My favorite part about it? Nerve offers many different ways to strike up a conversation with someone, and see if you have any connection. Rather than randomly “wink” at someone with a cute picture or message someone blindly, you’re bound to find something that spurs an interaction.

Raydene and I both arrived to Westville at exactly the same time – fashionably late. She was all smiles from the first moment and I could tell that this was going to be a fun night. The waitress seated us and we proceeded to chat and joke for about 15-20 minutes, promising our server each time she approached that we would definitely look at our menus immediately. Our server was amazingly patient with us and super friendly. We split the delicious smoky mac and cheese as an appetizer, and for an entree I had the grilled cheese with bacon and tomato on a Portuguese bun (don’t judge). It’s a good thing that Raydene and I were getting along so well by the time the entrees came out because there was definitely no way to eat that thing gracefully.

Raydene was wonderful company throughout dinner and I think we both fed into each other’s goofiness as we made more and more ridiculous jokes and poked fun at just about everything around us. However, in between jokes we did manage to get out a lot of genuine thoughts and stories about our pasts and backgrounds. I, for one, had a lot of fun.
 
After dinner, we finished our drinks and moved on to our next stop: Sweet Revenge. This place was the most bumping Saturday night dessert spot I’ve ever seen. We were seated at a nice table for two off to the side and away from the door. It was a perfect vantage point to observe and ponder the never-ending stream of people walking past us and further into the café. (We were convinced there was a clown car somewhere back there.) I’d never heard of Sweet Revenge, but apparently I was the only one. It’s a very chic and lively cupcake bistro with a unique offering of 8-10 cupcake types, along with suggested beer or wine pairings for each. I enjoyed the insane “Sweet Revenge” cupcake, which was a peanut butter-frosted cupcake with a rich chocolate ganache filling, paired with the suggested Malbec. We giggled our way through our drinks and cupcakes, and pulled Tom, our hysterical server, into our banter whenever it was possible to pull him away from his arguably more important duty of tending to his other 30 customers.  
 
After finishing our drinks and giving up on the last bites of our decadent cupcakes, we decided to continue our night with some live jazz. We headed to Smalls Jazz Club and scored a table off to the side, where we wound down over a nightcap and some soothing music. Eventually, the yawns won out and we decided to call it a night. It was definitely a fun time.  Would I pursue a second date with Miss Raydene?? Definitely!
 
Raydene’s Testimony:
 
Raydene
 
Nerve Dating and BlackBook helped create one of the most fun evenings I’ve had in NYC since my move here in May 2011. Mike and I met on Nerve Dating, a super hip, well-designed dating site that’s really more of a social space for strangers to interact and meet, you know, before meeting. He "Noticed me" and I thought he sounded pretty great from his "Last Night" updates about food, movies, music, books, random happenings – a seemingly great way to get to know someone, because Mike was totally the guy from his posts: intelligent, open, and hilarious!
 
Oh right, onto the date. Mike and I had dinner at Westville in the West Village – a really cute, cozy restaurant serving the most delicious comfort foods. I highly recommend the smoky mac and cheese… with bacon – is your mouth watering?! After cleaning our plates, we wandered a little farther south to Sweet Revenge for dessert. The experience was amazing – another adorable place, this one filled with happy cupcake-stuffed people. We made a new friend in Tom, our server for the evening, and had great conversation, and too many laughs to count, to accompany our deliciously sweet cupcakes and bubbly champagne. After persuading Tom to take a few pictures with us (which took all of one second — seriously cool guy), we headed up to Smalls Jazz Club for some amazing jazz in a really unpretentious, packed house with great drink prices.
 
The evening was really fun — my cheeks hurt from laughing so much. The venues were wonderful for a first date, or a fiftieth date, where we could get to know each other in a simultaneously intimate and casual setting. Mike and I got to enjoy amazing food and drinks at a few clearly well-loved places in the West Village!
 
Couple Together

Industry Insiders: Marlo Scott, Sweet Revenge

The story behind Marlo Scott’s quaint Carmine Street cupcake, wine, and beer bar is more saucy than sweet. Vowing to take her ‘sweet revenge’ on a former employer after being laid off, Scott opened her unlikely concept bar in the West Village, earning her clientele from the ground up. Scott moved to New York in ’99, first working as an investment banker to learn the business ropes and subsequently opening her first venue in ’08, a tough time for even well-known hospitality pros. But Scott defied the odds for small-business owners. Recently, she and Sweet Revenge were featured in a TV spot for Chase’s Ink cards for small business owners (also in print, radio, and online ads). The results have been staggering, amping up demand for Scott’s exceptional beverages and goodies, including Savory Cakes (we recommend The Seville). More on the satisfaction of Sweet Revenge after the jump.

On turning patrons into regulars: Patrons are greeted when they come in, and they’re listening to some pretty fantastic tunes. We have the sounds of vacation on the I-pod: a lot of reggae, bossa nova, and Latin influences. I offer eclectic imported beers and really beautiful imported wines, which I pair with my cupcakes, savory cakes and cookies. Once people try the pairings, they’re like, “Oh my god, this is delicious!” It’s the combination of the vibe, the ambiance, being treated with really good cheer, and having something that is not only beautiful, but tastes amazing. The devil is in the details. I focus on nailing all of the many facets in running my small business, so that the impression I leave for someone is long lasting and special. I try to make this place really different for patrons. I think folks feel that energy in here. It’s a good, happy place.

On the differences in her cupcake, beer, and wine bar: Most places offering baked goods are shops – ie cupcake stores and bakeries. We’re a beer and wine bar serving badass baked goods. I styled out Sweet Revenge to be inviting, with a world-inspiration that feels like a place in Europe because that attracts a diverse mix of patrons. We are not trying to be a ring-the-register transaction; we’re creating an experience at Sweet Revenge. Patrons have a different emotional connection with their fave local wine bar than they do with their neighborhood bakery. My hat is off to the more traditional places and their success. But for me, because I spend my life here and it’s my life’s savings in here, I want it to be a playful, sexy and indulgent escape that makes patrons feel happy, and they carry that happiness out the door and into the world.

Why cupcakes? Back in 2005, when I didn’t get my promotion and I swore sweet revenge on my then-employer, I lived two blocks away from Magnolia. I would stand in line and study the place from a business model standpoint. I started investigating cupcakes in general, and I saw that anything in the world of cupcakes got national media attention. Back in 2005, Billy’s was open, Buttercup was open, Sugar Sweet Sunshine was open—I was starting to see this trend. Cupcake couture was hitting the scene; fashion lines were putting cupcakes on apparel. Crate and Barrel came out with a 24-pack cupcake carrier. I got laid off in 2007, so I decided I would get into cupcakes as a smart business decision. You can get into the business with fewer resources if you’re keeping it really simple.

On the execution: Before I opened, I surrounded myself with experts. Having never worked in the industry, I knew that I wasn’t qualified to be making certain decisions. I hired a phenomenal consulting chef, Daniel Rosati, to take all of my recipes and menu, re-engineer them, and bring new ideas to the table. I worked with a brilliant restaurant consultant, Lisa Chodosh, who guided me through critical processes such as the optimal space layout for this particular configuration. I have leveraged everything I learned in my corporate experiences. I’m not a baker and never had intentions of going to culinary school. I hire trained and talented pastry cooks who understand the science behind baking to bring my ideas to life. When you’re starting and running a small business, you don’t know what’s going to come down the pike, but you go confidently knowing you’re going to figure it out. The best thing you can do is invest in smart resources.

On Chase commercial fame: One of my lovely daytime regulars is a planner for Chase’s creative agency. I didn’t know her since I bartend at night and our paths didn’t cross. Fortunately for me, she loves my cupcakes and my place. She had been on my website and knew my story. As a result, she put my name into the hat to do focus groups for Chase. They video interviewed me — it was a blind interview so I didn’t know the context. I talked with them about my life in small business. Several months went by and I got the call from the agency saying, “Congratulations, you’ve been chosen to be the face of Ink.” It has been a really surreal and incredible couple of months. Since the commercial launched in early July, I’ve enjoyed hearing from friends across the nation on Facebook saying, “I saw you on television.” Neighbors stop in saying, “We’re just so happy for you.” It’s one of those unbelievable opportunities that you know is going to change your life in the most amazing way. This incredible publicity will help my small business get a whole lot bigger, which I’m excited about. I’m very blessed. I’m grateful to the folks at Ink, Chase’s small business credit card portfolio, for giving me this opportunity.

Guilty pleasures (aside from cupcakes): I’ve treated myself to some manicures, which I didn’t do for three years after I got laid off. We’ve been hand-washing dishes for the last two years at Sweet Revenge, and I decided I’m finally buying a machine dishwasher.

On the day-to-day: You have to look at the bigger picture. You’ve got to keep forward-focused, knowing you’re on a good path, and not get too down about whatever the bumps are. When I opened in July 2008, it was a tough and steep learning curve. There were no patrons. I used to stand out on the sidewalk and give away my baked goods. 2009 started out pretty damn rough but then I had some awesome opportunities with Martha Stewart and Fox 5, got written up in Time Out New York and won the magazine’s Eat Out award. Even though I’m still very small sales-wise, I’m on a great trajectory. I focus on all the positivity. I’ve been in New York since ‘99; I don’t know where the hell the last eleven years have gone. It goes by so fast. You blink and five years are gone. I can’t believe I’m already two years into Sweet Revenge. That first year was hard, but the second year was so much better. And here I am now, very excited about what the future holds.

Future plans: I’m going to be on an episode of Unique Eats for the Cooking Channel. Millionaire Matchmaker filmed at Sweet Revenge, and I think that airs in October. We’re working on a brunch menu and a wedding cake line. Hopefully one day I’ll pitch a book deal that becomes a best seller, which leads to a successful Hollywood blockbuster, you know? Let’s put it out there and then it can happen.

Go-tos: One of my favorite places is Pastis. I really do love going there. I studied all of Keith McNally’s restaurants, and he’s just a genius. I’m very fond of Café Noir, and I love brunch at Felix. They have great vibes. They really nailed it in creating a sexy escape.

Latest Guide Additions: New York, Paris, Milan

New YorkMezzogiorno (Soho) – Nothing new — or wrong with — better-than-average SoHo Italian eatery. ● Sweet Revenge (West Village) – Nothing vicious about this Sweet Revenge. ● Zeytin (Upper West Side) – Basically Turkish street food, but in a non-greasy space.

ParisLa Maroquinerie (Ménilmontant) – Best live music venue in Paris. ● L’Art Brut (Beaubourg) – Naive art and hardened regulars. ● Le Trésor (Marais) – The red velvet heart of the Marais.

Milan Hotel Pierre Milano (Centro Storico) – The Godfather goes La Dolce Vita. ● L’angelo Nero (Porta Ticinese) – A darker pizzeria.