Although Branson, Missouri, holds the title as one of the country’s leading destinations for family entertainment, there’s more to the town than headline acts. The Ozarks area is a culinary capital in its own right. Kids and adults alike will find plenty of tasty surprises to delight in, particularly during the holidays. Here is a guide to several places that deserve their own standing ovation.
1 Andy’s Frozen Custard Even die-hard New Yorkers have made the trek here to satisfy their sweet cravings. October marked the start of Andy’s most popular treat, the Pumpkin Pie Concrete, a frozen custard made from Andy’s pumpkin pie. 3415 West 76 Country Boulevard, Branson, Missouri; (417) 377-5501; www.eatandys.com
2 Askinosie Chocolate Two words: peppermint bark. This means layers of handmade dark and white chocolate, with crushed peppermints sprinkled on top. Askinosie is also the only small-batch chocolate maker in America that makes white chocolate from scratch. 514 East Commercial, Springfield, Missouri; (417) 862-9900; www.askinosie.com
3 Assumption Abbey The private chef to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor personally handed down the recipe and technique that the monks use for preparing and baking their holiday fruitcake. It’s so good that Williams-Sonoma sells it. Route 5, Ava, Missouri; (417) 683-5110; www.trappistmonks.com
4 Branson Ridge Winery & Marketplace Located on Branson’s scenic boardwalk, the winery hosts tastings, boasts the cozy Cafe diVine, and offers visitors a crack at crafting personalized wine labels. 307 Branson Landing Boulevard, Branson, Missouri; (417) 335-9700; www.bransonridgewinery.com
5 Hammons Black Walnut Emporium An integral part of the Midwest culture since 1946, Hammons Walnut Farm grows black walnuts that are bold and robust in flavor. During the holidays (right after harvest), it’s worth the trip for the oh-so-sweet-and-rich black-walnut ice cream. Pick up some black-walnut syrup too. It will make your pancakes sing. 105 Hammons Drive, Stockton, Missouri; (888) 429-6887; www.black-walnuts.com
6 Mount Pleasant Winery The grapes grown here include cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and chardonnay. Their respective wines can be tasted while touring, enjoyed during a winemaker dinner, or (yikes!) sipped during a chilling murder-mystery dinner. 3125 Green Mountain Drive, Branson, Missouri; (417) 336- 9463; www.mountpleasant.com