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Tuesday, December 10

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« Two Chicago Chefs Make Food & Wine's Best of 2008 List When the Waiting is Not the Hardest Part »

Feature Fri Apr 04 2008

Ice Cream, You Scream

With the weather getting gradually warmer, we need to remember the things we love about summer food, such as the desperate need for a butterscotch malt. In this week's Drive-Thru feature, we review a few recent additions to the city's ice cream scene in preparation for the months to come.

Everyone knows Bleeding Heart Bakery (1955 West Belmont) is more than a little punk rock. The bakery’s Velvet Revolver cake, with its pistol-shaped chocolate topper, cuts a mean silhouette in the pastry case. And its popular line of gourmet truffles is inspired by none other than Sid Vicious, the Sex Pistol’s storied bass player. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that Bleeding Heart isn’t exactly vanilla in the ice cream department, either.

This week, owner Michelle Garcia and her staff unveiled some funky-fresh ice cream flavorsat the bakery’s Damen and Belmont location. There’s avocado-black pepper-balsamic (yes, that’s one flavor!), strawberry-basil-ginger, goat cheese-walnut-port wine (which, I’m told, has bits of semi-dried goat cheese), and – quite possibly the most decadent ice cream in Chicago – chocolate-bacon-peanut-butter-banana. Alas, I couldn’t make it to the bakery on Thursday, the day the new flavors debuted, so I’m left to imagine along with you, dear reader, how the chocolate-bacon-peanut-butter-banana ice cream would taste sandwiched between two chocolate chunk cookies (oh, yes she did!) However, I did sample a few spoonfuls of Temptation Vegan Ice Cream, which the bakery recently began offering by the scoop ($2.50 in a cup, $3 in a cone, $1.50 for each additional scoop – sameas their in-house flavors).

Temptation is made by Chicago-based company We Love Soy, Inc., and it’s easy to see why they do: they’ve managed to figure out how to make their soybean-based product – which is not only dairy-free, but also egg-free, tree nut-free, peanut-free, and kosher – “creamy” enough to satisfy vegans and non-vegans alike. The bakery has Creamsicle and Cookie Dough (both highly recommended), along with French Vanilla, Fair Trade Chocolate, and Mint Chocolate Chip. If Bleeding Heart’s current rainbow of flavors – from soy to bacon – isn’t enough for you, just wait until market season. They’ll have a variety of fresh, seasonal ingredients on hand, and if you give them an hour’s notice, they’ll mix you a custom pint to your specifications. I’m thinking peach-cilantro-habanero…. - Mandy Burrell

Fancy frozen yogurt has arrived in Chicago. Local food sites and blogs have been buzzing about Berry Chill (635 North State), the stylish storefront in River North that opened about a month ago, promising yogurt couture. Meanwhile, with a bit less fanfare, YoBerri (2814 North Halsted) recently popped up, with its own brand of chilled yogurt.

A lot of the reviewers on Yelp have been to the frozen-yogurt chains in L.A. and New York , such as Pinkberry and Red Mango. Their reviews include comparisons, and Berry Chill and Yoberri, which are both only in Chicago (at the moment) come out on top for some of these yogurt aficionados. The yogurt isn’t sweetened, so it has the tart undertaste that yogurt has. And Berry Chill says there are live cultures in its yogurt. To add to the healthy lure, both places offer a variety of fresh-fruit toppings—though at Berry Chill, if you want a little sugar to counter the sourness in the yogurt, there are sprinkles, lots of sugar-coated cereals or gummy bears.

I had plain, unsweetened frozen yogurt once, about ten years ago, and have been craving it ever since. So, I brought a team of taste testers with me to check out Berry Chill. The inside of the shop is sleek and modern, with white tables and chairs and curvy white leather benches. The menu, which is pretty simple, as there are only three flavors available each month, is displayed on flat-screen consoles behind the counter. My team and I tried the chilled hot chocolate, chilled hot latte (topped with mochi) and the plain. There’s no mistaking that you’re eating yogurt. These new frozen-yogurt purveyors don’t fill their product with sugar, dye or chemically-sweet flavors.

My daughter immediately said, “This tastes like chocolate kefir.” Leading my son, with the latte flavor, to comment: “Yeah. And this tastes like coffee-flavored kefir.” I got my own plain yogurt with chocolate sprinkles. I loved the clean and light taste of the yogurt, and the way my body and, especially, my mouth felt clean after eating it. But the sugary sprinkles didn’t belong.

YoBerri also has a modern and minimal decor, only instead of white and plastic, they've gone with dark wood and black leather. YoBerri even has no web site or no phone number, to go with their lack of sugar and dye and other modern additives theme. The only flavor they offer is plain. Toppings include fresh fruit (even lychee), cookie bits, nuts and sprinkles. I asked the guy behind the counter if he’d tried Berry Chill, and he said he had. But he prefers YoBerri. As we were talking, he handed me a taste, and it had the tanginess of plain yogurt. “Ours is sweeter and creamier,” he said. I’m not sure I’d have noticed that right away, had I not been told. Yet, after walking out of the shop, I could feel the cream and the sugar in the back of my mouth. I missed the clean feeling I’d had after eating Berry Chill. But the YoBerri yogurt sure is tasty. And much easier on the wallet. - Lori Barrett

Having spent several years living in Wisconsin, I've developed a taste for custard, the even chubbier cousin of ice cream, and spent many trips in search of the best vanilla in the state. I was surprised to learn that Chicago only had a few custard places in town, given its popularity with its neighbors to the north (and south, too), but think that Just Indulge is a nice addition to the group. Taking up the space that used to occupy a high-end clothing store, Just Indulge (1755 West North) has a nice floorplan that allows for the standing room crowds that will likely occupy it come this summer (they also have a walk-up window that I'm sure will be as popular).

The night I visited, I was one of a small handful of customers. The service was fine--I was offered a sample of the custard without asking, which I thought was a nice touch--and I ordered a scoop of vanilla, which had a nice, clean, simple taste. The menu offers popcorn, upscale chocolates, a small selection of baked desserts, and Chocolate Shoppe ice cream and yogurt. The menu also offered a range of things to do with the frozen stuff, such as concretes (the "Decadence" combination was a mix of vanilla custard, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and bananas), mix-ins, malts, shakes, sundaes. The prices weren't obscene, the interior music good, and the custard didn't disappoint. I'll be back when it gets warmer.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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