Got a sugar junkie on your Christmas list this year? Step away from those fruitcakes, those boring chocolate oranges, and the ordinary cherry cordials and pick them up something special this year…something produced right here in Arkansas. Here’s a few of the sweetest gifts you can stuff in your loved ones’ stockings this year.
Chocolates from Cocoa Rouge – The man behind Arkansas’s finest breads, Ashton Woodward of Arkansas Fresh Bakery, has transitioned into chocolate making. His new Cocoa Rouge line of fine chocolates have garnered a great deal of attention since their recent arrival in Arkansas…and for good reason. There’s an incredible amount of skill being poured into each of these handcrafted chocolate pieces. Grab a box of assorted chocolates and you’ll be treated to flavors such as passion fruit coconut, orange peel marzipan, cappuccino, milk chocolate and hazelnut, and mint chocolate. They come in boxes of three sizes—6, 12, and 24 pieces. You can find Cocoa Rouge being sold at a number of locations around central Arkansas including Hallmark Stores in Bryant & Benton, Tipton & Hurst in the Heights, Patty Cakes Bakery in Conway, Terry’s Finer Foods, Hillcrest Artisan Meats, and Eggshells Kitchen Co.
Kilwins – In August of this year Leroy and Michelle Privett DuBre brought Arkansas its very own branch of Kilwins, a national brand that’s been producing sweets since 1947. They set up shop in a small strip of prime real estate within the River Market District’s Arcade Building. Their small store is brimming with sweet things of all types, but this Christmas, you’d do well to snag a box of their assorted truffles (in flavors such as champagne, Irish cream, malt, and raspberry) or any mix of your own making which may include their coconut, peanut, or raisin chocolate clusters, chewy caramels, or salt-water taffy.
Izard Chocolate – Nathaniel Izard has introduced Arkansas to its first line of bean-to-bar chocolates. He first sources his beans from several countries, including the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Belize. From there, Izard processes them himself—roasting, grinding, sweetening, tempering, and molding—until he’s produced his finished product. And what he’s selling is certainly worth checking out if you’ve any inclination towards chocolate. Izard Chocolate has still only barely infiltrated the local market, but with such a high quality product, expect to see them popping up all over the city very soon. For now, you’ll find Nathaniel peddling his wares at the Hillcrest Farmers Market every Saturday.
Assorted handmade sweets from Loblolly – Your favorite ice cream shop has always got a little something extra lying around to help make your season bright. Stuffing a carton of salted carmel ice cream into your loved one’s stocking may sound like a great idea…but it’s probably more mess than you’ll want to deal with. Instead, check out their high-quality, incredibly soft honey caramels, their salty chocolate-coated toffee, or their spectacular perfect-for-cocoa housemade marshmallows.
Maryclare Macarons – These delicate little cookies are one the finest achievements the French culinary masterminds ever introduced into the world. Macarons have exploded in popularity over the last several years, and you’ll now find dedicated macaron shops dotting the streets of many big cities. In Arkansas, no one does a finer job with them than the baking duo of Mary Jo Selig and Clare Thomas Williams in Hot Springs. They operate a pre-order operation in which you can choose your own assortment of macarons and have them shipped you your home, or you can purchase a pre-packaged box at a few locations in Little Rock such as Boulevard Bread Co. in the Heights or Hillcrest Artisan Meats.
Giant Christmas cookies from Sweet Love – Few bakeries in Little Rock are as versatile and dynamic as Kelli Marks’ Sweet Love. You’ll always find Marks experimenting with new and exciting flavors, producing seasonal specialties that are always a delight to nibble on. This holiday season, you’ll find Sweet Love selling giant Christmas tree cookies, ornately decorated, individually wrapped and ready to make your season a little brighter. Sharing with Santa is optional…but please call to pre-order.
Juanita’s nut brittle – The pride of Arkadelphia, Juanita’s Candy Kitchen has been producing the best nut brittle in the state since the 1974. Juanita’s does three varieties of brittle—peanut, pecan, and cashew (I prefer the pecan, personally). It’s thin and shatteringly crisp, permeated by an aroma of roasted nuts and sweet caramelized sugar. If you think you don’t like brittle, try this stuff…there’s a good chance you’ll change your mind. It’s without a doubt, the best reason to hop off the I-30 and make a pitstop in town if you happen to be passing by, but you can also find this lovely candy at a few locations in Little Rock this time of year—Eggshells Kitchen Co. and The Gold Crown Shops. You can also order directly from their website.