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Chocolate Gems from Mini Melanie

Down on the Lower East Side, a ways from the basketball courts, and in the basement kitchen of a pub on Allen Street is a delicious secret. During regular business hours, the Hill & Dale Bar functions as any normal bar would (ie:booths of patrons, booze, etc.), but during the day when the bar is closed to all, it’s a hub for the cake and truffle business Mini Melanie.

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It sounds like a covert operation for something so celebratory, but when we visited and spoke to Melanie Moss, founder and confectionary mind behind Mini Melanie, it made it feel more like a hidden gem.

“It’s brought us closer to our customers,” Moss said. “We’re able to hold tastings, meet clients, and it allows us to accommodate requests for larger orders— in business, you don’t want to say no to that, so that was a sign we needed a bigger space.”

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Take one bite of a truffle or a slice of cake, and there’s really no question as to why the business, which started in November 2014 in the famous Hot Bread Kitchen, has grown so fast, earning nods like a spot in the New York City 2016 Michelin Guide and a feature on NBC’s “New York Live.”

Everything’s made from scratch, even the graham crackers or Oreo cookies used in the recipes, and it all comes out in the cake, and the delectable truffles (you seriously can’t share these or people will take them all). The recipes are part of a real passion— celebratory and sweet, as Moss said.

“I wanted to create something different and new in New York.” she said.

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Like any small business starting off, Moss wears a lot of hats: fielding emails and appointments, testing recipes in the pub’s kitchen, doing her own social media and PR, and winding down the day at the open bar for a team powwow or even having a drink and a tasting with a client.

A lot of the business’ success comes from Moss and her team doing their own PR and social media— their Instagram has some delectably delicious shots of— but while her main experience is on the pastry side, Moss said that she’s sure to surround herself with the right people for legal or finance advice. But her best advice when it comes to owning your business?

“Never say no to anything. Whether it’s a job or whether you’re trying something new in marketing. Try new things— that’s the way you’re going to learn.”

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Speed Round Sweetist Questions

1) Coffe vs. tea? Make one in the morning at home that’s a capuccino and then I make iced coffees throughout the day. I don’t remember the last time I had tea.

2) Vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate.

3) First food memory? Making plum tarts with my mom and my grandma.

4) Favorite childhood sweet? Hagen Dazs ice cream.

5) Dream food project: Life long goal to one day have my own cookbook. All of our recipes don’t have ingredients that you can’t find. It’s things you’ll have at home and that definitely comes across in our flavors— homemade. Ready for my cookbook.

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You can preorder a cake or truffle box from Mini Melanie through Sweetist.

Throwback Desserts

Not sure about you, but as a kid, I pretty much grew up on sugar. There were breakfasts where a stubborn, young me wouldn’t back down from wanting Oreos and milk, rather than a well balanced meal. There were Summers spent on ice cream, homemade birthday cakes we’d push our faces in, and make-it-yourself Rice Krispies during slumber parties. Sugar had its own happiness and form of independence to me. After all, dessert choice is one of the first decisions you can proudly say was your own. Because I didn’t have much in the decision-making of my outfits, which relatives could pinch my cheeks, or if I went to school that day, but dammit was I always asked which ice cream I felt like eating at the Mr. Softee truck. And I always chose the Mario pop because his nose was a gum ball. Two desserts in one. Bam.

Maybe that’s why we turn towards sweets as a comfort food or a celebration for that matter. Maybe we want to feel that free again— by which I mean, kid-freedom, when the hardest decision we had to make was what sort of ice cream we felt like that day.

It’s also probably why throwback, kid-nostalgia-themed desserts are just very much alive.

Milk and Cookie Shot from Dominique Ansel

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via @dominqueansel Instagram

Milk and cookies were a staple as kids. Be they Oreos or freshly made from Grandma’s loving kitchen, milk and cookies were a basic food group to us. So of course we can’t not knock back Dominique Ansel’s shots of a childhood tradition, even if we have to wait in line for them.

Rice Cereal Treats from Treathouse

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via @treathouse Instagram

Rice Krispy treats had to be one of the first things many of us could make on our own (discounting cereal and/or toast of course) and many a slumber party or after school play time was driven by the sugar derived from our good friends Snap, Crackle, and Pop. These days, we can have all of the joy of the fun cereal squares, none of the clean-up (the dried marshmallow in a pot never cleaned easily), and all of the nostalgia thanks to Treathouse. They even keep with the sleepover tradition of sticking candies, chocolates, and even bubblegum to decorate.

Ice Cream from Tipsy Scoop

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via @tipsy​scoop Instagram

It seems like we haven’t talked about ice cream enough in this post, right? For good measure, let’s go back to Mr. Softee, the first man to steal all of our hearts. The light jingle of “Pop Goes the Weasel” will always make my heart skip a beat and make me realize that I don’t have cash. Also, I’m old and lazy now, or at least too lazy and old to chase the actual ice cream truck. I’m an adult and will go to the store, or (better yet!) get delivery through Sweetist the adult way! And the best version of a throwback dessert done in an evolved, mature way is Tipsy Scoop. It’s exactly as it sounds. It’s boozy brilliant. And you can also get an ice cream cake.

Funfetti Cake from Mini Melanie

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via @minimelanienyc Instagram

Kid birthdays are the best. And by the best I mean, they always had trampolines, party bags with candy and really small toys, and they had homemade funfetti cake. It doesn’t get better than buttery frosting and sprinkles, because yes, sprinkles is a flavor in our books. And Mini Melanie takes us back to Bobby Thompson’s backyard birthday party with the pinata and the best cake.

Popsicles from Popbar

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via @popbar​ Instagram

Remember those popsicles in the long tubes that you looked like Mad Scientist Chemicals but froze into something brilliant? Or how about fudgesicles? Or even just the one and only creamsicle? Or basically any sort of frozen novelty on a stick that dripped on your hands and face and made you a hot, sticky mess? Mom loved that. Well, Popbar keeps the memory alive (though less of a mess), and rather than faux flavors, you can now indulge in green tea, banana, and coconut.

Cereal Milk (shake + soft serve) from Momofuku Milk Bar

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via @milkbarstore Instagram

Sometimes the best part of a cereal was the very end when you could impolitely (as kids we knew no better) slurp up all of the contents and then play with the toy from the box. And Milk Bar has us all swooning in collective memory of how gross we were as kids and how little we cared because that milk at the very bottom of the bowl was just that good. Of course, Milk Bar made it more polite by creating an ice cream and a milk shake, so we can taste it all without the mess.

That’s one of the good things about being an adult and still eating kid-inspired desserts. We’re not going around as sticky gremlins. At least not all the time. The other part? Well, we can have it: Whenever. We. Want.