The Cupcake Controversy

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Alright, so, by now, everyone should be up to speed with the closing of all of the Crumbs Bakeshop cupcake stores across the nation, right? With the abrupt ending of this cupcake empire, many people and publications have chimed in to express their excitement toward the end of the “cupcake craze”. And, there are definitely lots of haters, like these guys, these guys, and these guys too. For whatever reason, I feel really conflicted about the whole celebration of killing off cupcakes and trying to make another baked good the “next new thing”. So, I decided to put out my thoughts on the whole topic.

I get it, in the past 10 years, the cupcake game has been pretty over saturated. Hell, there’s a show, “Cupcake Wars”, and every other person or aspiring baker is opening up a cupcake shop every other days it seems. So, yes, I get that it’s become a beast of it’s own and there’s now a surplus of cupcake shops. But when did we decide who can open up a shop if they want to? It’s their venture, and we can just make it our choice to be a customer, or not.

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Well, I’ll be the first one to admit, there are some $hi!!y cupcake shops out there. I know, I’ve tried some of them. But, I don’t think it’s fair to say, “down with all cupcake stores”, since, there are some bakeshops who are doing an amazing job at crafting some tasty cuppies. I’ve written about a couple of my favorite spots, Butter Lane and Sugar Sweet Sunshine, which, I truly hope don’t disappear with all of this cupcake bashing. I know, this sounds dramatic, it’s really lighthearted, but, it just saddens my heart to see awesome places bulked into a trendy, fad-type of dessert hate-fest.

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The other thing that’s pretty annoying is, all of these sources and people talking about the end of the cupcake trend, and the new trend of the next big dessert. I get it, it’s all about marketing. I mean, no one knew what the hell a Cronut was before Dominique Ansel made one. And then, it was like the second coming of Christ. But, I think innovation is cool, and reinventing something is cool too. But, it’s kind of funny when people say that the next big thing is doughnuts (which, presumably date back to the 19th century…doesn’t sound too “new” to me…but, they’re still ridiculously delicious), or macarons (which were possibly created in 791. 791! Does that sound “new”??). Believe me, I’d celebrate and encourage both, I love them and visited a number of doughnut (or donut) spots and macaron shops.

So, what’s my main gripe? I guess it’s the whole hype about ending one type of business and going full throttle into another. Isn’t there enough room in the dessert space for everyone? Even I’m just a squirrel trying to get a nut in the sweets space. And, I mean, quality of the product will hopefully always have the influence over what stays and what closes up shop. Unfortunately, I know that’s not always the case. There are plenty of crappy companies and products out there that have their hype-men (and women), and paid-off publications to promote their sub-par stuff. And so, we as the consumer then listen to them and follow the Pied Piper. This isn’t revolutionary, it’s the whole world of PR and marketing, and, it’s reality.

So, instead of celebrating the end of cupcakes, I want to still embrace them, and welcome the new, interesting goods to come. I mean, let’s be honest…if someone gave you a delightful, delicious cupcake today, would you smash it and say “f#@k you, cupcake craze!”, or, would you shut up and enjoy it?

So, RIP, Crumbs. I’ll remember you best when I was surprised with one of your Giant Cupcakes for my birthday a couple years ago.

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And I wasn’t saying “ughhh this stupid cupcake craze”…I was thinking:

awesome

Brooklyn Eats

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This past Friday, I went to Brooklyn’s premier food and beverage trade show, Brooklyn Eats. This annual event is definitely something to keep on your radar, whether you’re in the industry, you’re a retailer looking for new inventory, or, just a food and beverage enthusiast. It’s a ticketed event, but, at just $10, you can check out dozens and dozens of vendors handing out lots of samples of their product. Oh, and of course, they’re all from Brooklyn. Below (in no particular order) are some of my favorite vendors from the event. Some I was already a fan of, some were brand new to me. And, I’d highly recommend checking out their goods.

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Brooklyn Sesame is making all-natural halva spreads. They’re totally delicious, rich in flavor, and I really recommend their Roasted Pistachios.

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Madecasse is making chocolate, from scratch, from Madagascar. I really liked their Salted Almond, it had a really nice, smooth texture to the chocolate with a salty, almond crunch.

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Dutch’s Spirits is producing spirits and bitters through a farm to bottle approach. They had some of their Moonshine there, which was really great paired with lemonade. 
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Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is making their sparkling beverages with only whole ginger and pure sugar cane, and none of the fake stuff. I had their original, which was great, and they also offer flavor infused versions.

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Organic Gemini served their organic tigernut products, including Horchata and Tigernuts themselves. I wasn’t familiar with this food, known as the earth almond, mainly from the Mediterranean. It has a similar taste to an almond, but a bit sweeter and chewier, and used to also make their Horchata.

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Grady’s Cold Brew is making a New Orleans-style coffee concentrate. They also just launched a new product, their Bean Bags, a cold brew DIY kit that you can take on the go, traveling, or just prepare at home.

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Kelvin Natural Slush Co. is serving all natural slush. They had their Ginger flavor, which was really nice, and a choice of raspberry or blueberry syrup to go on top.

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Steve’s Ice Cream makes natural ice creams, non-dairy ice cream and sorbets. I really like these, and have a soft spot for the Southern Banana Pudding.

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Kombrewcha (also the maker of Honest Tea) is making traditionally brewed kombucha, theirs made entirely from agave, and allowing the tiny probiotics to make bubbles and a little alcohol. I had the Lemongrass Lime, which was really nice, light, and refreshing. 

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Owl’s Brew is artisanal, fresh-brewed, and ready-to-pour tea “crafted for cocktails”. I had their Pink & Black with tequila, and it was light, refreshing, with a hint of sweetness. 
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Red Hook Winery is making wine from New York vineyards. I tried their 2011 Seneca Lake Riesling, which was more of a dry riesling, but still had a really nice, light sweetness.

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Dona Chai is Brooklyn’s first and only chai tea concentrate, made is small batches. The chai was really great, lots of flavor with a nice creaminess. 

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Green Mustache makes organic fruit and veggie juice smoothies. I had their Strawberry Banana, which I really liked. You get the nice, refreshing sweetness of the fruit, getting your veggie serving at the same time. 

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Jack’s Chedbred makes cornbreads from the finest ingredients. I had their Honey and Sea Salt, it was really delicious. They’re dense, yet light with the perfect amount of moisture, and lots of rich corn flavor. 

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We Rub You makes all-natural Korean BBQ sauces and marinades. I had their Hot Korean Gochujang Sauce. It was so amazing. I’m a Bibimbap junkie, and this was probably the best sauce that I’ve tried. 

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Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur is made with fresh ginger. The product is kind of just that, intense. It has the strong spice and flavor of ginger, but not too overpowering where you can’t enjoy it. Sip as-is, or add some spice to a cocktail. 

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Brooklyn Delhi produce all natural achaar (AKA ‘Indian pickle’), a relish made from local vegetables and fruits, chilies, spices and oil. I had their Tomato Achaar, which was incredible. Maybe one of the best dip-like sauces that I’ve had in a while. It’s rich in flavor, has an awesome kick of heat, and, just all around delicious. 

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Jack From Brooklyn makes Sorel, a small batch, hibiscus based liqueur with natural spices. This was really nice, something that you can enjoy on it’s own, hot or cold, and they were also serving it paired with a ginger ale, which complimented the flavors really nicely. 

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Fatty Sundays makes flavored, chocolate covered pretzels. I tried their Toffee Crunch, which was delicious. The pretzel was nice and crisp, the chocolate was creamy, but not overly sweet, letting the toffee add the extra sweetness and texture. 

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Robicelli’s Bakery is making everything from decadent cakes, pies and cupcakes, to cookies, brownies and whoopie pies. I had a couple of their cookies, but I especially loved the New Jersey (sweet corn cookie with freeze dried blueberry powder).

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Brewla makes all-natural, craft-brewed ice bars. I tried The Buzz (sweetened espresso). It had a really nice depth of flavor, allowing you to really taste the coffee, and not an artificial flavoring like other bars you may have tried. 

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Monsieur Singh makes all-natural Lassis, a yogurt with herbs and spices. I really liked their Mango Lassi Scoop, the flavor was great, it was refreshing, and the perfect combination of the creaminess of ice cream, with the fruitiness of an ice pop or sorbet. 

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Cocktail Crate is crafting cocktail mixers. I tried the Sriracha Margarita. I really liked this one. I’m a spicy margarita snob (unapologetically), but you usually think of jalapeño and not sriracha. This had a really nice flavor and that hint of vinegary and heat that sriracha offer. 

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Goody’s Granola is making all-natural, soft baked granola. I had their Vanilla Blueberry, which was really great. I loved the soft, chewy texture of the granola, and it had a nice sweet, nuttiness that goes great with the blueberry. 

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Tumbador uses the finest ingredients to make chocolate bars, spreads, and other confections. I had their PB&J bar, which was delicious, and then had their Honey Graham Cracker Spread. Holy $h!%. It was really incredible, like a thick, liquid graham in a jar. Luckily, they were also selling the display items, so I was able to snag this very jar you see above. 

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People’s Pops makes fresh, local fruit ice pops and shaved ice. I had their Raspberry Basil Pop. It was really delicious, fresh, sweet, and ever so slightly enhanced with some of that basil flavor. 

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Cracked Candy is making a healthy, handmade, sugar-free candy made from Xylitol. I tried the Lemon Ice. I really enjoyed this, it was really nice in texture, not too crunchy, not soft, and had a really refreshing crisp flavor with the sweet zest of lemon.

I also want to make note of some of the other vendors that were equally amazing and delicious, but not pictured above:

Liddabit Sweets makes unique confections including their candy bars and caramels. Try their Fig and Ricotta and Beer and Pretzel Caramels

Salty Road makes taffy with little pieces of sea salt left inside. Try the Caramel Sea Salt and Salty Caramel Apple

Jacques Torres Chocolate makes fresh, authentic, all-natural and handmade artisan chocolates. Try everything, and also their Chocolate Chunk Cookie

Brooklyn Cupcake makes cupcakes with unique flavors and quality ingredients. Try their French Toast cupcake. 

Hay Rosie Craft Ice Cream Company makes high quality ice cream. Try the Brickle Brownie Crunch, it’s pretty unreal.