Sweet Sweet Iowa
Have a sweet tooth? From terrific truffles and fantastic fudge to crazy good caramels and more, Iowa couldn’t get any sweeter. Are your taste buds tempted yet?
Chariton: Originally opened as a grocery store in 1903, Piper’s has been in its location at the northeast corner of Chariton’s town square since 1905. In 1947, the second generation of Pipers added homemade candy to the store’s offerings. The current owners still use the same recipes and techniques to make the candy and chocolates. As they say, “Why mess with perfection?” They sell hundreds of their handmade chocolate Easter eggs, filled with a variety of Piper’s candy and weighing from half a pound to five pounds, each year.
Davenport: Founded in Moline, Illinois, in 1908 by Italian immigrant Angelo Lagomarcino, the candy store/soda fountain opened a Davenport location in 1997. In addition to a delicious variety of handmade candies and chocolates, Lagomarcino’s is known for their hot fudge sundaes. The ice cream treat is served with a small pitcher of hot fudge sauce (once dubbed the “best hot fudge in this solar system”) on the side.
Des Moines: Located in the heart of the charming Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines, Beaverdale Confections is known for their gourmet handcrafted marshmallows. Take home a bag of one of their ten marshmallow flavors like toasted coconut, caramel and pineapple. Or make your next camping trip a gourmet experience with one of their s‘mores kits.
Dexter: Helen Drew started her chocolate business in 1927, using recipes from her relatives in New Hampshire. The same recipes are still used today and produced in the same house. Drew’s is the only candy shop in the country that fork dips each piece of chocolate by hand on a daily basis.
BETTY JANE CANDIES
Dubuque: Family owned and operated since 1938, Betty Jane’s is famous for their Gremlins (pecans and caramel covered with chocolate). The tasty treats were featured in People magazine as the top culinary gift in Iowa and included in the 2014 Academy Award gift bags. In the fall, they produce about 1,000 caramel apples a day!
Dubuque: The nuns of the Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey began crafting and selling their world-famous caramels in 1965. They now produce about 70 tons of caramel each year. They also sell “Irish” and “Swiss” mints as well as hazelnut meltaways. About 90% of their annual sales occur in the months just before Christmas.
Le Claire: Owner Rebecca Burns has fine-tuned her chocolate recipes for 20 years. She offers more than 120 varieties of truffles, butter creams and fudge. Die-hard chocolate fans can stay overnight at the Sweet Dreams Guest House located above the store (and, yes, you can smell the chocolate).
GOODIES HANDMADE CANDIES
Okoboji: For more than 30 years, Goodies has been a must stop place in Iowa’s Great Lakes region for delicious handmade chocolates. The recipes have evolved but are always made with “butter and love.” The second generation has joined the business and added new ideas. The University of Okoboji Alumni gift box includes a chocolate and nut assortment, rear window sticker and entrance exam to the fictional university.
Sioux City: The company’s history stretches back to 1878, when E.C. Palmer moved his family to Sioux City. The Palmers started making hand-dipped chocolates, penny candy, gumdrops and marshmallows around the turn of the century. The Twin Bing debuted in 1923. The cherry version is still being made and is a Midwest favorite. Five generations later, the company is still headed by a Palmer.