A smiling cherry atop a smiling cupcake on a wooden swing beckons on the sign above Random Acts of Sweetness bakery on State Street, and when you enter you can’t help smiling yourself. You’re greeted by cantaloupe walls complemented by exposed brick, a polished wood floor, and a display case filled with gorgeous cupcakes, all with whimsical names. Owners Tiana Conlon and Jessica Antequera, both wearing colorful vintage-style aprons, welcome customers enthusiastically.
I know chocolate is the go-to flavor for most sweet lovers, but for me it’s always been caramel. That rich blend of butter and melted sugar simmered with cream is my dessert perfection. And with Tahana Confections, Amanda Telford has created a sublime line of caramels that are irresistible.
Fudge shops and coastal locales seem to go hand-in-hand. And most seaside fudge I’ve tried is, well, fine. Roly’s English Fudge ($13/pound) is in a class by itself. It’s slightly dry, yet still has a creaminess, packed with buttery caramelized flavor that keeps you nibbling away.
Winter farmers’ markets are a fun place for food discoveries, and that’s where I met Tracey Brown and John Valdes, owners of Seacoast Butters in Amesbury. They were offering samples of their extensive line of compound butters, plain or spread on warm bread.
I have a weakness for homemade preserves. Whenever I’m at a market, I check out the shelves for those local goodies, in search for something unusual. I hit gold when I discovered Amelia Maes & Co., with their line of hot pepper jams and jellies. Raspberry Thai Jam caught my eye – and my taste buds, since raspberry is a favorite in our house. It’s got the expected fruity sweetness of raspberry jam – and then a subtle kick from Thai and habanero peppers, plus a savory edge from red bell peppers.