As a fun slideshow demonstrates, The Little Chocolatier’s staff hand makes an array of treats that fall into four categories: candy, chocolates, nuts, and popcorn. Their handmade chocolates pack white boxes with slabs of english toffee, nut clusters, and mint fluffs spread across trays of assorted chocolates. The team also fills bags with fresh-popped popcorn covered in caramel and cheddar.
Travelers follow Jo Daviess County's sprawling fields and undulating hills toward Massbach Ridge Winery’s 18+ acre estate. Founded by the Harmston family in 2003, the winery’s proprietors select grapes grown in Jo Daviess County to concoct their batches of reds and whites. Members of the winery family escort guests on impromptu tours before rendezvousing in the tasting room or on the patio for samplings. The outdoor patio grants a heightened view of the vineyards below, which visitors can wander through on quests for vine-ripe copies of The Grapes of Wrath. In addition to its frequent tastings and tour sessions, Massbach Ridge Winery hosts a number of wine-related events each year.
Set in a quaint, late 19th-century building in downtown Freeport, 9 East Coffee pays homage to its vintage surrounds by doing things the old-fashioned way. That means that, in addition to treating guests to rich Intelligentsia coffee, the staff here take the time and care to craft all their delicious pastries, pies, and savory wraps and sandwiches from scratch. That same attention to detail extends right down to the smoothies, which are blended using fresh, plump berries, and to the fresh soups and salads, for which the staff hand-chop vegetables each day. The atmosphere, meanwhile, is just as charming, complete with chalkboard menus, a sunny outdoor patio, and steam-powered Wi-Fi.
Yogen Früz has an interesting answer for yogurt shops that simply top their swirls with fruit—they mix whole mangos, bananas, watermelon, and kiwis right in with the yogurt. These colorful, fresh creations boast low or no fat as well as a heaping helping of digestion-friendly probiotics and gluten-free goodness. Each flavor is crafted sans artificial flavorings, colors, gelatins, high-fructose corn syrups, or preservatives–all while maintaining gluten-free, kosher-certified status. Of course, customers of the shop—which has more than 1,300 locations in more than 35 countries—can still opt for a traditionally topped cup of yogurt or a früzion smoothie. The body bettering doesn’t stop there, as certain topping combinations from its signature früzion bar can even support cell membranes and veins, provide antacid and anti-inflammatory relief, or help prevent body aging, especially if bathed in.
The chefs at HuHot Mongolian Grill stand around a giant, round grill, preparing sizzling heaps of stir-fry. Unlike at other restaurants, every serving is different because, instead of the kitchen staff, the customer preps each bowl. The bowls may be brimming with chopped vegetables, seafood, and noodles, or they may be composed entirely of water chestnuts. The spice level of each dish varies based on the eater's preferences; MSG-free sauces range from barbecue to sweet teriyaki to five-alarm Kung Pao Yow! Since HuHot Mongolian Grill is an all-you-can-eat affair, diners get the chance to mix and match different ingredients with each trip to the grill.
Mean Bean Roasters' beans hail from far-flung locales, such as the Caribbean, South America, and Papua New Guinea?but they're all roasted locally. The roasts are then packaged, sometimes as pure beans, sometimes as curated blends such as the robust-flavored "Black Magic." The team crafts flavored coffees, too, imbued with touches of amaretto, for example, or notes of bacon.