More than 50 years go, Mike Ilitch was poised for major-league glory. An up-and-coming shortstop for the Detroit Tigers, his baseball finesse was blossoming when an injury derailed his sports career. But although the wound stunted his athletic aspirations, it steered him toward a new path, and on May 8, 1959, he and his wife opened the first Little Caesar's location, a then-unheard-of carryout-only joint. The career shift and novel technique eventually proved triumphant—today, the pizzeria's iconic, toga-clad mascot adorns storefronts on five continents. In each shop, staffers forge the signature Hot-N-Ready pizza, a freshly baked pie designed for instant pick-up, and warm, garlicky Crazy Bread. With a storied half-century under their belt, Mike Ilitch and his family strive to give back, supporting local organizations and creating its own charitable programs.
The culinary construction crew at Papa Murphy’s, the highest-ranking pizza chain in the 2010 Zagat Fast-Food Survey, builds a tasty menu of customizable Take 'N' Bake pizzas that patrons can heat up in the comforts of their own homes. Visitors watch as the chefs assemble thin- and stuffed-crust pizzas in-store using fresh dough, one of four sauces, shredded cheese, and up to 24 toppings. The pizza artisans then package the handmade creations for customers to bring home and cook in kitchen ovens, on backyard grills, or over an overheated car engine. Papa Murphy's collection of comestibles complements circular meals with sides of bread, salad, and chocolate-chip-cookie-dough dessert.:m]]
The smell of chocolate-chip cookies baking in the oven has a tendency to unleash waves of childhood memories, especially when those cookies are iconic Nestl? Toll House creations. At Nestl? Toll House Caf? by Chip, passionate bakers coax out these memories by using Nestl? products to create decadent desserts that taste just as satisfying as they did years ago.
When Tasia Malakasis walked into a gourmet food shop in New York City, she unexpectedly found herself face to face with her future. It was cheese?specifically, Belle Chevre, a French-style goat cheese made by hand in her home state of Alabama. It wasn't long before she was journeying down south to study the art of cheese-making. She became a genuine protege, and eventually, when the company's owner retired, she took over. Since 1989, the company has racked up numerous awards and accolades for its fine cheese, which include a pimento chevre, a Montrachet-style goat cheese, and a mint julep-inspired Southen Belle goat cheese. Their rustic creamery, housed in the old town cotton warehouse, offers both guided and self-guided tours, samples at the tasting bar, and a chance to meet the goats that help make the cheese by wrapping it up with their dexterous hooves.
At Suzanne's Bakery & Eatery, Suzanne and her friend and co-owner Dee Dee satisfy both sweet and savory cravings. The lunch menu includes daily-changing specials such as poppy seed chicken or lasagna casserole, as well as a number of sandwiches and cold salads. Dessert, meanwhile might include Elvis cake and strawberry pretzel salad. Of course, Suzanne and Dee Dee are best known for their creative and tasty layer cakes. In the past, they've designed everything from fire engine cakes to cartoon-character cakes.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine’s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop’s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M’s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.