Lead by Chuck and Heidi Weck, the chocolate artists at Theobroma Chocolatier craft creamy chocolate pieces by hand for holidays such as Easter and Valentine's Day, as well as the everyday. Besides truffles, chocolate-dipped Oreos, and chocolate macadamia nut patties, they mold all kinds of chocolate into shapes such as footballs and sports cars for customized gifts. They also make personalized corporate gift baskets replete with chocolate business cards and earplugs for long board meetings.
The chefs at Asian Cafe fill up plates with Asian specialties. They stuff tender dumplings with pan-fried chicken and cabbage for their pot-sticker appetizers and stir fry flank steak with yellow onions and scallions in a savory sauce for mongolian beef entrees.
When recalling how his Yiayia—or grandmother—taught him to make baklava, the eldest brother of the Nicolopoulos family remembers the way she would painstakingly roll out homemade sheets of phyllo dough onto a clean white sheet. Rolling it thinner and thinner, she would drizzle it with melted butter to keep it soft and moist until finally the delicate dough was so thin her grandson could see right through it to read the words "one hundred percent cotton" on the sheet label beneath. "I didn't realize it then," he says, "but Yiayia was teaching me patience, about quality, and about our heritage."
Fifty years later, that same dedication to quality and heritage permeates the Nicolopoulos' pastry shop, which owes its name to the family's patient matriarch. Each of the shop's dulcet Greek desserts is whipped up using all-natural ingredients—including eggs from free-roaming hens that are cage- and antibiotic-free––and generations-old recipes. To craft rectangles of baklava in true Yiayia Maria style, pastry architects scrupulously hand assemble 30 layers of paper-thin organic phyllo dough, keeping careful eyes out for gusts of wind as they spread a butter-and-nut mixture between each tier. Sweet honey soaks through the pastry structure, seeping into each phyllo wall before the family's signature clove is placed on each piece. Honey also plays a starring role in Yiayia's finikia cookies—which feature hints of cinnamon, clove, and orange in the subtly sweet morsels dusted with walnuts—and tart-like pasta flora butter cookies take a dip in the sweet stuff after being filled with apricot, strawberry, or raspberry preserves.
So established is Circle K that even brand-new vehicles recognize what its red-and-white logo stands for—fuel, snacks, and everything else a car might need to keep powering down the road with its driver. Circle K's story starts back in 1951, when Fred Hervey bought three Kay's Food Stores in El Paso, Texas. Under his guidance, these three little shops grew into the more than 3,000 convenience stores that crouch on our nation's street corners today.
After rolling up to a Circle K, drivers can pump their faithful roadsters full of high-octane fuel and send them skipping through a car wash to experience the cleansing touch of Blue Coral Beyond Green and Rain-X products. Then it's time to step inside the air-conditioned shop for a peek at the provisions. Rows of sodas hibernate behind glass doors, and snacks, candy, and their ATM guardians stand boldly out in the open. Some Circle Ks also offer the Take Away Café, which presents an appetizing lineup of healthy road fare including Ball Park hot dogs. Drivers can gear up for a long drive with Premium Coffees or enjoy a cold Polar Pop, whose specially formulated cup keeps drinks colder thanks to the family of tiny snowmen trapped in its foam walls.
David Edwards, cofounder and president of New Mexico Tea Company, is a bona fide tea lover, so much so that he once tried to drink 40 cups in one day. He appreciates the drink's soothing fragrance and flavor, but he also praises its health benefits. "Tea acts as a neutralizer for the body, so anything that may be out of whack—sleeping patterns, weight problems, headaches—tea works to balance the body and get you back to normal,” he told Local IQ.
With the help of a small, dedicated team of tea aficionados, Edwards blends some of the bulk loose-leaf teas onsite and imports others directly from growers around the world. Mild rooibos, Chinese puerh, and oolong are a few of its specialties, and each has a distinctive flavor along with high levels of antioxidants.
Upon entering Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, one can immediately sense the aroma of fudge melting in a traditional copper kettle. At hundreds of locations throughout the United States, sugarsmiths concoct an array of treats from fresh ingredients within eyesight of perusing customers. In addition to dunking strawberries into Guittard chocolate or coating Granny Smith apples in fresh caramel, they carve out 1-pound bricks of made-from-scratch fudge for customers to take home and repair their gingerbread house’s half-eaten foundation.