My entry into Southern Utah’s frosted cookie feud started innocently sufficient. After residing in Colorado for chunk of 2020, the time got here for the 13-hour drive again to Los Angeles by means of mountainous highways that, whereas scenic, don’t present many alternatives for roadside delights. It’s an extended haul of Subways, Starbucks, and McDonald’s, save for the decrease tip of Utah jutting out throughout Interstate 15, the place some come for Dixie State College, or a little bit of respite after visiting Zion Nationwide Park or, for a junk food-loving first-timer like me, the chance to eat at regional chains like Iceberg Drive Inn and Arctic Circle in a single fell swoop.
As excited as I used to be for my first go at fry sauce and “thick shakes,” nothing may have ready me for the alliance I’d unknowingly select by means of a legendary native deal with simply steps from the gasoline pump at Dutchman’s Market.
With a beige exterior and brown stucco roof that belie the pastel delicacies inside, Dutchman’s Market isn’t any outdated relaxation cease. The family-run boutique, bakery, and gasoline station sells the whole lot from Danish Maileg stuffed toys and cutesy dwelling items to Doritos and Weight loss plan Coke out of its Santa Clara retailer, simply minutes exterior the quaint pioneer city of St. George. However, above all, it’s identified for selfmade cookies, excellent $1.50 drops of award-winning chocolate chip, peanut butter, coconut, oatmeal chocolate chip, and its signature merchandise, a sugar cookie slathered in pink frosting.
Pale pink sugar cookies are a little bit of a factor in Utah — a regional deal with tiptoeing between the realms of dessert and snack time, notably when paired with a fountain soda, as they usually are. Generally served chilly, typically not, the cookies are surprisingly hefty however hardly ever dry, and thick, motionless pads of rosy frosting render each tooth-achingly candy. They’re undeniably scrumptious and ubiquitous, however are hardly ever credited with having originated proper right here at Dutchman’s.
Disputed origins are virtually necessary for regional meals, as are intensely felt loyalties to completely different proprietors. Did Teressa Bellissimo or John Younger actually invent Buffalo wings in upstate New York? Is Cole’s or Philippe the originator of the French dip sandwich in Los Angeles? And when you’re driving by means of New Haven, are you stopping at Sally’s or Pepe’s for pizza? Utah’s pink sugar cookies — even perhaps to the shock of those that love them — are not any completely different.
Observe its frosted path again a couple of many years and also you’ll discover a household recipe lovingly tweaked to perfection by Nick Frei, co-owner of Dutchman’s Market along with his spouse, Liisa. Hand-scooped, pressed, and topped with buttercream frosting, they’re a must-try for these within the know, however the ever-popular pink sugar cookie can be symbolic of what occurs when one thing you create takes on a lifetime of its personal. Comparable variations can now be discovered all around the state, with most snackers unaware that it truly originated right here, at a self-described tiny little gasoline station in a tiny little city.
You possibly can thank Swig for that. Recognized for syrup-spiked “dirty sodas,” the Southwestern soda chain churns out flavor-soaked, glitter-infused sodas like a freaky carbonated Starbucks, standard amongst many Mormons who enjoy caffeine in the form of cola whereas religiously abstaining from coffee and tea. Transcendent mixtures just like the best-selling Raspberry Dream (Dr. Pepper with raspberry puree and coconut cream) have grown a rabid fanbase that’s fueled growth to 30 places in Utah and Arizona, however certainly one of their most iconic objects isn’t even soda. It’s a pink frosting-slathered sugar cookie that’s uncannily much like Dutchman’s — as a result of that’s what it’s modeled after.
When prepping its first location again in 2010 (Swig now operates 30 nationwide) founder Nicole Tanner wished a selfmade cookie on the menu, “Not one thing that regarded packaged and processed,” she stated. A pal steered she strive Dutchman’s and Tanner beloved all of them. Swig quickly grew to become the Dutchman’s first wholesale consumer, and the cookie certainly one of Swig’s prime sellers.
Then got here September 2012, when a drastic flood ravaged Dutchman’s and shut the enterprise down for eight months — placing a sudden halt to the availability of pink frosted cookies.
“It was terrible!” stated Tanner. “They clearly couldn’t provide our cookies any extra and didn’t know when or if they’d ever reopen. … We had been so unhappy for them, however needed to shortly give attention to what we had been going to do to maintain up with the demand of cookies with our now thriving enterprise. So we went to work creating recipes to match as intently [as possible] to the cookies we had been promoting in order that our clients would proceed shopping for them. After revising them a number of instances we felt like we had the right cookies for Swig.” Now, the Freis consider somebody at Swig had begun baking their very own cookies and labeling them the Dutchman’s even earlier than the flood, nevertheless it’s powerful to show. (Tanner beforehand highlighted the associated fee effectiveness and ease of using the company’s own recipe to St. George Information in 2014.)
Tanner quickly opened her own bakery, and as soon as Swig had extra places, they expanded to a bigger operation in Salt Lake Metropolis that bakes and ships all Swig’s cookies. Now, almost a decade later, Swig’s and Dutchman’s cookies stay — visually no less than — an identical.
Each Dutchman’s and Swig supply their cookies in bulk for the infant showers, weddings, and occasions they’re identified to be served at, however some locals I spoke with didn’t even appear conscious of the cookie’s true origins, maybe as a result of Dutchman’s and Swig aren’t even the one two within the sport. Sodalicious, a regional soda firm with a enterprise mannequin so much like Swig they had been in a lawsuit over it for years, also produces their own pink cookie after first promoting Dutchman’s, whereas rising cookie chain Crumbl completely affixes them to its rotating weekly menus at 191 shops nationwide. (Rapidly turning into an everyday presence on TikTok, Crumbl’s model, which matches heavy on the almond taste, are served in — what else? — an eye catching mild pink field.)
Whereas you can’t trademark a cookie recipe, it’s clear Swig has received the battle for title recognition within the court docket of public opinion. Search “Dutchman’s Market cookies” on Google, and it’ll yield copycat recipes for the snazzy soda chain: Virtually Swig Sugar Cookie Recipe, Unique Swig Cookies, Copycat Swig Sugar Cookies.(“The Swig sugar cookie has undoubtedly taken on a reputation all its personal all through the years from Pinterest recipes to bloggers raving about how they will’t get sufficient,” says Tanner.) A shelf-stable frosted cookie combine was sold online with Swig branding as not too long ago as 2017, and cookies had been as soon as even constructed into the chain’s unique title, Swig n’ Sweets, which remains to be mirrored in Swig’s URL, SwigNSweets.com.
But, like most facsimiles, one stays an inferior copy. London Blackburn, 37, started visiting Swig eight years in the past and observed a definite distinction in cookie high quality because the enterprise expanded. After shifting nearer to Dutchman’s Market, Blackburn now will get her sweets and sodas from Liisa and Nick’s store. “The cookies usually are not manufacturing facility made — they’ve rather more of a home made look to them, the best way Swig’s cookies used to look. They had been additionally cheaper,” she says. “I’ve principally stop going to Swig and I solely go to Dutchman’s now — and so do my buddies.”
Jessica Walton, 31, agrees. “I undoubtedly want the Dutchman’s cookie versus the Swig cookie now,” she says. “The feel between the cookies aren’t the identical. Dutchman’s feels prefer it’s a selfmade deal with grandma baked only for you, and Swig’s is manufactured for his or her many places throughout a number of states and appears to overlook that human aspect.”
The principle distinction appears to be simply that. Liisa believes the Dutchman’s bakers’ institutional information — when so as to add extra flour, shift the recipe if it’s humid — is a key, unquantifiable ingredient to their pink sugar cookie. Churned out in a kitchen so small it will take “about 30 seconds” to tour, Nick and the bakers nonetheless handle to make upward of 25,000 cookies throughout an enormous week, prioritizing high quality above all else. (The Freis at present present wholesale Dutchman’s cookies to just about two dozen other locations in Utah, Idaho, and Nevada, with Nick driving to Salt Lake Metropolis weekly to alternate cookies with different enterprise homeowners in a parking zone, like some pink-frosted drug deal.)
“A few of our distributors who, effectively, [previously] offered our cookies wished us to lower the associated fee through the use of margarine or no matter, and we simply by no means would try this. I believe simply being constant [with] utilizing recent and good elements has stored us within the sport,” Liisa says. When requested to explain its taste, she struggles, however contends, “It’s simply in all probability the most effective sugar cookie you’ll ever style.”
Although they admit it sounds tacky, the Freis credit score “love” as a magic ingredient, indicative of the power of their neighborhood, which rallied behind them when Dutchman’s closed for eight months following that large flood in 2012, and proceed to take action at present. “We’ve individuals who received cookies right here as children, and now they carry their children,” she says, after 35 years within the enterprise. “We’ve been round so lengthy.”
Dutchman’s might not get the credit score for inventing this iconic regional deal with, however they undoubtedly deserve it. The Freis take a homespun strategy that’s arduous for a bigger chain to duplicate. Whereas Swig’s cookie is an adjunct, at Dutchman’s, it’s the principle present, the kind of native gem that makes a street journey memorable, an origin story resonate, and people previous few hours of an extended drive a complete lot simpler. I’ve had each, and may say irrefutably that Dutchman’s cookies are higher, not simply on style, however for high quality in what they stand for: a legacy persevering past the gasoline pump in Santa Clara, Utah, as a soda chain sells copies up and down I-15.
Carlye Wisel is a theme park journalist and knowledgeable who reviews about issues like how Butterbeer was invented and Disney’s secret meals lab on her podcast, Very Amusing With Carlye Wisel. Louiie Victa is a chef, recipe developer, meals photographer, and stylist residing in Las Vegas.
Truth checked by Andrea López-Cruzado