Even though Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory has locations throughout the world, it still maintains the small-town candy-store feel envisioned by its creator and CEO, Frank Crail. Crail founded the original location in his adopted hometown of Durango, Colorado, filling the sweet-smelling space with homey accents, such as candy-making demonstrations and games of Pin the Tail on the Chocolatier. Behind the counter, staffers roll fresh granny smith apples in dense caramel and mold lumps of rich fudge on old-style marble slabs. Other fresh confections include mint bark, chocolate-dipped pretzels, and boxed chocolates
Arnabal International produces the gourmet infused oils and vinegars of Gourmet Kitchen O&V and Les Lavendes and features cookies from Gloria’s Gourmet. Sprinkle salads, marinate meat, or fill a hot tub with a fragrant field of lavender vinegar (200 ml. for $9.99). For an aromatic cooking choice that's finely aged but not quite over the hill, order a balsamic vinegar, naturally sweet and aged for 20 years (200 ml. for $19.99). Blood-orange oil (200 ml. for $7.99) makes a sweet and tart topping for chicken salads, sautéed seameat, and numerous veggies that would otherwise become indistinguishable to the indifferent tongue. Gloria’s Gourmet Cookies are ideal as after-dinner treats while entertaining or delectable for munching solo in a darkened room. Savor a yellow packet of caramel lemon-drop bites ($2.60), or go decadent with choc-orange sandwich cookies stuffed with raspberry jam ($5.50).
The volunteer-operated Cupcake Camp OC presents a smorgasbord of miniature cakes frosted by professional bakers and amateurs alike to raise money for the Children of the Night nonprofit. Pairs of VIP passholders walk past lines and collect goody bags and lick the frosting off of 20 cupcakes from local bakers such as Rooney Girl BakeShop, Baby Boy Bakery, and Sweet September Cupcakes. Tables groan with the weight of hundreds of decorated desserts that may compete in both amateur and professional contests for prizes such as Most Unique/Exotic Flavor or Ingredient or Most Likely to Win in Hand-to-Hand Combat with a Pie. A purple yam-and-coconut concoction won the former in the 2010 dabblers’ division, and the chocolate-sundae-smile cupcakes claimed last year’s professional title of Most Childhood-Inspired treat. Sugar-consuming companions can join the organized eating contest or compete with each other to see who can juggle the most petite cakes while standing on a pyramid of muffin tins. Cupcake Camp OC donates proceeds to Children of the Night, a private nonprofit committed to helping children aged 11–17 who are forced to prostitute in the United States.
Any bakery that’s been open for nearly half a century is likely to have a signature treat, and at French’s Pastry Bakery, it’s the wagon wheel. The oversize danish is layered with a standard smear of cream cheese, then sweetened with a combination of fresh fruit, such as apricot or cinnamon apple. Other breakfast items include coffeecakes and muffins in flavors such as cranberry orange or honey bran. Of course, like the best dentist offices, there are desserts as well. Customers can take home whole pies or custom cakes made with real whipped cream or buttercream. Fresh banana filling tucks into chocolate cake, and ganache icing tops a cake layered with raspberry Bavarian cream. The Costa Mesa location bakes fresh bread on-location and uses it to serve up a variety of sandwiches.
Though it serves only desserts, Cherry on Top keeps its customers’ health in mind: each of its frozen-yogurt flavors contains live, active cultures believed to aid in digestion and overall health. The shop also allows for customization. Visitors create their own frozen treats at a self-serve bar, choosing from 12 fruit-tart flavors such as green apple, orange cranberry, and lychee and 33 cream-based flavors such as chocolate-cherry jubilee and oatmeal cookie. Cherry on Top also finishes treats with a long list of toppings, ranging from fresh blueberries, kiwi, and pineapple to gummy bears, cereal, brownies, and M&Ms. These self-serve selections are available at more than 30 locations in the United States, Egypt, Kuwait, and Hong Kong.