Dream Dinners founders Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna want to help families gather around the table for delicious meals. Like many parents throughout the country, the two women tried to coordinate a family dinner, but their efforts were often thwarted by hectic schedules. As a dinnertime strategy, Stephanie began to prepare meals with fresh, raw ingredients and then freeze them so they could be quickly thawed and cooked during the week. This tactic became popular with her family. Before long, friends, friends of friends, and chimpanzee families that mimicked their friends wanted to learn her secrets. With help from Tina Kuna, she established the first Dream Dinners location, and the successful food-prep business has led to the creation of more than 90 stores in less than three years.
At each Dream Dinners location, customers find all the culinary tools to prepare a nutritious meal—everything from fresh ingredients to meal-packing materials. Each week Dream Dinners features a new menu of fix-and-freeze dinners that can be made for up to six people, providing customers with numerous options for planning quiet meals at home or dinner parties with friends. All ingredients are precut and measured to ensure an error-free fixing.
Jody Maroni, founder of Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom, started linking gourmet sausages in 1979 and now rules over a royal court of meat artisans who assemble more than 20 all-natural varieties. Many of the homemade recipes renounce nitrates and MSG and instead fill the natural pork casings with meat that is naturally low in sodium and fat. Chicken-mole sausages blend chocolate, cumin, and chilies, and the louisiana hot links steep in duck stock and smolder with Boudin-style spices. Like Iowa's delightful airspace, the meaty morsels have drawn bicoastal praise—Splash! Los Angeles argues that they "might just top the Dodger Dog," and Time Out New York thanks the eatery for bringing "rays of sunshine to the food wasteland of Times Square."
When co-founders Luis Quismorio, Ruben Perez, and Anthony Bermudez began plotting their market, they envisioned a place where fresh, healthy produce, groceries, and meats met the standards of upscale stores and the budget of an average Joe. At Figueroa Produce, their dream is realized thanks to groceries that, like new slang words for "tractor," are sourced from local farmers and small foreign distributors alike. Colorful bouquets of freshly plucked fruits and veggies claim a big chunk of the shop's floor space, appealing to both the mouth and eyes with organic produce from the South Central Farmers Co-op and regional farmers who form personal rapports with store staff. The grocery section represents exotic locales from New Zealand to Mexico in its bounty of mostly organic and all-natural products, many of which are free of artificial components. At the deli, staff members slice grass-fed beef from Open Space Meats, organic and free-range poultry, and specialty cheeses for at-home use or service in overstuffed sandwiches. Vegan or vegetarian eaters can also get in on the deli action, devouring sandwiches loaded with ingredients from brands including Teese, Diva, and Tofurkey.
Golden Flowers offers fresh flower bouquets and plants for whatever emotion you wish to convey, whether it's love, elation, sympathy, or fear of being eaten by a venus fly-trap. Clients can honor someone with a quaint arrangement or request a larger spread for an upcoming wedding or anniversary.
Each morning, the artisan bakers at Whole Food For Life carefully craft fresh confections, filling the adjoining grocery store with the sweet smells of miniature cakes and pastries. Guests can create an eclectic dozen of toteable desserts––¬¬such as cappuccino cake, black-forest cake, or caramel-walnut cake––which are the perfect size for sating small cravings or stashing in your pocket to sate future ones. Tortes also abound and come flecked with berries, apricots, chocolate, and vanilla. Or hunker down with an 8-inch cake, which appeases larger, more cylindrical appetites, and sports flavors such as vanilla, chocolate, or mocha.
There's almost no limit to what the candymakers at Temptations Chocolate Factory will dip in chocolate. Their cavalcade of candy features standards such as chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas, as well as more creative morsels, including chocolate-covered Twinkies and jalapenos dipped in chocolate. Cooler treats include smoothies, whipped cream-topped milkshakes, and banana splits. Diners can also sip coffee to warm up after indulging in a sundae or a slow dance with Mr. Freeze.