As I enter a new passage in my life, I am compelled to consider the crackeroon. The crackeroon, of course, is the signature cookie, the cult cookie, devised by Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart. It's a coconut macaroon, but much better than that. And the new passage in my life is Tastemakers, next Wednesday night at The Ritz, when we consider not just the art of cooking, but the wizard behind the curtain who makes the art possible: money. And not just money, but that thing where you get money to support you and the creative work you want to do, otherwise known as entrepreneurship. What’s the difference between making a great cookie at home, making a great cookie for a boss, and making a great cookie that wins you national attention, pays for your retirement, and provides a good living for a handful, or dozens, of others? We will find out what makes that cookie on July 17 at 6 p.m. at The Ritz Theater, when I talk to Michelle Gayer, the inventor of the crackeroon. I'll also talk with Scott Davis and Paul Werni of 45th Parallel Spirits, who creatively entrepreneured themselves into manufacturers of top shelf artisanal bourbon, rye, and vodka, and chef Steven Brown, who was let go from more restaurants of note than any other chef in town—until he opened his own place, Tilia, one of the most popular restaurants in Minnesota. If you’ve never been to a Tastemakers event, they’re terrifically fun nights. We kick off the evening by letting everyone taste the foods and drinks we’ll be talking about, in this instance Salty Tart baked treats, Tilia savory delights, and 45th Parallel tasty beverages. Next, we all sit down, and the invited Tastemakers and I take to the stage to discuss the topic at hand. Namely—How did they do it? What was it that they attribute their leap from creative employee to creative business owner? Was it a stellar business plan, a Eureka! moment, a personal reckoning with risk, a good parent, a bad parent, a mentor, what? The answer to these questions, as well as edible and drinkable delights, can be yours for the $10 ticket price at mspmag.com/tastemakers. But the list of the top cookies of the Twin Cities is right here! These are the strongest, best, most eye-catching, most memorable cookies in the Twin Cities. Do you agree? If not, tell me your favorite cookie in the comments below, and you’ll be entered for a chance to win two tickets to Tastemakers! (Must be 21 or older with ID, of course, as alcohol will be served.) 5). Whoopie Pies, Petite Sweets Rising star alert! Whoopie pies are cookie-sized, small, soft cakes held together by a creamy filling, and a new start-up bakery in the Twin Cities called Petite Sweets is selling them at the Minneapolis Farmers' Market, and at festivals and such. I picked up some of the original chocolate ones the other day—they also make carrot cake ones, key lime pie, and more—and they’re fantastic! Tender, chocolatey, not too sweet. I call these the rising star cult cookie, and will be watching them closely. Find their calendar of locations, or order some for a party, here. 4). Espresso vanilla shortbread soldiers, Black Walnut Bakery Young pastry chef Sarah Botcher has been blazing a trail of sweet excellence since she left Patisserie 46, where she trained under local superstar John Krauss. She made the spectacular desserts that opened Muddy Waters, like the mason-jar toasted meringue topped cream pies, went on to craft all American treats such as nouveau grasshopper pies at Butcher and the Boar, and just opened her own spot, called Black Walnut Bakery (it can mainly be found on Thursdays at the downtown Minneapolis farmers' market on Nicollet Mall, near 10th street). Everything I’ve had from the little stand is great, but the little espresso flavored vanilla shortbread cookies are a dream come true: Buttery, light, dense, fantastic dunked in coffee, and highly transportable, making them great gifts for friends and neighbors. 3). Maple Nut Bar, Bars Bakery Are bars cookies, or are bars more like cake, like brownies? Unfortunately, pastry taxonomists have yet to answer this age-old question, but for the purposes of considering cult cookies in Minnesota, I think you have to include bars, because they’re the dense, informal baked good that makes life after school better. And the best bars in Minnesota are to be found at (where else?) Bars Bakery in St. Paul. Personally, I’m partial to the maple nut bars, which are all crunchy up top and all gentle sweetness below. Bars makes killer cookies too, all of them, including jam-heart cutouts that look fit for a queen, and Mexican wedding cookies as light as clouds. 612 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-224-8300, barsbakery.com 2). Bittersweet chocolate cookie, Rustica The black as night chocolate cookie from Rustica is, without question, an object of cult fascination. The darkness, the bitterness, the deliciousness! Of course, many argue that Rustica’s ginger cookie, so gingery it legitimately burns, is just as much a cult cookie, and, yes. 3220 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-822-1119, rusticabakery.com 1). Crackeroon, Salty Tart Why are these coconut macaroons so good? One of the simplest of all cookies, coconut macaroons are little more than egg white, sugar, and sweetener, and yet these macaroons are so utterly good, they just hit that magical place in the brain that makes you want to make plans to get more, as you’re eating the first one, which is why people call them crackeroons, they’re a little like crack. As to why, the answer is talent, people—that’s what makes a baker great. 920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-874-9206, saltytart.com As to what makes a baker have one of the most popular bakeries in the Twin Cities, come to Tastemakers next Wednesday, July 17 at The Ritz Theater, and find out! To purchase tickets go to mspmag.com/tastemakers, or post your own favorite cookie in the comments below, and we’ll choose a winner on July 17 at 12 p.m., and award that winner a pair of tickets! I hope to see you there, it will be a great time, and a chance to learn a little more about what makes Minnesota such a humming place to live, eat, and work.