The story of Sweet Revenge begins in the cramped kitchen of Marlo Scott’s West Village studio, where the part-time baker and full-time corporate employee spent her nights making cupcakes and dreaming of exacting revenge on her bosses. In what she now describes as “a stroke of utter luck,” Marlo was laid off in 2007 and granted the opportunity to finally live out her dreams. Happiness, she would soon find, is the sweetest revenge. Before long, Marlo had acquired a charming spot on Carmine Street, complete with peeling paint and two expansive bay windows. She renovated the place and transformed it into the aptly named Sweet Revenge. Internationally inspired cupcakes and savory cakes take center stage on the lunch and dinner menus, which incidentally reveal the bakery’s secret weapon: it’s also a wine bar. For something you likely won’t find anywhere else, take a look at the menu of cupcake, wine, and beer pairings. Marlo’s signature Sweet Revenge flavor—a peanut-butter cake with a ganache center—pairs with a Malbec from Spain, and her Crimson and Cream cupcake can be dipped in a raspberry Bellini or stuffed into a bottle of imported pear cider.
Jim Lahey may have set out to shape stone and clay, but—to the delight of just about everybody else—dough was the medium he was destined to mold. While studying sculpture in Italy, Lahey became invested in the art of Italian bread baking, and brought that passion and a hand-cultivated wild yeast back to the kitchens of New York. There, he developed an innovative no-kneading technique of bread making that spawned a revolution in artisanal breads, thanks to a recipe spotlighted by ¬¬New York Times food critic Mark Bittman. Since then, critics from sources as diverse as Bon Appétit and the Martha Stewart Show have praised him between bites of his sought-after loaves.
At Sullivan St. Bakery, the wild alchemy of Jim’s oven-teasing ways is on full display. The filone, a dark loaf prepared with mature fermentation and coated with wheat bran, gives off nutty and sour flavors, while the pane pugliese’s lingering caramel aftertaste could convince a swarm of bees to surrender their hive so that their honey could broach its soft interior webbing. Panini and pizza are also available, gracing the same breads that made Jim famous, as well as signature bomboloni Italian doughnuts, with cores of vanilla bean custard or seasonal fruit fillings bursting through sugar-powdered shells.
While it’s listed by TimeOut New York as one of the city’s “best coffeeshops for doing work,” Sweetleaf is also a quintessential Queens hangout. Located in a 19th-century building with exposed tin walls and ceiling, the shop has a turntable with vinyl records, Old World-style furniture, and expansive windows that open up to Long Island City. Sweetleaf has made a name for itself as one of the few shops in Queens brewing Stumptown Coffee Roasters beans. Meticulously made espresso is its other strength—baristas use a Florentine La Marzocco machine, and digitally weigh each espresso shots to ensure extra-precise drinks. Sweetleaf’s Ice Rocket Fuel drinks blends iced coffee with chicory and maple syrup, while its hot chocolate includes homemade marshmallows. Pepper pear goat cheese scones, coconut oatmeal cookies, and other pastries are also available to balance the caffeinated beverages.
Alice’s Tea Cup is a self-described "dream come true" for sisters Hayley and Lauren Fox, Upper West Side natives and fervent believers in the magic of tea parties. Three Manhattan locations—nicknamed Chapters I, II, and III in homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—welcome patrons into cozy, light-filled spaces for breakfast, brunch, lunch and light supper, in addition to traditional afternoon tea. Whimsical interior touches abound, from Chapter II’s turquoise "Looking Glass Room", decorated with translucent butterflies, to Chapter III’s giant wall mural depicting the great hall Alice encounters in the book. Tiered trays of homemade sandwiches, cookies, and scones with jam and clotted cream share the menu with more than 100 varieties of tea, all precisely steeped in 180-degree, double-filtered water for optimal flavor. After polishing off elevenses at Chapters I or III, patrons can also peruse funky clothing, tea accouterments, and eclectic gifts at the retail shops featured at those locations, taking care to avoid dashing rabbits frantically checking their watches.
Worth Café’s cooks start firmly rooted in America each morning, but by lunchtime they’re across the Atlantic. They whip up eggs all ways in the AM but transition to kebabs and seafood-rich pastas once the sun hits high noon. They exhibit their culinary strengths by drawing on flavors from all around the Mediterranean, serving falafel alongside fettuccine pasta.
Behind a large picture window colonized by the covetous faces of passersby, the Little Pie Company’s kitchen bustles with a crew of adroit bakers tirelessly popping freshly minted confections into sparkling steel ovens. Champions of homestyle cooking since setting their first pie out to cool in 1985, staffers forge each toothsome treat from scratch using only fresh ingredients free of artificial, chemical, or secret agents. Bakers frequently switch up the menu in order to give each time of year its due, with seasonal offerings composed of calendar-appropriate fillings such as berries in the summer, pumpkins in the fall, and organic snowmen in the winter. The in-store counter beckons guests to linger and sip coffee, and on balmy days, an army of outdoor tables enables alfresco dining under the watchful gaze of the sun.