Gwen Willhite founded Cookies by Design in 1983, when an unsatisfying brainstorming session about gift ideas led her to ponder one question: why should flowers and sweets remain separate? Her solution was to design the cookie bouquet, where custom, hand-decorated cookies are displayed on sticks and arranged like flowers in gift baskets. Her invention quickly became a popular gift among locals, particularly those allergic to real blooms or too bashful to look at naked cookies.
Twenty-five years later, there are more than 200 Cookies by Design locations across the country. Each shop's team of bakers creates cookie baskets with a degree of care that matches Willhite's original vision, decorating and arranging sweet shapes for birthdays, holidays, and any other special occasion.
Cookies in Bloom's dedicated bakers craft daily batches of preservative-free cookies from scratch, often hand-decorating them with thick buttercream frosting. The treat-forgers create more than 300 different shapes of cookies in flavors that include chocolate chip, oatmeal, and peanut butter. The shop‘s thematic gift packages laud anniversaries, teachers, birthdays, and congratulations, and brownies and cookie cakes secure givers a special place in recipients' hearts or in the line at the DMV. Each sweet treat can arrive on doorsteps across the country packaged safely and with a crumble-free guarantee.
Bennison’s Bakery opened in 1938, and the staff’s allegiance to high-quality ingredients—cream, real butter, fresh buttermilk, and eggs—hasn’t changed since then. Two master bakers oversee the large-scale production of cupcakes and pupcakes, which feature puffs of chocolate buttercream and fudge shaped into the face of a smiley pooch.
From behind a frozen granite slab, the staff of Cold Stone Creamery uses twin spatulas to blend 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 spatulas to create delicious pointillist art against the freezer wall.
Rose’s Wheat-Free Bakery & Cafe was founded on the principle that dietary restrictions shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying the finer things in life—namely cakes, cookies, sandwiches, and pizza. Every pastry and lunch item on the café’s menu is completely gluten-free, and the bakers also go out of the way to use organic butter, eggs, and tapioca flour when crafting their recipes.
Wheat allergies don’t take time off, and neither does Rose’s. The café and bakery is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Even if you can’t make it up to the small Evanston bakery, there’s a good chance you’ll find some of their goodies elsewhere. They’re carried in many restaurants and gourmet food stores in the Chicago area, including Whole Foods and Café Ba-ba-Reeba.
Jacky's on Prairie sources its fresh, seasonal ingredients from local family farms to ensure customers are never faced with a plate of summer squash with frostbite or snow peas with suntans. The restaurant's brunch, lunch, and dinner menus feature flavor infusions from around the world, harmoniously accompanied with the nuanced notes of fine wine. This spring's savory starters include ginger beef potstickers served with an orange-shoyu reduction ($10), vanilla-braised pork belly with black vinegar sauce and a citrus micro-green salad ($10), and champagne-soaked oysters with leek fondue, pancetta, and an elegant house-selected wine pairing ($18). For dinner, anchor your mouth bones into a plate of wild Alaskan salmon served with gnocchi and spring vegetables, topped with a chervil-watercress sauce ($26), or get a meatless mouthful of Moroccan vegetable tajine, mixing fresh, seasonal vegetables and almond couscous ($19). For a healthy punch of protein, opt for the grilled organic pork, decadently drizzled with pasilla-orange sauce and aptly attended with pickled red onion, potato terrine, and baby arugula ($26).