Bakers at Cookies Fresco draw on Old-World recipes to craft creative, Italian-inspired confections from fresh eggs, nuts, sugar, and butter. Carefully selected packaging preserves the crisp crunch of cookies by the pound, including buttery biscotti and authentic peach, apricot, and nutella kolachky. Confectioners can also customize cakes for birthdays, anniversaries, and black-tie refrigerator warmings and concoct sugar-free items upon request.
Creamy frozen yogurt, fresh fruit mix-ins, and healthy toppings such as almonds, granola, and shredded coconut make Yogen Früz a source of unlimited fresh flavors. Yogurt artists mix customers’ custom creations—such as piña colada mix with smooth-blended pineapple yogurt, or apple pie sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs—before their very eyes. Along with such quasi-decadent options, the company’s 1,300 worldwide outposts also offer low-fat, non-fat probiotic yogurts, and fresh fruit sorbets. Every mix is low in fat, a good source of vitamins and fiber, and one of the only known sources of the essential nutrient frostiness.
It starts with homemade mango ice cream. Slices of fresh mango thicken the mixture, and splashes of lime, salt, and chamoy—a sauce known for being sweet, sour, and spicy all at once—settle in, ready to surprise taste buds with their complex mix of flavors. The resulting drink, a Chamango, is one of many specialty blends at La Dulce Vida Neveria, a cafè that stirs up Mexican-style sweets and snacks. Baristas mix chocolate abuelitas and cafe con leche, and they blend pineapple, cucumber, or melon to create fruit smoothies. Fresh fruit resurfaces in the selection of desserts: bananas and papaya line bionic fruit sundaes, and strawberry triangles encircle shortcake à la mode to keep it from running off and joining the circus as “the crumbly lady.” In addition to sweets, customers dig into savory snacks such as nachos, chicharrones, and Cheetos con queso.
The sweets at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory taste all the sweeter after witnessing the hard and delicate work that goes into their creation. During engaging visits, staffers entertain guests by hand-dipping crisp apples into burbling vats of caramel or fashioning silky bricks of fudge atop traditional marble slabs. They don't just tease the eyes, though. They also treat tongues to free samples, and even lead chocolate-tasting classes in which they provide mint- and sea-salt-infused samples of chocolate from around the world.
In addition to tastings, chocolate-making classes encourage customer participation, with instructors offering up the fresh ingredients stored on site to students who wish to learn the fine art of chocolate making. During these classes, they walk guests through the delicate process of making clusters infused with nuts or fruit, or melting milk or dark chocolate to fill a mold.
Serene Teaz’s herbal outfitters dress up waiting cups in international teas, rooibos, infusions, and matés. Toast sunrise over a breakfast campfire with a mug of smoky lapsang souchong black tea ($10 for 4 oz.) or train crosshairs at midafternoon fatigue with a restorative shot of gunpowder green tea ($10.50 for 4 oz.). Steeped like tea, South African rooibos transforms into a drinkable dessert when paired with fruit or chocolate. One of Serene Teaz’s most popular rooibos brew, Sweet Sin ($10 for 4 oz.) sifts together vanilla, rose petals, and freeze-dried raspberries to elicit a decadent aroma capable of transporting drinkers toward serene moments or back to their days as a chocolate-rabbit breeder. Herbal infusions dance across nose buds with scents blended from fruits, herbs, and flowers such as hibiscus ($10 for 4 oz.) and peppermint ($9 for 4 oz.).
Smoothie Factory is a trusted supplier of puréed produce and nutritional supplements throughout the country. Made with all real fruit, Smoothie Factory's flavorful smoothie creations make a fine component for both hungry mouths and abandoned food pyramids ($6.33 without tax for one 32 oz.). Choose from a flock of fruity flavors, such as the turbinado-charged, immunity-boosting Tropical Squeeze, featuring strawberries, bananas, pineapple, honey, and more, or the radiantly nutritious, protein-infused Hercules mixture bursting with papaya juice, almonds, honey, and more. On-the-go vitamin hunters can quickly capture their prey with a wide array of nutritional boosts, including mood-boosting ginseng, hearty soy protein, and bear-placating bee pollen.
Confectioners at the full-service Bleeding Heart Bakery—named Chicago’s best bakery of 2011 by the Reader —whisk local, sustainable, and organic ingredients to craft fresh, natural desserts. Specialty cake bombs, available in chocolate-cherry, chocolate-hazelnut, and chocolate-truffle iterations, detonate with flavor like a spice rack tied to a brick of firecrackers. Creamy custard cores bide their time within chocolate-cake walls, with environmentally friendly packaging surrounding each order. The bakery’s punk-rock décor, incorporating pinks, bright greens, and heavily tattooed tabletops, expresses an offbeat creativity, and the purchase of sustainable and local ingredients helps to support the community.