When Nord Brue and Mike Dressell began perfecting their bagel recipe with the help of a professional NYC bagel maker in 1983, the bagel was still an anomaly in the food world—it was geographically and culturally still isolated in New York City. Fueled by a desire to change that, the duo opened up the first Bruegger's deli with the hope of eventually introducing the rest of the country to the bagel. Brue and Dressell have since realized their dream, sharing their distinctive recipes and culinary traditions at 300 locations spread across 26 states. To this day, they oven-bake their centerless bread rolls every morning and afternoon, populating counter displays that also brim with daily made breads, Vermont cream cheese, and custom-roasted coffee.
Executive Chef Phillip Smith and his network of chefs still use the original five-ingredient recipe for their dough, which they shape into more than 20 bagel varieties. Because they draw from each region's local recipes and from dialogue and Pictionary games with local consumers, certain menu items may vary from store to store across the country. The bagels are often served with Bruegger's eclectic cream cheeses such as bacon scallion or pumpkin, or as sandwiches with meats, cheeses, and veggies often sourced from local or organic produce. Coffe gets just as much attention, with house blends of 100% arabica coffee.
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Goodway Bakery uses natural, high quality ingredients to handcraft a menu of fresh baked goods from scratch every day. The coconut craving can order the coconut macaroons ($12.95), a thick, chewy blast of tropical sweetness, with a crisp, toasted exterior and a nearly molten, sticky-sweet interior. Those vying for a chocolaty treat can sink delighted dentures into a collection of old-fashioned gourmet brownies with nuts ($9.95). Made with real butter and Madagascar bourbon vanilla, these fudge-like bastions of joy are packed with walnuts and copious amounts of chocolate, treating mouths to a symphony of textures, flavors, and sugar-induced outbreaks of uncontrollable giggles.
Frozen mounds of kosher-certified yogurt spill from self-serve stations at Lemondrop Frozen Yogurt, awaiting more than 50 toppings. Armed with an empty cup or an umbrella turned upside down, guests capture the frozen rivulets of tahitian vanilla, espresso, cookies 'n' cream, and greek honey. They then sprinkle on fresh fruit and candy toppings such as blackberries, strawberries, chocolate-covered pretzels, and peanut-butter cups.
At The Chocolate Gecko, award-winning chocolatiers swirl together fresh fruit, spicy cayenne pepper, and a splash of rich liqueurs to form decadent treats comprising all-natural ingredients. The shop’s multi-tiered shelves sprout batches of chocolate-dipped fruit and classic sweets, such as peanut-butter cups, turtles, and rich, butter toffee komodo crunches. Molded truffles burst with creamy liqueur-infused fillings and take on a variety of shapes, including Aztec pyramids, tiny Buddhas, and the heads of former Supreme Court justices.
The Chocolate Gecko’s sweet-tooth-appeasing staff shares its confectionary wisdom during one-hour chocolate-making classes, which have covered such sweet-concocting skills as tempering basics, concocting both molded and hand-rolled truffles, and reverse engineering the Cadbury Bunny. The Chocolate Gecko encourages guests to bring along alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages to complement the velvety morsels of each class.
Best-friend bakers Abby Ruscitto and Shawnie Masilotti craft Melt Creations' kaleidoscope of custom cake pops in an array of sweet flavor combinations. Fourteen cake varieties including chocolate, cheesecake, and sugar-free selections bake into bite-sized orbs before 25 coatings wrap each morsel in a caramel, pomegranate, or chocolate-mint-flavored shell. Confections don crowns of frosting and toppings of colorful sprinkles or crushed pretzels, then perch atop a paper stick for silverware-free savoring. Meanwhile, designer cake pops take on preplanned combinations such as the Breakfast, which merges the salty sweetness of maple-apple-bacon cake with maple frosting and tomorrow's news.