When Food Network producers recruited Urban Cookies for Cupcake Wars, there was one stipulation, according to the Phoenix New Times: co-founder Brady Breese had to do something about his bakery’s name. After all, the reality show pitted cupcakes, not cookies, against each other. So Breese reverted to OllieCake, the original name of his gourmet cupcake business. And as luck (or perhaps more accurately, skill) would have it, OllieCake took home the crown on its episode of Cupcake Wars. At Urban Cookies, Breese, a self-taught baker, invents all the cupcakes himself—coconut, orange blossom (a Cupcake Wars champion), and even brown velvet, which is like red velvet, except it is made without food coloring and won't attract angry bulls. But it was a dark chocolate walnut cookie that first inspired Brady and his wife Shaun to go into business. Brady had baked the so-called “Urban Cookie” for friends and family for many years to wide acclaim. With the cookie recipe as a starting point, and a pantry and fridge filled with mostly organic, local ingredients, the husband and wife team started baking in the kitchen of a local nonprofit, eventually expanding the menu to include muffins, scones, breads, pastries, and full-sized cakes by custom order. But despite their success, Brady and Shaun never forget the role the community played in their shop's early days. And so they frequently give back by supporting various area non-profits, including Kitchen on the Street, which provides meals to needy children.
It was a fateful day that Campus Candy founder Mark Tarnofsky dropped his daughter off at Indiana University about four years ago. On a mission to track down a simple candy bar, the dutiful dad found himself roaming far afield until he finally landed at a distant drugstore. Convinced that college kids want candy within constant reach, Tarnofsky started his first store right there, and soon expanded to the schools in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Each outlet sells more than 500 different types of candy, all of which may be repurposed as toppings on a rotating menu of frozen yogurt. By slinging bulk candy at a fixed price, Campus Candy stores make it easy for college kids to load up on diverse desserts without filling their schedules with bonbon-making classes.
For Nicki, unearthing her life’s passion wasn’t easy; she had to dig her way through some pretty harsh soil first. In 2008, her beloved grandmother passed away, leaving her devastated. In her efforts to reconnect with the woman she loved so dearly, Nicki began baking up a storm of cupcakes, brownies, and sweets just like her grandmother did with her when she was a little girl. During this cathartic process, she realized that baking not only made her happy, but often gave others a fun-sized dose of happiness as well. After eventually leaving her corporate job, she went full throttle toward her dream, opening up her own bake shop and earning herself a trio of awards for her signature Southern red velvet confections. Today, she follows family recipes to whip up a full menu of cupcakes from scratch for home delivery and for distribution at local farmers' markets. She bakes a slew of batters, ranging from the conventional flavors of classic chocolate and vanilla to the unique offerings of churro, Guinness and sweet cream, and french toast. She also produces a variety of sizes, baking dainty custom-crafted cake pops for portable snacks on the go alongside jumbo-sized cupcakes for sacrificial offerings to the Statue of Liberty. Customers can give confections as long-lasting gifts with premade cupcake jars and kits, or entrance houseguests with customizable cupcake bars.
With its broad spectrum of Italian eats, NY 54 Pizza & Ristorante's menu "has everything you've been craving," according to Go Gilbert! magazine. The kitchen staff whips up fresh pizza dough and sauce each morning before baking crusts to a golden brown in a stone oven. The restaurant's crusade for freshness extends into wings that never see the inside of a walk-in freezer and breadcrumbs ground and seasoned in-house.
In keeping with NY 54's Big Apple theme, chefs import authentic treats from New York City, including knishes from Coney Island and crumb cake from a Brooklyn bakery. Inside the restaurant, a backdrop of exposed brick peeks from behind vintage framed photos of the Yankees and native New Yorker Robert De Niro.
Named for owner Mae Collins's granddaughter, Kimberly Ann's Victorian Tea Room & Cafe sets lace-draped tables for courtly ladies of all ages with a menu of freshly baked scones, light lunch fare, and petite sandwiches. Smaller rooms throughout the café's quaint, home-like interior add coziness to teatime, such as the Grand Victorian room, which is crowned by an elegant tea-set lamp and lined with shelves displaying decorative teapots and boutique items available for sale. The lavender-drenched Garden Room makes an ideal backdrop for Sunday-brunch conversations about the growing popularity of chartreuse pantaloons, and the Princess Room is adorned with magenta-upholstered chairs and sunhats fit for little ladies.
With at least 24 hours' notice, the staff will set tables for high tea, served on elegant tiered platters, and reservations can be made for Princess High Teas—replete with tiaras, cupcakes, and goodie bags—for celebrations of girls' birthday parties. Kimberly Ann's is a favorite destination of the Red Hat Society and regularly hosts events such as an annual April Fool's Day buffet, a holiday open house, and the most elegant of arm-wrestling competitions.
Al Ferreri, his sister Frances, and his brother-in-law Chris Pacelli Sr. developed their signature italian-beef sandwich out of necessity in 1938. The economic depression made meat harder to come by, so the trio of sandwich makers made their supplies last by cutting thinner slices of roast beef.
Their business started with them feeding guests at family weddings, delivering meals to local hospitals, and catering the country's first food fight, but they soon founded a more permanent curbside food stand in Chicago's Little Italy neighborhood. Despite their relatively humble beginnings, Al's Beef rapidly expanded and now boasts franchises throughout the Chicago area and across the country. The family business has garnered plentiful acclaim throughout the years, having been named Adam Richman's best sandwich in the Midwest on the Travel Channel show Best Sandwich in America in June 2012, appearing on Richman's Man v. Food and earning a place on Esquire's list of The Best Sandwiches in America in 2008.
The cooks begin every morning by roasting cuts of beef for the day and cutting french fries. The hearty italian-beef sandwiches can emerge from the kitchen with simple, unadorned meat or with blankets of melted cheese and spicy handmade giardiniera.