We found the best the West has to offer when it comes to specialty and gourmet desserts.
After canvassing friends and fellow staffers, we sampled as many gourmet desserts from the West as we could. Considering the prevalence of mail-order and take-out dining options these days, we couldn’t help but consider the specialty options available. And whether it’s cookies or caramels from Colorado or California, the West doesn’t disappoint.
Mary’s Mountain Cookies
Fort Collins, Colorado
After tragedies led her to leave her home state of Michigan, Mary Johns got back on her feet by getting on the back of a horse. She made a life for herself and her two children in Colorado — she also made cookies. While working at Cherokee Park Ranch in the northern reaches of Colorado near the Wyoming border, Mary developed her dude-ranch skills and her “mountain style” cookies. People loved the cookies so much, they couldn’t get enough, and Mary was finally convinced her creations were truly something special. They turned out to be special enough to grow into a sweet national chain.
Fan Favorites: There are more than 25 varieties and flavors, but we especially love S’mores, Snickerdoodle, Chocolate Chip, Caramel Sea Salt, and the Buttercream cookie sandwiches. There are gluten-free cookies and homemade ice cream sandwiches, too.
Fun Facts: Edible cookie dough! And check out Mary’s Story and Cookbook for recipes and her uplifting stories of overcoming adversity.
To Order/Buy: 970.226.9091, marysmountaincookies.com, and in person at the original Fort Collins location in the Front Range Village and other locations in Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Montana, Indiana, and South Dakota (with more coming soon).
The huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho, but one of our favorite huckleberry purveyors is just outside of Kalispell, Montana. Montana Bounty Foods devotes an entire section of its shopping to “everything huckleberry,” along with its award-winning Deep-Pit Seasoning, sugar plums, and Indian fry bread. We can attest to the deliciously different items in the huckleberry department, including jams, jellies, preserves, honey, syrup, beverages, dessert topping, fudge, biscotti, breads, cookies, cakes, waffles, scones, crepes, griddle cakes, vinaigrette, mixers, and sauces. It’s all made by hand by hardworking Montanans on their Lonesome Dove Guest Ranch, a real working ranch that’s also a bed-and-breakfast. bountyfoods.com, lonesomedoveguestranch.com
Lone Star Love
If you’re looking for made-in-Texas, GO TEXAN has you covered at their online market at shop.gotexan.org. Naturally, among the many products in that magical marketplace, you’ll find food, and among the food, sweets. There you’ll find Frosty’s Candy Barn and the nut brittles they’ve been making for years using the family’s 80-year-old recipe. Pecan, peanut, jalapeño peanut, ghost pepper, and cashew. We also can’t get enough of Jolly Acres Farms, because who doesn’t love Salted Goat Milk Caramels, Slow Burn Cayenne Goat Milk Caramels, and Apple Dapple Goat Milk Caramels. And don’t get us started on Susie’s South Forty Confections’ Texas Trash and Joy Bee Baking’s Original Cinnamon Sugar Coffeecake in bite-sized Texas-shaped pieces. Toothbrushes ready, everybody? shop.gotexan.org
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Rocky Mountain Food High
Colorado Crafted curates all sorts of goodies from the Centennial State, and you can even build your own gift box. There’s a lot of winning food here, much of it sweetly satisfying. The Continental Divide Tote has a selection of both sweet and savory, with a cool tote to boot. On the savory side, there’s everything from Seed Ranch Hot Sauce to On Tap Pretzel Bites to Bubba’s Snack Mix. But let’s enumerate the sweet stuff: Anellabees Honey Candies, Hammond’s Midnight Snack Chocolate Bar, The Panza Chocolate Sea Salt Sticks, Chocolove Mini Chocolate Bar and Peanut Butter Cups, and Enstrom Milk Chocolate Almond Toffee. coloradocraftedbox.com
I Scream, You Scream
For more than 70 years, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, of Santa Barbara, California, has been striving to leave the world a little sweeter than they found it. McConnell’s started in 1949, and today — third-generation family-run — they continue to focus on the finest ingredients and crazy quality control, with ice creams made completely from scratch, starting with pasteurizing their own local grass-grazed milk and cream. They like to say, “Keeping things simple is the most complicated thing we do,” and you can taste it in flavors like Toasted Coconut Almond Chip, Eureka Lemon and Marionberries, Turkish Coffee, Double Peanut Butter Chip, and Sea Salt Cream and Cookies. mcconnells.com
There are so many fine chocolate makers in the West, choosing one’s goodies over another’s is as impossible as saying no to a brownie or a bar or a cookie. So we decided to showcase Tucson, Arizona-based Monsoon Chocolate, which has some International Chocolate Awards to their credit. Some of their award winners: Caramelized White Chocolate Truffles, Blueberry Oat Cardamom Bon Bons, Pepper Rose Bon Bon, Mesquite White Chocolate Bar, Mezcal Caramel, Prickly Pear Caramel, Basil Strawberry Bon Bon, Whiskey Del Bac Dorado Bon Bon. And then there’s former saddle-bronc rider Tim Kellogg of Meeteetse Chocolatier in Meeteetse, Wyoming (meeteetsechocolatier.com), who uses local ingredients like sage, huckleberry, Prickly pear, sasparilla, Wyoming whisky, and craft beer and whose truffle line gets high marks. monsoonchocolate.com
From the October 2021 issue
Photography: (All images) courtesy vendors