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The Luxe Life: Gourmet Junk Food

By: Jennifer Ball

Satisfy your cravings with these sophisticated takes on classic snack foods.

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Snacks Gone Supreme

Most everyone has a junk food favorite, though not everyone is willing to fess up to a covert desire for crunchy potato chips, cream-filled snack cakes or other guilty pleasures. Clever chefs across the country have tapped into those hidden cravings by creating elevated spins on classic snack foods. No need to keep your secret obsessions to yourself any longer; these spots across the country are making it perfectly acceptable to indulge in public.

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Duck Fat Chex Mix

It may seem impossible to improve on the many qualities of Chex™ Mix that make this salty, crunchy party mix so addictive, but the founders of San Francisco ice cream empire Humphry Slocombe have found a way to take this savory treat to new and luxurious heights. The secret to the snack’s sumptuous boost of flavor is rendered duck fat, which is melted and used in place of the traditional butter coating. Other unique additions, such as fresh pepper, cayenne and fresh thyme sprigs, make this treat feel especially decadent. You can find this indulgent version, served warm, as an occasional snack in the Humphry Slocombe ice cream parlors and pop-up shops.

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Silly Rabbit Cocktail

Beverage Director Benjamin Schiller of The Sixth in Chicago dug into his bartending bag of tricks to translate the flavors of a favorite fruity cereal from childhood into the Silly Rabbit Cocktail. This refreshing beverage starts off as a tweaked version of the long-established Southside cocktail recipe — a shaken concoction of gin, lime, simple syrup and mint. Schiller’s base cocktail is a mix of gin, lemon juice, soda, simple syrup and mint tincture. The drink is then poured over a stack of four brightly colored fruit juice cubes: a play on the lemon, orange, raspberry and grape flavors from the breakfast cereal. As the cubes melt, the flavor profile of the drink evolves, thus making for both a striking visual and a sweet-and-sour taste experience that patrons love. “It's been on our menu since we opened, and I would get [dragged] out into the street if I tried to take it off,” Schiller jokes.

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Miso-Butterscotch Twinkie

In his search for a lightly sweet dessert to cap off a menu of hearty rice bowls, ramens and steam buns, Boke Bowl Chef and Co-Owner Patrick Fleming turned to the treats of his boyhood — in particular, his favorite cream-filled snack cake. “I wanted to recreate something fun from my childhood, but make it uniquely our own,” he says. The idea prompted the chef and his team to begin crafting handmade versions of the classic treat, which they have churned out in a variety of Asian-inspired flavors at Fleming’s shop in Portland, Oregon. The standout is the Miso-Butterscotch Twinkie. This vanilla sponge cake is baked until slightly golden, then filled with a miso-butterscotch cream and dusted with powdered sugar.

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