Anointed as one of Oprah's Favorite Things in 2005, Moveable Feast's Deeply Fudgey brownies smother biters' bicuspids in moist, rich dark chocolate. The shop's husband-and-wife duo invented the recipe after hundreds of experiments, some of which resulted in mutant turtle-brownie hybrids who still slowly crawl the earth, surprising children at birthday parties and periodically bathing themselves in cups of milk.
On a sunny afternoon spent wandering amid The Berry House Shops, you see a bright flash of green out of the corner of your eye. Intrigued, you turn to stare at a green awning speckled with pink polka dots shading a bright pink door and decide to see what lies inside. The eye-catching decor may have drawn you in, but it’s The Latest Crave’s rows of cupcakes topped with creamy peaks of frosting, stacks of english toffee, and clusters of frosting shots that make you want to stay. Shop owners Elaine and Nancy craft these confections using their original recipes, which detail how to make both milk- and dark-chocolate toffees and cupcakes in a variety of sizes. More than two dozen cupcake flavors including such varieties as cookies 'n' cream and strawberry shortcake to key lime and peanut butter and jelly, rotate throughout the month, and additional seasonal flavors, such as pumpkin and gingerbread, make an appearance when their ingredients are freshest. Some of the cupcakes they create sound as extravagant as a limo made from dinosaur bones; witness the Jack-n-Jill, a milk-chocolate cupcake stuffed with a marshmallow and topped with a hardened layer of chocolate ganache. Even more innovative are the frosting shots—petite chocolate cups brimming with irish-cream, piña-colada, and marshmallow-infused buttercream frostings.
Specializing in custom cakes artfully decorated by talented cake designers, Il Giardino Del Dolce also satiates sweet teeth of all ages with a mouthwatering selection of authentic Italian pastries, cookies, and more. Fill your jowl jar with butter cookies ($6.99–$10.99/lb.) topped with sprinkles, chocolate, or green cherries, or opt for authentic Italian eats with biscotti ($12.99/lb.), pignoli, or buccellate ($14.99/lb.).
On the bank of the Fox River sits Dolce Bakery & Cafe, a family-owned sanctuary of sweetness specializing in Italian pastries and desserts. Here, the tiramisu cake is soaked in coffee, filled with a creamy mousse, and surrounded by succulent ladyfingers. The profiterole, a classic Italian delicacy, is a tower of hazelnut cream puffs, topped with chocolate shavings and garnished with whipped cream and cherry buttons. Dolce also whips up soft, moist cupcakes slathered in a made-from-scratch buttercream frosting, and a host of cookies including macaroons, amaretti, and lemon taralli. On the savory side of things, Dolce's chefs prepare light Italian cafe fare such as paninis, flatbread pizza, and pasta.
Four Beans Coffeehouse's baristas sate the ping of caffeine cravings with a bevy of flavorful fresh-brewed coffees, fine teas, and baked goods. Cool overheated summer stomachs with an iced caramel macchiato ($3.90 medium; $4.30 large), or stoke the fires of creative frenzy with a hot mocha ($3.50 small; $4 medium; $4.50 large). Quick eats, such as the croissant sandwich ($2.99) with egg salad, tuna salad, or chicken salad, banish midday munchies. A cup of French press tea ($3.95) comes in over 80 varieties, served in a porcelain cup and saucer that take turns politely engaging customers in philosophical debates. For take-home orders, bean buffs can purchase blends from all corners of the actually round world, including the Ethiopian Harrar, a complex medium roast with hints of blueberry and cinnamon flavor, or the Tanzanian Peaberry, a mellow companion.