The Vanilla Bean bakery– gourmet flavor, small town feel

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Here’s the Vanilla Bean – an easy stroll in from the convenient parking lot.

It’s like walking onto a set from the Food Network. Every flavor is carefully described. A commentator should be giving an overview of the products, just so that the listener doesn’t get too lost in the luscious ingredients!

Vanilla Bean Unique Cookies, located on 3410 North Anthony Boulevard, is a small shop with plenty of windows. Pink is the primary color on all the walls, and on the cute retro stove behind the glass and wood counter.

The counter is high, adding an old-time store impression to the shop. Through the clean windows, you can see trays filled with cookies and cupcakes. A separate, clear container holds at least three different types of gluten-free cookies on top of the counter. A large, black chalkboard is filled with multi-colored labels, describing the cookie flavors, cupcakes, and discounts offered.

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Front counter – check out the plate of cupcakes on top!

The Vanilla Bean began as a cupcake and cookie shop, but now, according to co-founder Sandra Wharton, they are focusing more on their cookies. The cupcakes, however, are still being baked – six different flavors every week! On a recent visit, the different artisan flavors were enough to make your mouth water. What really caught my eye was the caramel apple cupcake made from apple cinnamon cake, topped with caramel buttercream and a slice of dried apple. The Luscious Lemon cupcake also looked scrumptious.

But the cookies are what the shop is really marketing now. At last year’s daytime Emmys, the Vanilla Bean sent over 1,000 sandwich cookies to be included in the gift bags that were given to the stars. And this July, the Vanilla Bean will be attending the Atlanta International Gift Show, a gourmet food conference that will take place in Georgia.

The Vanilla Bean has about eight different varieties of cookies on display every day. Natural and wholesome ingredients are the key feature for each cookie. Many of the cookies feature chocolate – like the Chocolate Chilean cookie, which has a touch of pepper mixed in, just to add a little heat. Other cookies are non-spicy, like the Lemon Ricotta. A lemon glaze adds just the right touch to the tender citrus-infused cookie. It’s like having just enough and not too much of a good thing.

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Cupcakes on top, lemon ricotta cookies in the middle, boxes of cookies below.

Then there is the Molasses Oatmeal cookie. If you’re a fan of spice or carrot cake, then this one is for you. The cookie is filled with raisins, nuts, carrots, walnuts and dried apples. It’s like taking one of the best granola bars you’ve ever eaten and turning it into a toothsome cookie.

The Vanilla Bean is careful to keep their gluten-free cookies in a separate area from the wheat-filled baked goods. Lemon Ricotta, Molasses Oatmeal, and three different chocolate cookies are offered in their wheat-free line. The lady behind the counter mentioned that they always package the gluten-free products separately. Flour used for these cookies is composed from a brown rice blend. There is no corn or oat flour in the gluten-free mix.

“We deliver,” noted Ms. Wharton. Another specialty that the Vanilla Bean offers is the option of ‘mini cookies’ – miniature versions of the traditionally large cookies. The Vanilla Bean is the only bakery in Fort Wayne to sell cookies at the Earth Fare grocery and specialty store. And they are creating a new online presence at vanillabeanuniquecookies.com.  Why not try out a local bakery that has big –time taste?

Louisa

About

Louisa is a lifelong Fort Wayne resident. A long-time musician and literature aficionado, Louisa likes to explore the classical music offerings that Fort Wayne has to offer. (She also likes to browse the Allen County Public Library's stacks for just the right book!)

Chalk Walk 2014 – The Beauty Beneath our Feet

With the Three Rivers Festival fast approaching, that also means this year’s Chalk Walk is just around the corner. One of the favorite events in the festival, the Chalk Walk, brings tens of thousands of visitors to the streets of Fort Wayne to watch the artists creating mind-bending masterpieces right beneath their feet. This year’s Chalk Walk will be held Saturday and Sunday, July 12th and 13th, in the heart of downtown Fort Wayne on main street, just in front of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, which is hosting the event.

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Chalk Walk 2013

Fort Wayne’s version of street paintings, the Chalk Walk is inspired by the Italian street painters of the sixteenth century. The Madonnari, as they were called, hailed from all over the country; many came into the cities to work on the cathedrals there. Once the churches were complete, the painters looked for other ways to earn a living and found the ground beneath their feet served as endless canvas space. Recreating images from the churches, like the Madonna, (hence their names) during certain holy days soon became a way to earn a few coins. The practice grew until soon many artists were coming together in the streets and creating blocks of impromptu masterpieces. Fast forward to the twentieth century and not only had the practice not faded away, it had begun to be endorsed by local governments and celebrated with festivals.

Here in the twenty-first century, Fort Wayne’s own Chalk Walk is not limited to professional painters and boasts a variety of subjects, styles, and artists. Local, regional, and even national artists of all ages will work diligently all day to create their own once in a lifetime masterpiece for visitors to enjoy. Visitors get the unique experience of watching the artists work and seeing the picture take shape before their very eyes.

Once all the works are completed, prizes will be awarded. This year’s awards are:

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Artist works on her “Despicable Me” submission

  • Trompe l’oeil – French for “fool the eye”
  • Fort Wayne Museum of Art’s 30th Anniversary in Downtown Fort Wayne
  • The Golden Age of American Bicycles
  • Depictions of Fort Wayne Museum of Art Outdoor Sculpture
  • Best Use of a Street Blemish (only for those with cracks and manhole covers in their square)
  • People’s Choice (voted by the attending public)

Be sure to vote for your favorite piece for the People’s Choice award! The Chalk Walk is enjoyable for people of all ages, so bring the family and come watch the streets transform into beautiful works of art before your eyes. While you are there, stop by Art in the Park, the popular juried fine art show and sale going on just further down Main Street.

Holley Taylor

About

Holley is a student at Albion College in Michigan studying English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and History. She is excited to be back in her hometown this summer working as a Marketing Intern for Visit Fort Wayne. Holley enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

Three Rivers Festival done right!

As a longtime Fort Wayne local, growing up in the Summit City, I’ve been to my fair share of Three Rivers Festivals. Just around the corner, July 11th-15th, it is not too early to start planning your plan of attack. Over the years I’ve learned some of the do’s and dont’s of festival going – some of them the hard way – and I’ve decided to share my knowledge with you! Some of these things may seem obvious, but their importance cannot be overstated; all of the pieces fit together perfectly to combine for one awesome festival experience you will want to duplicate for years to come.

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1. “My mind on my money” – Even though we live in a day and age where checks and cash are starting to seem superfluous, paper money is very much the currency of the Three Rivers Festival. It is important to come equipped with enough cash to sustain you through the whole night. My personal strategy for this includes making a mental list of the items I may want to buy once I arrive. How many food items will I realistically want to eat (it’s Junk Food Alley, so I will want to eat everything), and how many items will I allow myself to buy? Moderation is key. I like to bring enough money that I have some wiggle room, but not so much that I will be able to devour an entire truck’s worth of food.

There are also games to consider. How many game tickets am I going to use – the word use is important. It is always better to buy too few tickets and have to go up for more, then to buy more than you need and end up with leftovers. Parking is also something to consider when packing a purse for the night. Some lots around the festival grounds charge a few dollars to park for the night, so it’s not a bad idea to allot a few extra dollars to that.

There are ATMs on site at Junk Food Alley in case you run out of funds. Still, I like to go in with the mindset that I’m allowed to spend only what I have on hand; that makes my decisions easier and helps me avoid those annoying foreign ATM fees.

2. Buddy Up! A lot of the festival activities are easier and more enjoyable with a buddy. Traveling with a buddy provides you with a few securities. For one, partnering up on food items will allow you to save some money while still getting your share of fair food. My sister and I are longtime festival buddies, and we work well together. We like the same foods and have it down to a tried and true system – a corn dog each as a sort of main course, then a heaping plate of spiral spuds (smothered in ketchup of course) and an elephant ear both to split. Sometimes we even get one large drink (with free or $1 refills) to share. We both leave satisfied and with some cash to spare.

Buddying up also makes the rides more fun. Just in case there is a ride where people sit two to a seat, you’ve got a riding partner, no worries. And with two people, one person is able to go to the bathroom while the other waits with the stuff (prizes, food, bags, etc.) and then visa versa.

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3.   The Double Back – This shopping technique is perfect for anyone who is on a budget or as indecisive as me. Essentially, it is just a foolproof way to make sure you are getting what you really want. It’s easy; just do a once-over cursory look at all the food options first. Don’t buy anything on the first walk around, just take a good look at the options and remember which ones sounded most appetizing. Then, after you’ve completed the first go-around, you are ready to bring out the wallet and start the feasting. This technique allows you to see everything all at once first, and then prioritize what you MUST have.

The same technique can be applied to  the festival games as well!

4. Come prepared! Okay, so this one seems like common sense, but really there is a lot to overlook when packing for the festival. Depending on the time of day you chose to go, sun screen or bug spray is a must. Most of the festival is in open field area, so there isn’t too much shade from the sun. Another good thing to bring along is water bottles. It’s a small thing, but it can be a great way to save some money – then you avoid buying multiple drinks, or buying any at all. For the 21 and over crowd, an ID. This seems simple too, but often times I will only bring cash and nothing else from my wallet to avoid having the temptation of using the ATM, but this also means my ID sometimes gets overlooked. While it won’t by any means ruin your festival experience, it will prohibit you from entering the beer tent.

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Artists work on their squares at the Chalk Walk.

Also dress for the weather, but wear proper shoes. It can get pretty hot in Fort Wayne in the summer, so plan accordingly. Still, the festival can be a lot of walking, so more than anything you want to be comfortable.

In addition, it  can be useful if you are coming with children who are going to play the games to bring a bag to store their loot. Most of the games offer prizes, and carrying all that around can become difficult quickly.

5. Plan Ahead! I can’t say it enough. There is so much to do at the festival that it can be hard to fit everything you want to do in in one day. My sister and I like to split our events up. We always go to the chalk walk earlier in the morning, before the sun is beating down in full force. Depending on our stamina, we can usually combine this with a perusal of the art fair. But that is pretty much enough for us for one day, or at least for the morning. Junk Food Alley is usually tackled in the evening and the food serves as our dinner.

Some of the events are day long events in and of themselves; the kick-off parade (July 12th) features over 150 floats and will take much of the afternoon. Further, some of the events are spread out across the city, like Children’s Fest (July 18th and 19th) which is held at the IPFW campus. There are lots of ways to do it, but no matter what you chose, be sure you consider the amount of walking and the duration of time you’d like to spend in one outing.

 

No matter what way you do it, the Three Rivers Festival is not an event to miss. It is always a fun time and definitely promises a weekend to remember! And if you are making it  a weekend and looking for other things to fill the time, check out Visit Fort Wayne for all the hookups.

Holley Taylor

About

Holley is a student at Albion College in Michigan studying English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and History. She is excited to be back in her hometown this summer working as a Marketing Intern for Visit Fort Wayne. Holley enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.

BuskerFest: A Celebration of the Street Performer

balloon artist1 300x300 BuskerFest: A Celebration of the Street PerformerIn case you didn’t already know, Last Saturdays are one of the best ways to enjoy free entertainment in the Fort.  However, June’s Last Saturday will feature one of my favorite free events that Fort Wayne has to offer.   Get ready, because BuskerFest is almost here!

This marks the 5th year that BuskerFest has made it’s way downtown and it promises to be a “festival of the unexpected.”  If this year’s event is anything like BuskerFest 2013, it will most definitely live up to those claims!

belly dancing1 e1402773352234 225x300 BuskerFest: A Celebration of the Street PerformerOn June 28th from 4:00-11:00 pm, you can join many others (myself included) downtown for an evening filled with performances by local artists and dancers.  There will be belly dancing, fire dancing, stilt walking, juggling, live music, and more!


Though the festival is in celebration of street performers, there are other things that are sure to catch your attention.  At the center of all the fun, there will be an art market featuring unique art, crafts, and other creations available for purchase.  Your favorite food trucks will also be near by to serve food at BuskerFest while JK O’Donnell’s will be hosting a beer tent for your enjoyment.

Make sure not to miss this one-night-a-year festival of action-packed fun!  Bring your friends, family, kids, neighbors, and co-workers because men and women of all ages are guaranteed to enjoy a night they won’t soon forget! greenman 225x300 BuskerFest: A Celebration of the Street Performer

For a full schedule of events during Fort Wayne’s 5th  Annual BuskerFest, visit the Downtown Improvement District’s website

 

Mallory Carter

About

Mallory Carter is a Middle Tennessee State University graduate with a degree in Organizational Leadership. In 2011, she and her husband made the move to Fort Wayne all the way from Nashville, Tennessee. Mallory is a newlywed, advocate for chronically ill patients, member of the Junior League of Fort Wayne, volunteer, Mad Ants fan, and lover of all things Fort Wayne. By day, she can be found working as an administrator turned marketing professional at Three Rivers Dermatology. In her spare time Mallory enjoys exploring the city and trying new restaurants with her husband, setting and achieving new fitness goals, writing, and cuddling with her sweet Chihuahua, Ellie. You can read more of her musings at www.chronically-inspired.com.

Covington Art Fair promises quality pieces and a fun time for all!

covington art fair Covington Art Fair promises quality pieces and a fun time for all!One of the key components to the human condition is art; it allows us to see the world in a new way and to express our feelings and our beliefs. It provides an escape and invites us to explore the deep reaches of our mind and our society. Georgia O’Keefe once said of art, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” It is indeed an integral part of our human experience. Luckily for us, Fort Wayne offers a unique glimpse into the art world. Not only do we have countless galleries, but we are also home to many different art festivals, which allow visitors to see a variety of works and artists with ease.

One of the long standing art festivals in town, the Covington Art Fair, will be celebrating its 22nd year here in town when it kicks off June 21st and 22nd. This weekend long art fair, located at 6410 W. Jefferson Blvd., provides visitors with the chance to see work from over 75 different artists from around the country. Artists will have a variety of work on sale from jewelry, glass, photography, and pottery to oils, textiles, sculptures, and more. The fair is open Saturday from 10 am – 5pm and Sunday from 11 am – 4 pm and has a lot more to offer guests than just art. There will be live jazz music throughout the fair; Covington Plaza is also home to many different restaurants, which will be open to serve fair-goers. Covington Bar and Grill or Chappell’s would be great for an evening meal or just a quick drink to shake off the heat. Or, if you are looking for something a little lighter Honey Baked Ham or Catablu Grille would fit the bill. With so many options to chose from, it is easy to make vising the fair an all day event.

Another unique feature about the Covington Art Fair is its selection process. Artists must apply to have a booth at the fair. Artists are required to send in photographs of their work that they think speak to the overall theme, quality, and style of their work. A panel of judges then decide which artists will be lucky enough to snag a booth at this year’s fair. This ensures that only high quality art is displayed for viewers at the fair.

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Visitors checking out the booths at last year’s fair

The Covington Art Fair grows bigger and better every year, improving the quality and the quantity of its booths. It promises a variety of impressive art of all kinds, guaranteeing there will be a little something for everyone. So let out your inner art-enthusiast and bring the whole family, some sun block, and an eye for art for a great day of fun, exploration, and adventure.

Holley Taylor

About

Holley is a student at Albion College in Michigan studying English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and History. She is excited to be back in her hometown this summer working as a Marketing Intern for Visit Fort Wayne. Holley enjoys reading, writing, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.