From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery blends custom servings of ice cream and creative mix-ins to fit customers’ exact specifications. Founded by Donald and Susan Sutherland in 1988, Cold Stone began under the hot Arizona sun, eventually spreading its frosty fingers to encompass more than 1,400 locations worldwide. Despite the size of the company, each location’s staff keeps up the handcrafted quality, making ice cream onsite every day and using those signature spades to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.
In 1988, Auntie Anne's founders Anne and Jonas Beiler purchased a Pennsylvania farmers'-market stand, where they experimented with dough until they created a pretzel that seemed to strike the perfect chord with their customers. Today, at their more than 1,150 locations worldwide, the pretzel makers still hand roll the original recipe but have added to the menu with inventive options, such as the pepperoni pretzel and eight signature dipping sauces. The team constantly explores new uses for the pretzel dough, such as wrapping it around hot dogs, slicing it into bite-size nuggets, or using it to build historically accurate Austrian villages. To transform the snack into a meal, they accompany it with specialty drinks, including frozen-lemonade desserts.
When not twisting dough, Auntie Anne's team partners with the national charitable organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises funds to fight childhood cancer. Auntie Anne's also reaches out to the community through fundraising opportunities.
Corks and Canvas Events, like a work of fine art, came about by pairing a good idea with a passion to create. The founders both came from the marketing world, where they spent their days devising campaigns and events to inspire their audiences to take action. A shared love for art and wine inspired them to bend their action-creating talents toward a new goal—hosting painting and wine events in area wineries and wine bars, allowing guests to "uncork their creativity" and promote the burgeoning Washington wine industry.
Their idea took the form of Corks and Canvas Events, where experienced artists lead guests step-by-step through the painting creation process. Guests re-create various paintings, everything from lush vineyard scenes to preening roosters, while sipping on glasses of local wines.
The city of Seattle is speckled by pho joints, each one serving its own rendition of the beloved belly-warming noodle soup. However, Le's Phở Tái remains a cut above the competition with its commitment to using locally grown ingredients and creating flavorful broth. Chefs begin the process of preparing the beef stock more than 20 hours before the soup hits the table, setting beef bones and spices to boil in order to procure what reporters from Journal Magazine praised as "exceptional flavor". Once the broth is ready, the chefs add thin vermicelli noodles along with cuts of tender beef, fresh seafood, and crisp veggies. They serve the soup in massive bowls alongside plates of bean sprouts and jalapeno slices.
When chefs aren't cooking pho, their attention is absorbed in the preparation of other Vietnamese specialties—chewy spring rolls, tangy teriyaki dishes, and bahn mi sandwiches with barbecue meats and french bread. Servers carry these dishes out into the warm, casual dining room, along with glasses of sweet iced-milk coffee and refreshing coconut juice. The accommodating staffers encourage guests to call ahead to place food orders for faster service, particularly if they have to speed back home to make sure their cats don't start scratching the Bruce Willis statue they’ve been sculpting out of peanut butter.
Since 2006, Mt. Baker Candy Co.'s chocolatiers have used a secret 50-year-old recipe as the blueprint for more than 40 flavors of fudge, all handmade in small batches. Now, through SendFudge.com, their gourmet confections can reach chocolate lovers in 48 states, including the ones where chocolate is illegal. Made with milk and soy, the rich, gluten-free fudges range from classics such as butter pecan and rocky road to lemon-meringue cheesecake fudge and caramel-infused fudge topped with sea salt. The dessert wizards also whip up 12 diabetic-friendly flavors of sucrose-free fudge, including mint-chocolate swirl and peanut butter.
While inanimate objects with the power of flight often terrify the muffin-eating masses, aerodynamic aprons are known for their compassionate cuddling and fantastical ribbon dancing. Flying Apron Bakery freshly prepares delicious edibles for the consumption and digestion of all. High-quality organic products, from whole-grain, wheatless flours to non-hydrogenated oils, are creatively employed to compose an overflowing menu of thoroughly vegan, gluten-free, and wheat-free goods. Morning fare includes carrot muffins sweetened with pure fruit juice ($3.25) and sticky pecan cinnamon rolls inspired by organic brown-rice flour and garbanzo-bean flour ($4.25), while cookie jars swell with Macaroon Mountains ($2.45) and pumpkin cookies full of dried apricots, walnuts, and stevia ($1.95).