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  Why not try out a local bakery that has big –time taste?



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!)

Fortezza Coffee boasts big city atmosphere, quality brews

photo 1 300x224 Fortezza Coffee boasts big city atmosphere, quality brews

Stop by for a cup or two.

Fortezza Coffee is not your typical coffeeshop, and that’s a good thing. The attention to detail is unrivaled, at least locally.

Located at  819 S. Calhoun St, across from popular lunch spot the Dash-In, this place provides a great back-drop for casual meet-ups with friends and business meetings alike. It has a hip vibe that you might find in a bigger city. No generic Starbuck’s feel here!

A dining room and closed-off meeting area mean there’s plenty of space to relax, work, or just take in the scenery around you. I’ve been to Fortezza several times now and have never felt cramped. Plus the noise level is tolerable if you want to carry on a conversation.

Of course the main draw is the coffee. It’s not an understatement to say the drinks are a work of art. Using a process called latte art, the barista combines espresso and steamed milk to create impressive designs that appeal to the palette. And customers can rest a little easier knowing their beans are ethically sourced through a process called direct trade. Call it coffee with a conscious! (For those non-coffee drinkers like myself, they offer other items like brewed tea. )

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The trendy furniture denotes a big city feel.

But they don’t just stop at coffee. Hungry customers will appreciate their light brunch menu, which boasts open-faced sandwiches, quiches and more. Craving something sweet? You’ll want to at least eye their pastries–all made in-house! Look for the menu as you come in, artfully written in chalk on the wall.

If you want to check out this place (as you should), know that you’ll have to find street parking. There is no dedicated lot available. Parking is 50 cents an hour, paid via meters until 5 p.m. on weekdays, and is free on the weekend. So be sure you have plenty of change on your person.

Beyond delicious coffee and delectable eats, Fortezza offers meeting space for small or large crowds. The ample seating allows for small coffee meetings to take place, while they also have a meeting room you are able to rent out for a larger crowd. To reserve the meeting room, simply give Fortezza a call for the details.

Fortezza Coffee is open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. Saturday. Check them out on Facebook to keep up-to-date.


Lauren Caggiano was raised in Fort Wayne, and returned in 2007 upon graduation from the University of Dayton. The president of WriteOn LLC, she specializes in writing, marketing, and French translation. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, yoga and volunteering. In the summer you can catch her riding around downtown on her vintage green Schwinn. For more information, check out her website:

25th Annual Allen County Fair Runs July 22-27

The 25th annual Allen County Fair is set to open Tuesday, July 22 at the Allen County Fairgrounds, 2726 Carroll Road in northwest Fort Wayne.

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The fair runs July 22-27

Home to Allen County 4-H, the Allen County Fair showcases a multitude of animal showings and events throughout the week-long event. That’s in addition to all of the traditional fair fun like food (a full food court!), rides, a parade, fireworks,  live music and Kids’ Day!

Some special events include:

  • Team Pig Wrestling
  • Hot Air Balloon Flight/Glow
  • 4X4 Truck Pull
  • Demolition Derby
  • Mud Bog
  • Donkey Races
  • Youth Talent Contest
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Wrestle a pig. You know you want to!

A bonus to all of the week’s activities, there are also a couple of pre-fair events to check out. First, come and hear Hubie Ashcraft & the Drive as they perform from 7-10 p.m. on Saturday, the 19th. Tickets are $10, and food and drinks will be available. Second, the 2014 Miss Allen County Queen Scholarship Pageant is on Sunday, the 20th at Carroll High School. It starts at 6 p.m. and tickets are $5 each (kids under five get in free).

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Hubie Ashcraft and The Drive took home the award for “Best Country Performer” at the 2014 Whatzup Entertainment Magazine Whammy Awards Show.

Click here to access registration forms and more information on all of the different events. And click here for a detailed calendar of events and prices.

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Think you can hold tight to a greased watermelon through the whole obstacle course?


July 22-26 (Tuesday-Saturday)
General admission is $5 daily. (Additional cost for some events)
Children 5 and under get in free.

July 27 (Sunday)
Sunday is Discount Day— $2 discount on admission with the donation of a non-perishable food item.
$1 carnival rides

Wendy Sack


Born and bred in Alabama, Wendy has lived in Fort Wayne for just over 12 years, calling historic Williams-Woodland Park home. Asked to describe herself, Wendy is quick to throw out the terms grammar geek, voracious reader, Jim Gaffigan nut and Alabama Crimson Tide football fanatic. Often found with a Diet Coke in one hand and a book in the other, Wendy’s true passion is her family. She is a wife, a mother of two and is always looking for new and adventurous things to do in and around Fort Wayne. Wendy finds humor easily in any situation and is a true believer that laughter really does cure anything.

Q&A with 2014 Hotel Fitness Championship director, Duke Butler

A native of Ponte Vedra, Fla., Duke Butler IV is in the Hotel Fitness Championship tournament director. He heads the day-to-day operations of the championship for the Western Golf Association, which is conducting the event. Butler played college golf at the University of Florida and is a former Jacksonville Amateur champion. With the buildup to this year’s Hotel Fitness Championship growing, Duke took some time to answer a few questions for those excited and looking forward to this great golf event!

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1. The 2013 Hotel Fitness Championship was a huge success in Fort Wayne. What can fans expect in year two?

Fans can expect a more enhanced event in year two of the Hotel Fitness Championship. In year one, we were focused on educating the community about what the event would entail—including some of the best golfers in the world from the Tour and the PGA TOUR coming together to compete for a $1 million purse and PGA TOUR eligibility for the upcoming season. When Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, made an 18-foot putt to win on the last hole of the tournament, we couldn’t have been more thrilled. We saw some great crowds throughout the week with close to 27,000 people attending the event, and we expect that to increase this year. We hope to have attendance of 35,000–40,000 people. We also have to thank our significant support force as we had close to 600 volunteers us last year. Without them, we couldn’t put on an event of this magnitude.

In addition, in year two, we’ve really focused on the spectator experience and growing our corporate support so we can raise more money for our charity, the Evans Scholars Foundation and the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House. A few of the enhancements to the spectator experience include:

  • No service fees on ticket purchases, making tickets more affordable. (Parking is still free!)
  • A larger expo area with a variety of exhibitors, located near the center of the golf course.
  • Our Upgraded Pavilions are now the Main Street Lounge pavilions and will showcase a more dynamic and exciting atmosphere with giveaways, promotions, unique food and specialty drinks. These venues will be the place to be for the 21 and over crowd, but you must have a Main Street Lounge upgraded ticket!

We are also planning to announce additional special events the week of the tournament, so visit frequently these next few months to see what’s new!


2. Why is Sycamore Hills Golf Club a great golf course to host a professional golf tournament?

Sycamore Hills was designed to be a championship caliber golf course when it was built in 1989 by the Kelley family. The renovation that started this past fall after the inaugural Hotel Fitness Championship is only enhancing the quality of the course. The golfers raved about the layout and playability of the course in 2013, and I firmly believe that will only increase this year with the updated bunkers, green complexes on a few holes and new 18th hole that should promise another nail biting finish.

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3. Is the Hotel Fitness Championship a family friendly event? If so, why?

Absolutely! Coming out to the tournament is a great way to spend time with your family and see some of the best golfers in the world compete. Plus, kids 16 and under get in free with a ticketed adult. We understand that it can be challenging to make it out during the week, but after the second round of the tournament on Friday, there will be a cut to the low 65 players and ties that will play on Saturday and Sunday. We had close to 12,000 spectators during weekend play last year and some great weather as well. We have our fingers crossed that increases this year!
4. You’ve lived here for two years now. What are YOUR favorite things about Fort Wayne?

First and foremost, the people of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana have been incredibly gracious and welcomed me with open arms. When I first moved here from Florida, they helped me get through the tough winter as it was a new world to me. I have made some great friends and business acquaintances. Besides playing golf, I love going to TinCaps games and frequenting many of the great restaurants around town.


5. Tickets are now on sale for the 2014 Hotel Fitness Championship. Where can fans purchase their tickets?

Fans can purchase tickets for this year’s event at or the two Bobick’s Golf locations prior to the tournament. Tickets will also be available at the tournament gate the week of the event, and parking is free for all spectators. Our tickets start at just $10 for the practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday, and daily tickets to the championship rounds on Thursday-Sunday start at $25. Our weekly badge price is $65, but we also have some upgraded ticket options that will provide access to the two Main Street Lounge pavilions on holes 9 and 16.

For more information on the 2014 Hotel Fitness Championship, check out Visit Fort Wayne!



Katie Robinson simply loves Fort Wayne! Born and raised in the Summit City, she returned following graduating from Ball State University with a degree in Public Relations in May of 2013. A former Visit Fort Wayner, Katie currently works for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority as the Marketing and Customer Service Specialist. In her spare time you can find her baking cupcakes, Zumba-ing her heart out and relaxing with her husband, Joe, and adorable Shih Tzu , Gidget.

Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo not just for kids

Don’t let the name fool you; the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is by no means only for kids. Even as a 20-something, I still love going to the zoo. There are some things you never grow out of. Still, I want different things out of my zoo experience than I did when I was younger. I’ve figured out a great strategy to make the most of my time at the zoo.

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First, go early. I like to get there right when the zoo opens at 9:00 a.m. Not only is it cooler outside, making the trip much more enjoyable, but it is also much less crowded and the animals are more active. The animals get tired in the heat of the day too, but in the morning they are fresh and you are much more likely to see interesting fish, the Binturong up and moving about, the orangutans swinging around, and the giraffes up close. You may even see a flock of peacocks in a tree. Quite an impressive site, the peacocks sleep in a few trees by the tortoise exhibit.

If you aren’t one for crowds, try going through the zoo backward. Especially if you get there early, you will have the run of the place for most of your trip. It makes the trip much more quiet and peaceful, and allows you the best views of the animals.

You are never too old for rides either. I am a fan of the train or the log ride. The log ride is peaceful and quiet and feel very secluded. The train ride makes my nostalgia flare up and makes me feel like a little kid again.

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While you can get food at one of the many places at the zoo, if you are a college student on a budget like me, that might be a bit too much to swing. Try bringing a bottle of water and a small snack in your bag to tide you over until you get home.

It’s also nice when walking through to let yourself linger at one of the exhibits. I like to sit down at the sea lions for a few minutes; watching them swim gracefully through the water is memorizing. Take a drink, rest your legs, and just take in the experience.

The zoo is also a great place to learn something new. Read the signs that you may have thought boring as a kid, and see what interesting facts they reveal about the animals. Take the opportunity too, if you see a zookeeper, to ask a questions about your favorite animal. They can also tell you the names of the animals in the exhibits.

I always end the day with a trip to the gift shop. All the proceeds go right back into the zoo, and they have a lot more than just stuffed animals. With bags, mugs, shot glasses, notebooks, and statues, there is a little something for everyone. You can also never be too old for a rock candy either, and its a nice souvenir that won’t break the bank. No trip to the zoo is complete without a rock candy at the end!

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo really is worth a trip no matter how old you are. It’s a great way to spend a morning that allows you to enjoy the summer season in a whole new way!

Holley Taylor


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.