Copper Star Coffee
Lauren Cusimano
We started going to Copper Star because the iced coffee is second to none — and that's because owner Bill Sandweg is a connoisseur and, therefore, knows his way around a nice tidy glass of black java on the rocks. But we ended up addicted to Copper Star's Black and White Cupcakes, baked in-house by the cafe's manager and resident baker, Mindy Porter. Nearly all Porter's recipes were handed down from her grandmother, and these moist, tasty cupcakes — which started out as an occasional special but are now a daily staple at Copper Star, because customers kept asking for them — is among Grandma Porter's best. Moist, cake-like dark chocolate surrounds a cheesecake center that's super-creamy but not too sweet. And that's our excuse for always eating two of them when we're there.
Bertha's Cafe
Talk about unassuming. The cheesecakes at Bertha's Café may not make an appearance on the in-house menu, but their taste is anything but bashful. After years of supplying the delicious indulgence to family and friends, owner and chef Beth Goldwater ran with her reputation for cheesecakes and opened Bertha's Café as a breakfast, lunch, and dessert destination in 2005. From the standout s'mores and baklava flavors to the popular tiramisu and original flavors, Goldwater's daily-made cheesecake creations are creamy goodness cradled in a foundation of rich, brown, sweet crust. They are available as call-ahead orders or by the heavenly slice.
The name alone makes Sid's Viciously Good Cookies worthy of one of our annual awards, though the Sid in question is actually a former corporate executive named Sidney Miller who turned her back on the rat race in favor of the cookie press when she became a mom. We discovered Sid's cookies at a local AJ's Fine Foods and were wowed by the soft, gooey circles. The best way to get them hot and fresh is by calling Miller directly and placing an order. Currently, she offers four flavors that focus on classic ingredients. Our favorite is the Peanut Buttah: rich, doughy circles with chunks of peanut butter in the batter. It reminds us of licking spoonfuls of peanut butter at summer camp. Not that we'll pass up the double chocolate cookies or the white chocolate and almond "With Love . . . Annie V" variety. At the risk of sounding cliché, all of Sid's Viciously Good Cookies really rock.
We loved her for years as pastry chef at Cowboy Ciao, and since she's been on her own, we've only gotten sweeter on Tracy Dempsey, whose confections seem to pop up everywhere. We're fans of her homemade marshmallows, which you'll find at the Scottsdale Old Town Farmers Market in rotating flavors that include hot chocolate, vanilla bean, and rosebud. Who needs a campfire? Just give us a bag of Tracy's pillowy, perfectly sweet marshmallows and we'll melt. Visit her website for other locations where marshmallows and her other treats are sold. We also love Tracy for her marshmallow heart. In October, she's co-sponsoring Cupcake Love-In, a fundraiser benefiting Singleton Moms, a local nonprofit assisting single mothers battling cancer, and Safe Haven, a no-kill animal shelter. (More details at www.cupcakelovein.com.)
GoodyTwos Toffee Company
Remember Adam Ant's catchy lyrics, "don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do?" Apparently, make toffee good enough to replace a morning quickie. Mother-daughter team Donna Gabrilson and Stacey Barnes of Scottsdale's Goody Twos Toffee Company wield a double-edge sword of deliciousness. Their handmade confections come in traditional flavors, including peanut brittle, chocolate peppermint, and the crunchy Double-Crossed (almonds and milk, dark, and white chocolates). Daughter Stacey corrupted us with the Nutty-Twist, an out-of-this-world blend of nuts, lime, Cruz Tequila, and chocolate. Considering that liquor lowers inhibitions and chocolate causes the same physical reaction in the brain as sex, we're guessing that Stacey is not the goody two-shoes in this pairing.
When eaten, chocolate causes the brain to amp up endorphin secretions similar to those released when you have sex. That's the fancy, scientific way of saying it makes you tingle all over. Engineer turned chocolatier Sam Filicetti, a.k.a. Sam the Chocolate Guy, definitely makes us tingle with his ib2 chocolates, featuring sensual spices in the tradition of the ancient Mayans. Filicetti has an almost spiritual connection with his newfound career, describing in detail to anyone who'll listen about the painstaking process of getting melted chocolate to do his bidding. His confections include relaxing lavender-infused chocolates and an espresso variety made with Lux coffee beans, but our favorite is an anti-depressant variety that combines rich, 54 percent cocoa solids with spicy chiles that also raise endorphin levels. Serve that to your partner, along with wine in one of ib2's chocolate cups, and you'll be in for one sweet night.
When your name is Pie Snob (right down to your personalized license plate), you'd better deliver. Not a problem for Traci Wilbur. At the urging of her pie-lovin' pals, Wilbur started Pie Snob a year ago in a small building behind her Arcadia home. With her recipes and a motto ("Life's too short to eat bad pie!") Wilbur whips up more than 20 kinds of handcrafted pastry art, including apple (her best-seller), nutty-good pecan, decadent chocolate cream, and Wilbur's seasonal favorite, lemonade nectarine. Pie addicts with patience can order direct from the website or get a taste pronto at D'licious Dishes or Bertha's Café.
Scott's Generations
We don't know whether candy storeowner Louis Auster, the inventor of the chocolate egg cream, ever visited the Valley. But if he did — that is, if he also lived in the early 21st century, rather than the late 19th century — it's likely he'd head straight for Scott's Generations to find out what this ultra-Bronx deli has done with his little brainchild.What he'd find is that this local eatery has made a masterpiece of this delicious mix of chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer. The chocolate egg cream at Scott's Generations is so perfect that it screams "Brooklyn!"
Chicago Hamburger Co.
Courtesy of Chicago Hamburger Co.
The long-neck spoon? Yeah, you're gonna need that. Featuring creamy scoopfuls of vanilla ice cream, milk, and chunks of fresh banana (most barely making the journey through the straw), the banana shake at the Chicago Hamburger Company is a tackle-worthy treat. Hungry dessert monkeys can order it with extra bananas or they can go combo, mixing homemade banana bliss with chocolate or strawberry, a staff favorite. A small will run you around $4 and a large one is $5. Both require the accompanying spoon to capture every last banana-licious bite.
Yogurtology
Over the past year, self-serve frozen yogurt has eclipsed gelato as the cold treat of choice here in Phoenix. We love the tart varieties. We adore the abundance of toppings. But there's one yogurt in town that's like crack to our heat-addled brains, and that's Yogurtology's oatmeal cookie flavor. Sure, the cheesecake and red velvet varieties are tasty, but the Oatmeal Cookie makes every other flavor taste vanilla in comparison. Made with real oatmeal cookies and a host of other secret ingredients the owner won't reveal, it's rich and creamy with an earthy, sweet flavor that tastes exactly like the fresh-baked cookies Grandma made in our childhood. Forget the gummy bears and Oreos. This flavor doesn't need any dressing up to taste like a million bucks.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of