Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Wednesday, July 24

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Cookbook Tue Sep 08 2015

Review: Grandbaby Cakes

grandbabycakes.jpgJocelyn Delk Adams has been breathing new life into classic baking recipes since she started her popular recipe blog Grandbaby Cakes in 2012. Her debut cookbook, Grandbaby Cakes: Modern Recipes, Vintage Charm, Soulful Memories, out September 15, is a gorgeous collection of 50 cake recipes. If you're a fan of her blog, and you should be, you may recognize a few of her cakes along with many entirely new and inventive recipes.

Adams and her family took many trips from their Chicago home to Mississippi where she would watch her grandmother invent delicious desserts. These sweet creations became part of their family lore over the years and eventually became the inspiration of both Adams's blog and cookbook. The book was written to honor her grandmother's baked innovations, showcase her own pastry work in an accessible way, and thank those who came before by passing on these edible family traditions.

This book is for any baker looking to make gorgeous centerpiece cakes with new and interesting flare. Traditional family staples like yellow cake are available, as well as creative and new flavors such as a Red Velvet S'mores Cake and Arnold Palmer Cake among others. Grandbaby Cakes is a lovely tribute to Adams's grandmother that is filled with heart and recipes that are sure to become part of your family's traditions.

Jeremy Owens

Bar Mon Jun 15 2015

Gone South at Hideout's "A Day in the Country"

hideout1.jpgSunday's "A Day in the Country" at the Hideout looked like it was plucked straight out of a summery, smoky day in the south and dropped right in the middle of an otherwise gloomy Chicago--warm weather, lawn chairs, and plenty of dancing late into the night.

The music, of course, was the main event. A wide array of country-rooted styles including the punk rock-tinged jams of the Siderunners and the velvety crooning of Sarah Potenza drew a devoted crowd. Event organizer and local musician Lawrence Peters played one of the liveliest sets of the night, transforming the Hideout into a swirling dance floor.

htbbq.jpgThe food included Honky Tonk BBQ's pulled pork sandwiches and corn on the cob, and Bang Bang Pie provided dessert (which disappeared very quickly). Lagunitas Brewery was featured on tap.

If you were unable to make the event, or simply looking to find out more about the music you heard, check out the following links to transport you back to A Day in the Country.

The Lawrence Peters Outift

Derek Hoke
Chuck Mead and his Grassy Knoll Boys
Sarah Potenza

For upcoming events at the Hideout, click here.

Danielle Snow

Feature Tue Apr 21 2015

"Cookie Love" Uncovers Dessert's Best-Kept Secret

cookielove.jpgThe first line of the introduction to Mindy Segal's newest cookbook Cookie Love (Ten Speed, $25) is all you need to know for understanding why this is required reading for all bakers: "I am a cookie nerd."

Yes, the celebrated pastry chef, James Beard award recipient and owner of Bucktown's Hot Chocolate knows where the real thunder of desserts rumbles -- the cookie. Why? It's versatile in all ways, from a standard chocolate chip, a shortbread with a delicate layer of sugar, or a delicate macaron. The cookie's flexibility has puzzlingly made it an overlooked item when it comes to fine dining menus, banished to being the backup dancer for panna cotta. Segal clearly has a different perspective, taking cookies all over the sensory and flavor map--a cornmeal shortbread dotted with crushed Corn Nuts, a graham cracker and passionfruit whoopie pie cookie, a strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel (recipe at the end of this article), even a recipe for pumpkin dog biscuits brushed with meat drippings. The ingredients used in Cookie Love span from the recognizable to the average baker (Folgers crystals, peppermint candies), to ones that require trips to specialty stores for things like an Ateco Pipe #826 or orange blossom water. Each recipe requires work and attention; even the batch of simple snickerdoodles I made last night had me making dough very differently (read: less carelessly) than normal as I followed the instructions to Segal's word. It was work, but the results were delicious. If we're going to heighten the food, we heighten the technique.

Each entry is paired with a thoughtful story about its origins: a family recipe, a request from a bartender for a good oatmeal scotchie, a regular customer whose kids get walked back to the kitchen to pick out their own cookies from the cooling racks -- and is sometimes paired with technical shop talk on how to build on Segal's recipe, like how to chocolate-ify her take on a Fig Newton whose filling consists of figs cooked in port wine and honey. Segal clearly takes her subject matter seriously, and reading through Cookie Love, you'd forget that these cookies are baked daily and served at Hot Chocolate alongside an equally good full menu. Segal intends to release more cookbooks down the line of a single subject, so every item on her table will get their due.

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi

Random Mon Jun 16 2014

Great Baked Goods in Chicago

tokyo.jpgAfter a lengthy culinary escapade through Japan, my affinity for bread-related products has nearly tripled in strength. Sure, I consumed ramen and yakitori in massive quantities, but even I was surprised by how much the Japanese love their bread and pastries -- literally every street corner and mall smelled like buttery croissants and French loafs.

Great-tasting bread isn't some whole-grain, organic spelt shit that reduces your cholesterol and increases your overall well-being. No, every bite should take you one step closer to diabetes, or you're doing it wrong. Here are some Chicago bakeries and their products worth my Japanese seal of approval:

Continue reading this entry »

Judy Wu / Comments (1)

Dessert Mon May 05 2014

Summer is Coming: Mario's is Open

DiPaulo family -- Mario's Italian Ice
The DiPaolos in front of Mario's Italian Lemonade circa 1967

Besides the tree in front of my house dropping little gifts of bloom on my car, there's another way I can tell spring has sprung. Iconic Italian lemonade stand Mario's is open for business. The mayor of Taylor Street, Mario "Skip" DiPaolo, is on site with his lovely wife Maria, overseeing and making sure things are just as Mario Sr. (RIP) would have wanted when the stand opened around 1954.

Continue reading this entry »

Alan Lake

Dessert Mon Feb 24 2014

Paczki Gets Into the Ring this Week

paczki.jpgIf you love donuts but need a holiday to enjoy them, this is your week to enjoy paczki, the Polish raised donut filled with fruit or custard (sometimes even infused with booze!) and topped with powdered sugar or whipped cream. You can find paczki year-round, but this week will see a lot of bakeries stocking up on them in preparation for Lent, which begins next Wednesday. To celebrate Fat Thursday, the Polish American Association will be selling paczki at sites all over the city, among them the paczki heavyweight Oak Mill Bakery. For next week's Fat Tuesday, Evanston's Bennison Bakery will begin taking paczki pre-orders today (and of course, their paczki eating contest is this Saturday); also, Dinkel's will begin accepting orders [pdf] on Thursday. You can also pick them up at Delightful Pastries, Weber's Bakery (which will open at the painful hour of 4am on Fat Tuesday!), or Bridgeport Bakery.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Dec 13 2013

Holiday Dessert Help from Bang Bang Pie Shop


If you're still wondering what to make for your holiday dessert, look no further. Bang Bang's spectacular Pear Brandy Mince Pie is like biting into Christmas. And yes, this pie calls for secular specificity -- I'm sure there is a pie out there that is like biting into Hanukkah, but this is not it. That said, I'm pretty positive that people of all faiths will really, really enjoy eating it.

Continue reading this entry »

Annie Conway / Comments (1)

Recipe Fri Dec 06 2013

Holiday Dessert Help From Alliance Bakery


Did you discover this Thanksgiving that you are not, in fact, a master pie baker? Perhaps you found yourself weeping into a soggy apple mess, apologizing to guests for a less-than-flaky crust?

If so, don't beat yourself up-- there's hope for you yet this holiday season. Alliance Bakery, known for its elaborate custom cakes and fine european pastries, is here to save the day with a dessert recipe that even you can pull off with impressive results. Award-winning Executive Pastry Chef Peter Rios recommends home cooks start with mini pumpkin cheesecakes, which are easy to make but create a fancy presentation at a holiday party.

Continue reading this entry »

Annie Conway

Recipe Wed Oct 30 2013

Treat Yourself on Halloween

balls.jpgOver the weekend I was feeling homesick for the good old days when Halloween got me excited. We're talking way back. Back before everyone would go to a costume party dressed as a
"Sexy __________." Back before the coolest thing you could say about the holiday was how many PBRs your friend chugged. That was a while ago, huh? Like do you even remember a time before then?

You know what was important back in those days? C-A-N-D-Y. That's what. Back then the coolest thing that could happen would be to get a full sized Snicker or Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Even cooler would be avoiding getting a bag full of Smarties. My favorite Halloween candy memory isn't about store bought candy. It's about our neighbor's famous popcorn balls. Each year Mrs. Keeling's yard would be full of kids lining up to feast on her popcorn treats.

Continue reading this entry »

Jeremy Owens / Comments (1)

Dessert Mon Mar 11 2013

Liz Lemon Meets Ben and Jerry

lizlemon.jpgFriday night I took advantage of a borrowed car and made my way to Jewel. Of course, a grocery store is not Studio 54, but in those quiet hours when the rest of the world is at home watching Dateline NBC marathons (lots of duped and presumed dead women, amirite?), I made a beeline for the frozen foods aisle, and there it was: Ben and Jerry's Liz Lemon frozen Greek yogurt, which is a lemon yogurt with a blueberry and lavender swirl. Yes, it's a delicious homage to Lemon and her creator Tina Fey (who cut her comedy chops here in Chicago whilst folding towels at the YMCA), sweet yet sour, creamy yet cold--but it is a missed opportunity for those of us who were hoping to see a dark chocolate-flecked Night Cheese-cake. Blerg.

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Mon Feb 11 2013

Get Fat Tomorrow

6916460893_ec872d6d5b.jpgIf you still live by a Catholic-y schedule, tomorrow is your last day to keep it calorically real until Easter. You can celebrate Fat Tuesday with an epic Mardi Gras dinner at Big Jones or Heaven on Seven, or fill up on paczki, a raised donut filled with fruit, custard, icing or other sinful goody; you can find the Polish delicacy at Delightful Pastries (locations in Old Town, Jefferson Park or the Chicago French Market), Wicker Park's Alliance Bakery, or Oak Mill Bakery (which also has several locations on the Northwest side of the city), or Lakeview's Dinkel's (which is also making King Cakes).

Photo by Kodamakitty.

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Fri Nov 30 2012

'Tis the Season for Fancy Doughnuts

Glazed & Infused bûche de noël doughnut
Gourmet doughnut shop Glazed & Infused, which is opening its Armitage location any day now, is doing something special for the holidays that goes way beyond red and green sprinkles or candy cane icing. For $5, you can get your own miniature bûche de Noël doughnut, replete with chocolate frosting "bark" and meringue mushrooms.

The bûche de Noël, or yule log, is a traditional French Christmas treat -- a sheet of spongy yellow cake layered with chocolate and/or chestnut or hazelnut filling and coated with chocolate icing to resemble a log. They're usually big enough to feed a family, but Glazed & Infused's version is 2½ to 3 inches long with a hazelnut filling, and comes packaged in a little box. They're available by pre-order only from Dec. 17 to 23 at each Glazed & Infused location. Email or call at 312-226-5556 to place your order.

Andrew Huff

Dessert Sun Nov 25 2012

Another Year, Another Cake

Some think it's strange to make your own birthday cake. But before you judge, consider the advantages:

• Not having to look delighted at another box of Magnolia cupcakes.
• Justifying the purchase of single-purpose cooking implements as "birthday presents."
• Spending as much time on it as you goddamn want.
• If all else fails, eating the evidence and never mentioning the project to anyone.

I'm no stranger to baking my own birthday cakes (or as I call it, auto-caking). I like getting exactly the cake I want every year, and it gives me an opportunity to go all out on a fancy cake project that I don't have to explain to anyone. The problem is, these cakes are usually a touch on the ambitious side, and walk a very thin line between epic and epic disasters.

cupcake.jpegThis year, it all started with the brown butter frosting on a Molly's cupcake. I loved that the frosting was not too sweet and even a little salty, but a vanilla cake would not do. It got me thinking about a salted caramel tart with bananas and chocolate cream that I had at GT Fish and Oyster a few months back, and other sweet-salty combinations. Clearly, I was onto something. Then, one bite of an Alliance chocolate cupcake filled with salted caramel and frosted with ganache sealed the deal. This would be my cake, and it would be incredible.

Continue reading this entry »

Annie Conway

Dessert Thu Oct 25 2012

Groovy Treats

Sally Kenyon of Uptown Brownie walks us through how to make her top-secret pumpkin cheesecake brownie with Glossed and Found.

Robyn Nisi

Contest Wed Oct 17 2012

Nothing Compares to Pie: Photos From the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest

lots of pies.jpgThis Sunday Drive Thru Editor Robyn Nisi and I paired up to judge the Eighth Annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest. We sampled about 20 of the nearly 100-plus pies submitted for the amateur division, picking the best pies to be submitted to the semifinalist rounds based on its filling, crust, overall appearance, etc. The pies ranged from soothing and addictive to not fully baked and just discrusting! We felt like we were speed dating, getting to know each pie by judging it from its looks and personality in less than four minutes. There were some surprises: Red Hots mixed with apples, chocolate crusts, pulled pork, and creative designs made with crust. Here are some of our favorites.

Continue reading this entry »

Clarisa Ramirez / Comments (2)

Openings Tue Sep 25 2012

Katherine Anne Confections Opens Store in Logan Square

katherine.jpgLogan Square just got a little sweeter. Katherine Anne Confections opened its storefront this past weekend.

The formerly unmarked space on 2745 W. Armitage Ave. was being used as a kitchen to make decadent truffles and caramels, sold online and at Chicago's farmers markets for the past two years. The business' founder, Katherine Duncan, decided it was time to open a storefront after receiving calls from customers asking her how late she was open. One woman drove all the way from the suburbs wanting to buy truffles, only to discover there wasn't a shop. "Chocolate is an impulse buy; you don't think to buy it in advance," said Duncan, who grew up learning how to make confections with an "overachieving mom who made everything from scratch."

Continue reading this entry »

Clarisa Ramirez / Comments (3)

Event Tue Sep 25 2012

Chicago's Magnolia Bakery Turns One

Chicago Cupcake.jpg

Remember when people who visited New York made sure they bought a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery? It was one of those things you had to do. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's because you never watched Sarah Jessica Parker bite into a pink-frosted Magnolia Bakery cupcake on "Sex and the City." It's been said that cupcakes exploded after that iconic moment on television. While tourists couldn't afford a pair of Manolo Blahniks, they could afford a Magnolia Bakery cupcake, a sweet accessory topped with buttercream frosting.

Then Magnolia Bakery opened its doors on State Street, and Chicago cupcake fans finally got the chance to try the infamous pastry. Now the bakery is celebrating its first birthday Monday, Oct. 1 by launching a signature Chicago Cupcake: a white chocolate disk with the Chicago skyline floating on a lake of pale blue icing on a vanilla or chocolate cupcake.

Customers can purchase these cupcakes beginning Saturday. The store is throwing a birthday party that day with a children's icing and decorating table. On Monday it will offer its classic cupcakes for a mere dollar from noon until 2pm. Since cupcakes are still on the cool radar, considered the United States' go-to soothing treat, we predict a long line.

Clarisa Ramirez

Dessert Tue Jul 17 2012

Ceci n'est pas un Birthday Cake

7588414786_73a20fb371.jpgIt was what would later be realized as a confusing typo that caught my eye as I read the Reader's Best of edition from earlier this summer, notably the award of "Best Lutheran Dessert." What was it? Streusel-coated lutefisk? Solemn rice pudding? My mind was blown away when I read who received the award: Garfield Ridge's Racine Bakery, for their Lithuanian (Napoleonas) Torte cake, a dessert with origins in Omaha, my hometown.

I loved this cake as a snotty kid (and later, a surly teenager); thin, soft layers of pastry couched between buttercream and apricot filling--similar in texture to a spongy cheesecake. I could always count on finding Lithuanian Torte Cake (a key product of the blandly named Lithuanian Bakery) at the upscale deli down the street, in a handful of restaurants, or at the catering events I had to work on the weekends. In a town that was known for big portions of familiar American fare, this cake stuck out as a distinctive homage to the city's ethnic diversity.

I was sure that somewhere in Chicago served it. For a city full of restaurants, stores and bakeries that can fulfill all food cravings and odd ingredient-seeking, you'd think I could easily find it, but I came up empty. I considered making the cake, and scoured the internet for an accurate recipe one boring afternoon at work, but it required far more labor than my small, counter-free kitchen could withstand. I made the deli a required visit every time I went back home, but my return visits have become rare to nonexistent.

Enter Racine Bakery and the Best-of issue of the Reader.

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Dessert Mon May 07 2012

Free Dessert and Giving Back

lemonblueberry.jpgWant free dessert? And want to give something back to the community? This Tuesday and Wednesday only, get a free vegan dessert from Native Foods Cafe. (Dessert offer only redeemable with the purchase of an entree, side and drink.) If the housemade lemon blueberry bar pictured at right isn't already swaying your lunch or dinner plans, Tuesday and Wednesday are also Native Community Days. A portion of profits on Tuesday, May 8 will benefit the Puppy Mill Project and Wednesday, May 9 profits will benefit Namaste Charter School. Click here to find a Native Foods location near you, or email to suggest a non-profit organization near and dear to your heart for upcoming Native Community Days.

Katie Johnson

Dessert Mon May 07 2012

Have a NATO Cupcake

NATO-Cupcake.jpgNot everyone is dreading the NATO Summit later this month. Magnolia Bakery, 108 N. State St., is celebrating it, in fact, with a special "NATO Cupcake."

As special cupcakes go, this one is pretty humdrum, though. It's just a standard vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream frosting and blue sprinkles, wrapped in a shiny blue wrapper. It's $3, available now through May 25.

Andrew Huff

Dessert Sat Apr 28 2012

Chicago Cupcake ATM Location Confirmed

Sprinkles-ATM-BevHills-260.jpgEver find yourself wishing you could have access to cupcakes 24-7? Soon, you can. Sprinkles cupcake bakery officially announced it will be installing a "Cupcake ATM" outside of its Chicago store on Walton sometime this summer. Seems too good to be true, right? Freshly baked cupcakes, even after the bakery is closed? Sprinkles announced the concept back in March, but without disclosing the ATM's location. It has now been confirmed that the 24 hour cupcake dispenser will be appropriately making its home right outside of the 50 E. Walton store location. This will be the first Sprinkles ATM to call Chicago home, while the cupcake chain's Beverly Hills outpost debuted one (pictured) earlier this year. Try to contain your excitement, please.

Katie Johnson

Dessert Wed Apr 18 2012

Bang Bang Pie Co. Is Where It's At


Yesterday I brought a pie to work. I joked with a co-worker that this was the most "corporate" thing I've ever done.

Truth is, this wasn't about office politickin'.

This was about my having woken up to groggily check my email and see that Bang Bang Pie Co. had opened their doors just over two weeks ago. And I needed an excuse to buy a whole pie.

Continue reading this entry »

Alexandra Moskovich

Dessert Wed Apr 11 2012

WTF is This, You Ask?

6809011544_7b8ac798ac.jpgStrangely, it's a cake--specifically, the Caramel Cake, which I first got a good look at over at Lottie and Doof a few years back. This cake makes an impressive potluck contribution with its buttermilk and caramel flavors, but it's not the prettiest-looking car at the dealership, as it were. Is it a cake? A weird meatloaf? Gravy-covered bread? Who knows until you take a bite.

So if you're looking for opportunities to make a decent-looking cake, World Kitchen sponsors a Luscious Layers baking class this Saturday morning; if cakes are not your bag, Delightful Pastries will be teaching a class on piemaking Saturday afternoon; if you'd rather eat and not do the work, the chefs of the French Pastry School host a tour of the facilities plus how-to demonstrations of candies, sorbets and other baked goods while you scarf down croissants and pastries. And if the bread isn't your thing, the Gluten- and Allergy-Free Expo runs this weekend in Lombard.

Robyn Nisi

Openings Thu Mar 29 2012

Preview: Glazed and Infused Gourmet Doughnuts

Glazed & Infused

Scott Harris knows a trend when he sees one. The mastermind behind the Francesca's empire will be opening three outposts of Glazed and Infused, a gourmet doughnut chain, next to CTA stations in the next couple months. I got an opportunity to sample some of the wares, and commuters are in for a treat.

Glazed and Infused will launch with around 20 varieties of yeast and cake doughnuts, with a focus on higher end ingredients like single-origin chocolate and hazelnut praline. The mix offers your classics like chocolate glazed, apple fritter and old fashioned, but also includes confections such as a banana-salted caramel and crème brulée-filled bismark. Prices will be between $2.75 and $5.

Continue reading this entry »

Andrew Huff / Comments (1)

Dessert Wed Mar 28 2012

A Sweet Benefit for Food Deserts Tonight

dfd.JPGFed Up sponsors an all-dessert benefit tonight for helping to eradicate food deserts through the work of Fresh Moves at Greenhouse Lofts (2545 W Diversey; event begins with a VIP reception at 7pm; general admission opens at 8pm; and event ends at 10pm). Fritz Pastry, Hoosier Mama, and Sweet Miss Givings are among the many attendees. Food desert expert Mari Gallagher will also be making remarks. Tickets $55-75; note that they will not be sold at the door.

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Wed Feb 15 2012

Alinea Floats its Lightest Course

Next may get all the press these days, but Alinea still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Like, you know, making a Willy Wonka-esque edible balloon out of apples.

Andrew Huff

Dessert Tue Feb 14 2012

Valentine Cookies for the Anti-Valentine

If you're tired of all the lovin' going on today or if you're just a natural Ebenezer Scrooge at heart, Alliance Bakery has the cookie just for you. If the phrase "It's not me, it's you" or "Eat your heart out" is more fitting to you this holiday, head on over to Wicker Park and pick yourself up a few of these. And if you haven't overloaded on sugar by that time, stop by The Boundary and continue the trend in your own cookie decorating experience from 4-11. Cookies and beer. Yum!

1736 W. Division St. 773-278-0366.

Brandy Gonsoulin

Food Trucks Sat Feb 11 2012

e.Leaven's Food Truck Boasts Special V-Day Menu

e.Leaven Food Company, a combination deli and artisan bakery, has been bringing joy to the mouths of River North at its Ontario Street location since 2009. Now it's hitting the streets with a brand-spanking new food truck that hosts such treats as an Aji-Braised Short Rib Piewich, their signature Macarons, and a unique Cake in a Cup dessert.


Continue reading this entry »

Alexa DeTogne

Dessert Mon Feb 06 2012

The More You Know, the More You'll Eat

cathy.jpgThe Garfield Park Conservatory (300 N. Central Park Ave.) is holding a few chocolate-themed events in the coming days in preparation for that day that occurs two days after Lincoln's Birthday.

The Chemistry of Chocolate (this Wednesday, 6-7:30pm; $5) is an opportunity to learn more about why chocolate smells and tastes the way it is from a chemistry point of view; Blommer Chocolate Company's Melissa Tisoncik will be on hand to give you the skinny.

From Bean to Bar (this Saturday, 10am-noon; $20) takes you through the journey of how a cacao plant is groomed for a life of living in heart-shaped boxes (and sometimes having to endure forced marriages with peanut butter, nuts and fruit).

Robyn Nisi

Blog Fri Dec 09 2011

12 Days of Sugar Coma


Chicago-based food blog Lottie + Doof is four days into its annual 12 Days of Cookies feature. Mmm, rugelach.

Laura Sant

Event Sun Nov 13 2011

A Few Favorites from the Logan Square Pastry Market

Logan Square Kitchen was packed this weekend with local artisans selling cream puffs, macarons, croissants, chocolates and other treats. Miss your chance to gorge yourself? Here are a few standouts worth tracking down.

Continue reading this entry »

Laura Sant

Food Trucks Tue Nov 08 2011

Free Starfruit This Friday

starfruit.jpgLike a lot of smart people, Starfruit Café's mobile truck is getting the hell out of Chicago for the winter. To thank Chicagoans for a very successful maiden voyage, the truck will be circling the city with free treats on Nov. 11 before it departs for Los Angeles.

You can track the Starfruit truck by following them on Twitter (@StarfruitCafe). The truck has plans to return "once Old Man Winter retreats." So... June?

Laura Sant

Dessert Thu Oct 27 2011

I Ate The Whole Thing of the The Whole Love

Wilco is teaming up with Garrett's Popcorn for a special music/popcorn tin combo--namely, a CD copy of their newest album The Whole Love paired with a specially designed tin of Garrett's awesome caramel/cheese corn. A portion of the sales will be donated to the Hull House Association.

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Tue Oct 25 2011

Theatre, Drinks AND Dessert

viaduct_theater_anything_and_always_breast_cancer_fundraiser.jpgJoin the Viaduct Theatre this Wednesday night for a fundraiser complete with music, a fully stocked cash bar of drinks and let's not forget the best part, dessert! Chicago's purveyor of punk rock pastry, Bleeding Heart Bakery has made a donation of sweet treats to the cause, with the night's proceeds benefiting A Sail with Courtney and the Jimmy V Foundation for cancer research. Local dramatic writer, Nic Wehrwein has put together a night that will feature the Chicago debut of Wehrwein's play, Anything and Always, which will be read by up and coming Chicago actors, Will Allan and Rebecca Buller. Written while in his second year as a MFA student at the University of New Mexico with Shepard Sobel, Anything and Always is a piece about love, loss, and how to cope when the two collide. So come on out to support a good cause, imbibe in some drinks and indulge in dessert. You won't regret it. Event runs from 7 p.m. to midnight with the reading beginning at 8:30 p.m. Donations welcome and encouraged. The Viaduct Theatre is located at 3111 N. Western Ave. Chicago, IL 60618. (773) 296-6024.

Katie Johnson

Contest Thu Sep 29 2011

Get Ready for the Bucktown Apple Pie Contest

Apple PieRegistration for the seventh annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest is now open. The contest takes place in Holstein Park, 2200 N. Oakley Ave., from 2pm to 5pm on Sunday, Oct. 16.

Even if you're not a baker, you can come check out the 150 entrants, try some of them, and also enjoy music and kid-friendly activities like face-painting and pony rides. (Adults can probably ride the ponies, too.)

Contest registration is $20, and for the first time there will be a separate professional division; whole pies from the pros will be available for sale from $25. All the pies will be judged by a panel of expert pie tasters -- including Gapers Block's food editor, Robyn Nisi -- on appearance, filling and crust, and overall flavor.

Andrew Huff

Dessert Fri Sep 16 2011

Trader Joe's New Ice Cream: My New Best Friend

Yeah, it can't hang out with me on the weekends and get brunch, but it's a blend of creamy, spicy goodness that hasn't lasted long at my house: Trader Joe's recently laid its cards out on the table with its Lemon and Triple Ginger Snap Ice Cream. I don't want to tell you how to live your life, but this concoction, which incorporates its Triple Ginger Snap cookie with a lemon ice cream, is pure bliss definitely worth trying, with bits of crystallized ginger, sweet lemon, and generous chunks of spicy cookie. Four measly dollars buys you a quart; four additional dollars will buy you the backup quart that will cover up for the first one you ate in record time. I just want to help you plan.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Dessert Fri Sep 09 2011

Drowning My Oprah Sorrows

Tonight will be the final turn of the Oprah knife in my back: the last rerun of her final season will be broadcast on Channel 7. Jimmy Kimmel Live will begin airing an hour earlier starting Monday; he's been popping up all over town to promote the move.

To prepare myself for this change to my nightly television schedule, I surrounded myself with one of O's favorite things--Graeter's ice cream, a Cincinnati-based product that recently made its way into the local market. Their "French Pot" method means only a few gallons are made at a time, which shows in the quality of the product--a carefully made, creamy delight. I sampled a few pints over the course of these past weeks of Oprah, as I endured the unbearable two-part finale special, the final Nate Berkus room makeover, and a Peter Frampton and Shaun Cassidy special. I needed something to get me through the final chapters, and Graeter's stepped to the plate.

I'm uptight about my ice cream. I don't like fruit-and-chocolate-mixed varieties, and I'm normally not a fan of solids in the actual ice cream, e.g. nuts, cookies, and particularly chocolate, which always has a chalky, grainy quality that I can't get past, even if the ice cream itself is delicious. However, I was very impressed with the Black Raspberry Chip flavor that I sampled. The chocolate was in the form of fine, flavorful shavings that held their own in the tangy, creamy dark purple ice cream it accompanied. I'm always trying to find a good vanilla--Graeter's was a strong contender. I even tried Oprah and Stedman's favorite flavor, a competent Butter Pecan.

Tonight, as Oprah takes to the stage for the rerun of the final show, I will be tearing into a pint of Graeter's Strawberry, the last of my sampling experience, and closing out a television era. Living my best life was never this tasty.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Dessert Tue Aug 30 2011

More Than Just "Crumbs"

crumbs_logo.gifTo celebrate the grand opening of the second Crumbs bake shop in Chicago, there will be a cupcake giveaway today (8/31). 1,000 cupcakes will be passed out at the newest location (134 N. LaSalle St) beginning at noon. Later this fall, Crumbs plans to open three more locations in the city. So come celebrate the opening and get yourself a cupcake, before there are only the "crumbs" left.

Katie Johnson

Dessert Wed Aug 24 2011

Support the "Nice" Cause

shapeimage_8.pngThose of you following the Chicago foodie scene may already know about Nice Cream's recent struggles with the Chicago Department of Public Health. Despite this puzzling and unexpected set back, Nice Cream owner Kris Swanberg isn't sulking away, but is taking a stand and has launched a Kickstarter champaign to help her raise the money she needs to remain in operation. While the initial goal of raising $5,000 has already been met, the more help the better. Plus, with 46 days left in the campaign for continued production of delicious ice cream, and a minimum donation of $1, there's really no reason not to support the cause. So be "nice", donate now.

Katie Johnson

Dessert Mon Jul 25 2011

My Summer Crush: Speculoos

speculoos.jpgEven though Western Avenue was full of long delays due to broken traffic lights, making the trip up to Evanston slower than if I had just walked there, I made a trip to Edzo's for a much-anticipated lunch this past Friday. I ordered the burger and fries as my eyes darted around for the display board of shake specials. Sensing that I was there for serious business, Edzo himself suggested that I order the speculoos shake, a recent add to his menu. What is speculoos, you ask? It's a peanut butter-like spread that reeks of cinnamon, ginger, and a hint of caramel. In cookie form, speculoos are known as Dutch Windmills or Lotus Biscuits (which you can find on Delta Airlines flights--they're also sold in Walgreens); in shake form, speculoos is pure genius. You can find jars of speculoos spread at Fresh Market or Meijer stores; however, I decided to order it online (it's known as "Biscoff Spread" in some circles). I can't thank Edzo enough.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (2)

Dessert Thu Jul 14 2011

Voting is Pretty Boss

SugarSlam-2011.jpgDid you or someone you know enter this year's SugarSlam 2011? Yes? No? Maybe-so? Either way, vote for your favorite entries here. Why? Because voting is pretty boss. And those who did enter will love you for it. Miss Bake&Destroy and CM Punk himself will probably love you for it too. Bonus! Voting ends next Friday, July 22. Hop to it!

Katie Johnson

Dessert Tue May 10 2011

Free Flirty Cupcakes Tomorrow

Flirty Cupcakes celebrates its first birthday tomorrow by giving away 1000 cupcakes--among them their newest concoction, called the Flirtini--a lemon and pink champagne-flavored cake filled with gin-soaked fresh strawberries and topped with strawberry buttercream--on the plaza at 205 North Michigan starting at 8:30am, with trips later on at the Merchandise Mart and Harpo Studios. Alcohol and cake is always the best way to celebrate a birthday, amirite?

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Fri Apr 22 2011

Your Obligatory Easter Peep's Post

Like Sweethearts, candy corn and egg nog, Peeps are without a doubt Easter's standard one-and-done seasonal confection. We bite the head off, maybe do a funny experiment and then we're basically good for the rest of the year. That doesn't stop chefs from trying to make them, you know, more edible though. Today, the Tribune threw down the gauntlet and put three of Chicago's finest to the test. What did they come up with? Some actually pretty good sounding stuff. Grahamwich concocted a Peep ice cream and Nutella sundae and they'll be serving it on the menu for the next few days. [Tribune]

Andrew Carlin

Dessert Thu Apr 14 2011

"This means something, it's something important!"

em.jpgIn the midst of a stack of work, several nights spent on the computer writing until three in the morning, and a pile of laundry not unlike the mashed potato sculpture that Richard Dreyfus lovingly sculpted in Close Encounters of the Third Kind sitting in the corner, I took the time to write a letter. Nothing too imperative to many, but it's a growing concern of mine: Brach's has gotten rid of its Easter "Mellowcreme Pets" candy. I need to know if it's coming back.

Continue reading this entry »

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Dessert Tue Mar 08 2011

Paczki Day Descends!

Today is a blessed day in the donut-loving community--Paczki Day, the Tuesday before Lent. As we've said before, a few of the hot spots for picking up these delights are: Delightful Pastries (now in Old Town & the French Market in addition to their original 5927 W Lawrence location); Bennison's in Evanston (1000 Davis); Oak Mill Bakery (several locales in the burbs and city); and if you're feeling sinister, Dominick's (you don't need an address for that, do you?).

Robyn Nisi / Comments (1)

Dessert Wed Feb 16 2011

The Shamrock Shake Returns

shamrock-shake.jpgNow that you've recovered from Valentine's Day, I hope you're preparing for March 17--and what better way to do it than with a still seasonally inappropriate (yet widely anticipated) Shamrock Shake from McDonalds! If you can't bring yourself to stumble through the golden arches but still want the thrill of a mint-vanilla shake, we've got your recipes.

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Mon Feb 14 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Fun with a candy heart generator:

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Wed Jan 26 2011

The 10 Best Candy-Inspired Desserts Across The Country

In this month's Bon Appetit, frequent Iron Chef America judge and perennial long hair aficionado Andrew Knowlton has a run down of the 10 best candy-inspired desserts across the country. A few standouts on the list: an Almond Joy ice cream sandwich in Atlanta, a brownie tart with salted caramel ice cream in Las Vegas and a chocolate-peanut butter candy bar with buttered popcorn ice cream in Miami. Of course, any "Best Of" list about, concerning or evening mentioning desserts wouldn't be complete without a selection from Mindy Segal's Hot Chocolate. He could have picked anything on the menu, so he picked Thoughts On a Peanut Butter Cup. Read the full list here.

Andrew Carlin

Deals Fri Jan 07 2011

Sick of Cupcakes? Even If They're Free?

Chicago may have hit cupcake overload, but still: you can't beat free. Sprinkles Cupcakes will be offering free preview samples of their new flavor, German Chocolate, on Tuesday, January 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. -- three days before the flavor officially hits the store's shelves. Complimentary drinking chocolate will also be served, so chocolate-loving cheapskates: rejoice. Then be sure to RSVP.

Sunny McDaniel

Dessert Mon Dec 20 2010

Sugar Solves the Short Week for the Short-Fused

pantera.jpgIf you're facing down a two, three or even four (gah!)-day week before the long weekend of eating, you might think the instinct is to cut down the sugar, butter and flour before the main event. In my opinion, the buildup to any holiday is far better than the holiday itself. Make it work. I'm a fan of buying something good and simple that is made by the hands of other people. It doesn't have to be expensive (seeing as you're probably flat-ass broke this week); Panera (picture above) has a nice little selection of goodies; but if you're really intent on making something fast and cheap from what you've already got around the kitchen, I recommend quickbreads. Two personal favorites of mine is a carrot/banana bread that is easy and delicious (shouldn't I be using carrots for more noble means? Hell no) and a chocolate chip/banana bread that also rocks my palate. If you're going to spend the week looking at the empty desks of your coworkers and playing Angry Birds, you may as well treat yourself to some snacks as well.

Robyn Nisi

Recipe Thu Dec 16 2010

A Lighter Cookie Option

'Tis the season of Christmas cookies -- at home, in the office, at parties. It's hard to resist them, but sometimes we all just crave something just a little less waist-expanding.

lemonthymecooke.jpgFor the Healthy Schools Campaign's 2010 Cooking Up Change gala, culinary students at Simeon Career Academy created a cookie that we won't feel guilty about popping in our already-full bellies this holiday season. The event, a cook-off, challenges students to create a healthy lunch or a healthy cookie using using the same nutrition requirements, ingredients, and budget constraints that schools have to contend with. Below is the recipe for Simeon Career Academy's winning dessert, Thyme-Scented Lemon Cookies:

Continue reading this entry »

Ruthie Kott

Dessert Tue Dec 07 2010

Save Room for Pie

pi.JPGI was the MVP of my Thanksgiving dinner party--not just because I arrived on time and sober, but because I brought a pear-apple-cranberry pie from Hoosier Mama that was an incredibly tasty way to end the meal. If you're looking for holiday glory, you can reserve a Christmas pie online now for pickup between December 22-24.

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Fri Oct 08 2010

Got Goat (Milk)?


Sure, this once humble creature has been enjoying unprecedented fame thanks to a certain Top Chef darling and her newish West Loop restaurant. But delicious preparations of goat and its by-products can be found all over town, including a range of sweet treats.

For goat-on-the-go, pick up some goat milk caramels at Fox & Obel (401 E. Illinois St., 312-410-7301). The high-end Steeterville grocer carries varieties made by San Francisco-based Happy Goat Caramels as well Paris Caramels' crunchy-sounding but instantaneously addictive goat caramels with buckwheat.

For a cooling treat, take a stroll in Ukrainian Village and stop for goat cheese cashew caramel gelato at Black Dog Gelato (859 N. Damen Ave., 773-235-3116). But be sure to call first. The goat cheese gelato is not always on the menu, and when it is, it goes fast.

Continue reading this entry »

Sharon Bautista

Dessert Sat Sep 25 2010

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Or sweet teeth. You'd better have more than one if you're going to survive the Andersonville Dessert Crawl, a 24-stop tour of the neighborhood's restaurants, cafes, bakeries and shops on Sunday, October 3. Choose from the Sugar Route, the Spice Route, or hit up both with the Everything Nice Route.

Pick up your passport at the Swedish American Museum at 2 p.m., then take the next three hours to stuff your face with sweets from Terry's Toffee, In Fine Spirits, Big Jones, Ceres' Table, The Coffee Studio, and more. Advance tickets are $25 for one route, or $40 for both routes; for more info, call (773) 728-7552 or click here for tickets and a full listing of participating venues.

Sunny McDaniel / Comments (1)

Dessert Sat Sep 11 2010

Apple Crispin

Fall has certainly made its presence known in Chicago this past week and I welcomed it with open arms. The changing of seasons is one of my favorite things about living in the Midwest - with a new season comes a new beginning and, new food. This year, I've been embracing the beginning of fall with pumpkin candles, warm soup and apple crisp.

This recipe is great because it's incredibly easy and, most often, I have all of the ingredients at home so I don't have to make a special trip to the store. Here's the recipe so you all can properly ring in the new season. What's your favorite way to enjoy fall?

Thumbnail image for apple crisp.jpg
Apple Crisp

4-6 tart apples
8 graham crackers, finely chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup butter

Peel and slice apples (The Chopping Block has an amazing apple peeler) to fill a 9x9 pan 3/4 full. Melt the butter and stir in the finely chopped graham crackers. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spoon the mixture over the sliced apples and microwave on high for 12-15 minutes or until the apples are tender.

*Photo by Stacy

Kaitlin Olson

Contest Wed Aug 18 2010

Southport Grocery's Cupcake Contest

From your days as the 5th grade class Picasso to that late night last week when you proudly showed off your gravity defying leaning tower of nachos to your roommates and the house fish, you've always had a knack for making things look and taste good.

Now is your chance to take those skills public. Southport Grocery, already known for their delectable cupcakes, is opening the menu up to its patrons by hosting a cupcake contest.

You can submit your idea on Facebook or Twitter now through August 24th. The winning idea will be hand picked by Southport Grocery's bakers and developed into a recipe where it will then be featured in the restaurant's bakery case for the entire month of September. Not enough? The winner will also receive a dozen of their winning cupcake.

Leah Sallen

Dessert Wed Jul 28 2010

Cupcakes on the Move

bloodymary1jessicatampas.jpgI've sampled quite a few cupcakes in Chicago -- Sweet Mandy B's, Molly's, Flirty Cupcakes, More. I can't say I've ever had a bad cupcake but More is, without a doubt, my favorite. The fun, creative ingredients and recipes they use make each cupcake unique and delicious. And the hard work and love put into each recipe comes through in every cupcake.

When I learned that More is going to make their cupcakes mobile next month, I was ecstatic. I don't find myself in its Gold Coast neighborhood very often, which means I don't get to eat nearly as many of their cupcakes as I'd like. I've had Flirty Cupcakes when I'm in need of a sweet fix to get me through the afternoon. But the cupcakes, in my opinion, are mediocre - too much frosting and not enough flavor. More, on the other hand, has me hooked. Some of my favorite flavors: BLT, Salted Caramel and Strawberry. They also have Basil and Goat Cheese and Truffle Popcorn cupcakes that I've been dying to try.

Continue reading this entry »

Kaitlin Olson

Deals Sun Jul 18 2010

Mostly Free Gelato @ Go Roma

I didn't know that in 1984 President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month, nor did I know that the third Sunday of July is designated as National Ice Cream Day.

But the clever folks at Go Roma did, and today the Go Roma at 848 N. State St. is offering a complimentary scoop of their gelato to patrons who purchase an entree.

So if you're downtown today and have a hankering for vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, burnt caramel or cappuccino gelato (plus lemon sorbet), you now know where to go for a free scoop!

Cliff Etters

Event Fri Jul 16 2010

Kenmore Live Studio Hosts Free Pre-Ice Cream Fest Event

No plans for this Saturday night? Why not beat the heat with something chilly, delicious...and free!

The new Kenmore Live Studio in River North is hosting a preview event for the upcoming Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival. Local ice cream makers ("micro-creameries") will be on hand to show off their flavors, and Chicago baking celeb Michelle Garcia (Bleeding Heart Bakery) will be giving a baking demonstration in the studio. Additionally, live music will be provided by Liquid Soul.

The event lasts from 7:00-9:00 p.m. this Saturday, July 17. The baking demo will begin at 7:30. For more information, visit or call (312) 265-0871. The Kenmore Live Studio is located at 678 N. Wells.

Marissa Flaxbart

Dessert Tue Jun 22 2010

Summer Treats

yogurt.jpgThe first day of summer brought with it a scorching hot evening. It took about seven seconds before I was incredibly uncomfortable on my walk home from a delicious fallafel sandwich at Sultan's Market last night. As I was walking down Clark Street, I passed about four frozen yogurt places (I figure one per block) and while I was tempted, I had a specific destination in mind. Yogen Fruz is my go-to place when I need something sweet and refreshing.

As I rounded the corner onto Belmont at 10:30 I noticed people huddled outside the frozen yogurt shop and thought, that can't possibly be the line. It was and, yes, I waited.

As I was waiting in line I felt like everything was right with the world. It seemed perfect that on the first day of summer nearly every frozen yogurt place I passed was overflowing with sweaty, smiling Chicagoans. There was no complaining of the heat or the long line - everyone was simply enjoying the evening. I tried to take it all in because I know that as the weeks go on, we'll forget to appreciate nights like this.

Something about last night reminded me of the first day the ice cream man made his appearance each summer when I was a kid. Tonight, on my way to volleyball, there's a strong possibility I'll stop by Berry Chill, another favorite of mine. What's your favorite place for a summer treat?

Photo by Deb

Kaitlin Olson / Comments (1)

Dessert Mon Jun 21 2010

Imani's Original Bean Pies

One of the great treats about wandering the city is the unexpected finds that suddenly crop up and invite you in to engage with them. When the treats you find are literally treats, as in the form of a delicious pie - well hell, even better.

This past weekend's Takin' It to the Streets festival in Marquette Park was chock-full of speakers, bands and events that made the plodding trip down Kedzie Ave to 67th St. well-worth the journey. As with most festivals, the food vendors ranged from the overly priced and ramshackle to perfect, summer outdoor fare, this time brought to Marquette Park by the BBQ Seitan from the great folks at Soul Vegetarian. In the midst of all these food vendors though, one stood out amongst the others, and brought forth the question what else may be waiting to be discovered on the Southwest Side.

The booth for Imani's Original Bean Pies was set up to offer these homemade Navy Bean pies either by the slice, personal pie or full pie. Unfortunately, they weren't offered in bulk. The pies have a soft silkiness and buttery crust that make for a perfect texture, and with a rush of nutmeg and a delicate sweetness that isn't too sweet, Imani's Bean Pies recall the best homemade desserts from one's childhood. Interestingly, these pies aren't commercially available, but instead are available online as fund-raising vehicles for Your Child Care, a child care service and school on the Southwest Side. Imani's Bean Pies allow one to not only indulge in pie, but also to do good deeds while doing so. Thank you Imani's Bean Pies.

Ben Schulman / Comments (7)

Dessert Thu May 20 2010

Shaved Ice-Cream at Cloud 9

Chicago has seen an influx of cheerful frozen yogurt chains from Asia. This season brings something new from Taiwan: shaved ice cream from Cloud 9. Brother-and-sister entrepreneurs Kenny and Gawin Tsai, with the help of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago, have opened a shaved-ice-cream spot in Lakeview. The IJ clinic helped with Chicago's red tape, leaving Kenny and Gawin free to concentrate on the Taiwanese ice cream, also known as Xue-Hua-Bing. They offer a few flavors each day--currently including vanilla, mango, strawberry and chocolate. They're also quietly testing red bean and green tea, which they let my family sample the night we went in to check it out. The vanilla was refreshing, but held no surprises. The mango had a nice tartness, and the green tea had a bite. The ice cream, made in house, is naturally low in fat; it's not made with as much sugar or cream as traditional ice cream. It comes out of Cloud 9's freezer in a disc-shaped block, and after being shaved by machine, it lands in soft layers in a bowl. Like cotton candy, it looks larger and denser than it actually is. The toppings, too, are low in sugar. The fruit syrups contain no added sweeteners, and cut-up fruit, nuts, sprinkles or chocolate syrup are available as well. Each heaping bowl of snow ice is served with a plastic fork, the better to grab the flaky layers with. And, while at first it might seem flaky and ice cream don't belong in the same sentence, by the end of the summer I think many Chicagoans will find they enjoy ice cream in flakes.

Cloud 9 is at 604 W Belmont. No phone yet.

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Drink Sat May 01 2010

Starbucks Makes Frappuccinos Customizable

It's a frappuccino miracle! After 15 years of existence, the iconic Starbucks beverage is moving up to the level of the rest of the coffee giant's drinks by becoming fully customizable.

Starting May 4, Starbucks locations across the country will be serving what's called the "However You Want It" Frappuccino. Options for the coffee-based beverages will include choice of milk and syrup (including sugar-free syrups and syrup combinations), and the coffee-based drinks will be available in regular or decaf, double or triple strength.

Believe it or not, this introduction (which does, in fact, mark the 15th anniversary of the frappuccino's invention by baristas in a Santa Monica Starbucks) required some significant retooling of the way frappuccinos are mixed. The coffee bases and frappuccino mix syrup (which is what makes the frappes frothy) are separated from the milk and available in different incarnations, making it possible to have a low-sugar, decaf, or non-dairy blend in more flavors than previously available.

Paradox of choice got you down? Chad Cruz, manager of the Gold Coast's Chicago flagship Starbucks, recommends trying the strawberry crème frappuccino (now with all-natural strawberries) with soy milk. Personally, I'm a fan of any of the double-strength coffee blends, especially with whatever syrup is seasonal. But you don't have to take my advice, or Chad's; go ahead and try one "however you want it" starting May 4.

Marissa Flaxbart

Resource Wed Apr 14 2010

Take a Tour of Chicago's Best Foods

Chicago has a lot to offer hungry tourists, besides the chance to eat a watery hot-dog from the vendor next to the Wendella Boat Tour dock as you cruise the Chicago River. A self-guided Cupcake Crawl is available from Chicago Bites food bloggers Tammy Green and Bridget Houlihan. Their e-book maps out public transportation to different bakeries and includes coupons, hours and prices.

Or skip the cake and go straight for the chocolate. Chicago Chocolate Tours leads two-and-a-half hour strolls through the South Loop, Lakeview or Michigan Avenue (and shorter tours of the new French Market) to meet some of the city's best chocolatiers.

Chicago Food Planet offers walking tours of the Near North and Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhoods. These tours take about three hours, with stops at restaurants, specialty grocers and, to help keep your energy up, ice cream shops and bakeries. In addition to discovering mom-and-pop shops around town, you'll also learn about neighborhood history and architecture.

Entering its second season is Fork and the Road bike tours. This year the women behind Fork and the Road, Dimitra Tasiouras and Sharon Bautista (a Drive-Thru contributor), will lead samplings of diner specialties, dumplings, Eastern European cuisine, or Mediterranean restaurants and shops, among other tours of eateries, all of them off the beaten path. (No Italian beef or deep dish pizza.) Each ride is about 16 to 20 miles, which sounds worse than it is. The guides ride at a leisurely pace, and each stop offers a chance to rest and refuel. Tours always start at a location near a bike-rental shop, so even those without wheels can take part.

Of course, if deep dish is your thing, there are tours of local pizza purveyors. Slice of Chicago offers a deep-dish walking tour, and Chicago Pizza Tours will show you the city "one slice at a time" and through four different styles of pizza (deep dish, thin crust, stuffed and neapolitan).

When your guests show up this summer, show them there's more to do than hang out at Navy Pier or the Mag Mile eating franchised food stuffs and fighting the crowds.

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Event Wed Apr 14 2010

Vosges and Corzo Team Up for Tasting

So you've heard of wine and cheese pairings, and maybe even wine and chocolate pairings. But tequila and chocolate? Not so much.

Until now.

Chicago's own fine chocolate emporium, Vosges Haut Chocolate, has teamed up with Corzo tequilas to show the world that blue agave and cacao are a match made in heaven.

Vosges' Armitage flagship has a liquor licencse, and has been offering wine and beer tastings for some time, as well as selling bottles of wine. IMG_4138.JPGThis new relationship with Cruz will bring a tequila pairing to their summer menu, and the shop will offer appropriate chocolate bars along with bottles of each mark of the fine tequila-silver, reposado, and añejo.

If you'd like to take part in this celebration of two of the New World's greatest culinary treasures, you needn't wait any longer. Tonight, Vosges Lincoln Park hosts a special ticketed event where the public will be able to try lots of delicious confections (along with complementing tequilas) first-hand.

951 W. Armitage. Tickets are $40; call 773.296.9866 to reserve your spot.

Marissa Flaxbart

Dessert Wed Mar 31 2010

DIY: Homemade Marshmallow Peeps

wazzup-peep.jpgYes, you can make homemade marshmallow peeps. OK, you can make homemade marshmallow sorta-looks-like-a-peep if you close one eye and squint. The piping technique needed to make peeps look like actual peeps was beyond my capabilities, but if you don't mind eating irregular peeps, then have no fear you can do this! This recipe is easy, fun, and cheap - so cheap you probably have everything you need in your kitchen right now!

Continue reading this entry »

Shanna Quinn

Dessert Sat Feb 27 2010

Leaf-Wrapped Japanese Sweets Galore @ Mitsuwa

We were lucky to be at Mitsuwa earlier today. In preparation for the Hina Matsuri (girls' festival) on March 3rd, Mitsuwa had a large variety of Japanese sweet rice-based desserts for sale. The market does have a constant supply of many mochi (sweet rice cakes), but the selection today was much better, and they did not appear to have sat in the freezer for too long, as many of the usual selection unfortunately are. We picked up a couple of things--kashiwa mochi, sakura mochi and goma dango (small, ball-shaped rice cakes on a stick, with black sesame glaze).

Kashiwa & Sakura Mochi

Kashiwa mochi is a smooth sweet rice cake wrapped in a (sometimes salt-cured, other times fresh) oak leaf. Inside the cake is red bean paste. The ones we picked up have red bean paste with miso, which adds a nice savory dimension. It's a bit funny that the market brought kashiwa mochi for the girls' festival, because it's traditionally associated with the boy's festival, which is on May 5th, but hey, I'm certainly not complaining. Unlike sakura mochi, which features an edible leaf, the oak leaf wrapper of kashiwa mochi is usually not eaten. I'm not sure why this is--perhaps the oak leaves are a bit tough to eat.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (1)

Dessert Wed Feb 24 2010

Hoosier Mama Pie Co. & Twitter: #freepieFTW

Hoosier Mama Pie Company (1618 1/2 W Chicago Ave.) has come up with a new way to reward their Twitter followers: every so often, they'll put a pie in their "TweetiePie Pie Safe" and tweet a password; if you're one of the first six customers to give them that password, you'll get a slice. Today's pie was an lovely, mild coffee cream pie with a chocolate-lined crust and loads of whipped cream on top.

Leah Williams / Comments (1)

Dessert Sun Feb 21 2010

Pie with a Dash of Hot Sauce


Tabasco, probably the most well-known red pepper hot sauce, was invented in 1868 by a Maryland-born banker living in Louisiana. Since its creation, it's been used to spice up almost everything, from scrambled eggs to barbecue to cocktails. It nevertheless surprised me to discover recently Tabasco pie at the Water Works Visitor Center location of non-profit First Slice Pie Café (163 E. Pearson Street, 312-202-1227), which opened earlier this winter.

The Tabasco pie was originally available only to First Slice subscribers and by special order, but it is now available by the slice. Built from a thin, buttery crumb crust, cinnamon defines both the densely gummy custard filling and the feathery light cream topping. The hot sauce emerges later; it takes an extra second to feel the faint tickle of red pepper in the back of the throat.

At $3 per slice, the Tabasco pie is a cheap thrill in the best sense. It is also available at the original First Slice Pie Café location at 4401 N. Ravenswood, 773-506-7380.

Sharon Bautista / Comments (2)

Dessert Thu Feb 18 2010


We're into videos this week, apparently. Enjoy!

Adobe Photoshop Cook from Lait Noir on Vimeo.

Robyn Nisi

Dessert Sun Feb 07 2010

Cupcakes for Breakfast

horchatacupcakeNot all cupcakes are created equal. Chicago may be saturated with these cute confections, but I discovered one stand-out on a recent early morning visit to Swim Cafe in West Town. Swim's Horchata Cupcake takes as its inspiration the beverage made usually from ground rice, almonds, cinnamon, sugar and water or milk popular in Latin America and easy to find at Mexican outlets in Chicago. Moist cinnamon vanilla cake with a medium density supports a smooth, gloriously gooey swirl of horchata frosting. And it's vegan to boot. Served on a plate garnished with orange slices and delivered with a fork and knife, why not a cupcake for breakfast?

Swim Cafe is located at 1357 W. Chicago Ave., 312-492-8600.

Sharon Bautista

Openings Tue Dec 22 2009

Beard Papa Opens in Block 37

Beard Papa, a Japanese bakery chain that specializes in cream puffs, opened in the basement of the Block 37 mall today. My hubby, who had been there earlier, reported that there was a pretty long line of (mostly East Asian) customers snaking out the door.

I'm among these Asians who have been anxiously awaiting this day. With all the financial trouble that Block 37 was reported to be in, I'd been growing a little pessimistic. But no more--it's finally here!

Hubby brought back a chocolate-covered, custard-filled cream puff, and it was delicious. (Sorry, no pictures, because, well, I already ate it. Update: here's one in the Flickr GB pool, thanks to KidItamae.) The shell is crunchy, the chocolate is actually chocolate-y, and the custard is soothingly smooth. It's a good thing I don't use the Red and Blue lines any more--otherwise, I'd find it difficult to resist the temptations when changing trains there: you'd pass the bakery as you transfer from one to the other.

Beard Papa
108 N. State Street
(in the basement)

Yu Kizawa

Random Sun Dec 13 2009

Buy One, Get One Free Cupcakes

I heart twitter and cupcakes ...and love when those two come together. I spotted this tweet Sunday around 10:50pm from Bleeding Heart Bakery and got so excited!


Nothing like a good cupcake deal to banish a case of the monday's!

Shanna Quinn

Dessert Tue Nov 24 2009

Baked Sweet Potato Custard

baked sweet potato custard

For those of you who might be looking for a twist on the tradition for the upcoming Turkey Day, here's a sweet potato recipe that's not topped with marshmallows. I made this baked custard when we did our last backyard grilling of the year, a few weeks back. We slowly roasted a big, fat sweet potato on a cooler corner of the grill, and instead of making this ginger yam/sweet potato salad that we are addicted to, I made it into baked custard. The sweet potato can be baked in the oven, of course--it can even be microwaved or boiled, though the latter two methods just don't compare to the slow-roasting on charcoal when it comes to earthy sweetness.

Continue reading this entry »

Yu Kizawa / Comments (2)

Dessert Mon Nov 16 2009

New Yorker Finds Spit Cake in Chicago

The New Yorker's latest food issue gives Chicago's Lutz Cafe a shout-out in an article on "spit cake," or Baumkuchen. To make this "king of cakes," a baker must brush layer upon layer of batter onto a spit, creating an elaborate ring of cake that looks like the inside of a tree trunk when sliced. According to the New Yorker article, the cake is so hard to make that it is only sold during the holidays at Lutz, and it sure isn't cheap.

Dana Currier

Dessert Sun Nov 15 2009

Hoosier Mama Pie Company Teams up with Ruth & Phils Ice Cream

Thumbnail image for piealamode.jpgPatient Hoosier Mama pie fans spilled out onto Chicago Avenue on an unseasonably warm mid-November Saturday afternoon. With the line extending outside and past the picture window of the cozy West Town retail space, proud owner Paula Haney asked waiting customers what inspired them to stop in on this day of all days. No common thread emerged from the varied answers that could account for the day's exceptionally brisk business. Simply, word continues to spread that Haney and her quickly growing team are crafting outstanding pie. Now there is another reason to indulge in their creations: Ruth & Phils Gourmet Ice Cream.

Starting this week, customers eating in the Hoosier Mama shop can get their slices of pie à la mode, while folks carrying out pie can bring home pints of Ruth & Phil's French-style ice cream. Alison Bower, owner of the Lincoln Square-based ice cream company, yesterday offered free samples of two flavors to the long line of pie fans: Madagascar vanilla bean and sour cream-cinnamon. Both flavors offered an exceptionally smooth mouthfeel and reserved sweetness which made them natural accompaniments to pie. Now it is almost impossible to imagine Hoosier Mama's double-crusted bourbon- and vanilla-infused pear pie without the headiness of Ruth & Phils vanilla ice cream, or the traditional apple pie minus the spicy tang of the sour cream-cinnamon.

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Sharon Bautista

Dessert Wed Nov 11 2009


beeramisu.jpgI've been in a cranberry rut lately with my desserts, so yesterday in preparation for a dinner with friends, I hit went online for inspiration and something without berry or crumble in the name. Right away I found it, at one of my favorite sites, 101 Cookbooks: Beeramisu, or tiramisu made with beer. (follow the link for the recipe.) Fall is always a good time for cooking with beer. Especially something like Beeramisu, which doesn't require a lot of prep time or ingredients.

After two trips to the grocery store, one to double the amount of mascarpone I'd initially bought, I began to assemble my dessert. When I popped open the bottle of beer I realized there were going to be three kids eating with us, so I decided it would be best to boil the alcohol out of the beer. I made a mistake with the beer. I didn't want to buy a six pack of stout or porter, so I bought Grimbergen, thinking it would be sweet and spicy enough. But when it came time to pour the beer over the lady fingers, I added a shot of coffee, as the recipe says to. I thought I could skip the coffee, and perhaps with a darker beer I could have, but not with a Belgian blonde.

Since tiramisu, or Beeramisu, doesn't need to bake, it's a quick dessert to make. I layered lady fingers with the beer-coffee mixture poured over them, alternating with a creamy blend of mascarpone and whipped cream. When I served it I worried that my lady fingers looked a little dry, but my 6-year-old dinner guest assured me that, no, those lady fingers looked soggy. They tasted soggy, too. In the end it was hard to actually distinguish the beer taste, but the dessert was a hit. My husband even ate a spoonful at breakfast this morning. Next time, I'll try a richer, darker beer and leave out the coffee, for a more beer-thentic experience.

Lori Barrett

Dessert Thu Nov 05 2009

It's an Excellent Groupon Day

We're not paid to hawk Groupon, but today's deal is worth noting: $40 worth of Swirlz cupcakes for $20.

You're welcome.

Robyn Nisi

Foodporn Thu Oct 22 2009

Sweet Tweets

Dessert/Erotica 140 characters at a time.

If you're like me and daydream about buttercream, chocolate ganache, and anything with a buttery, flaky crust...and are a borderline-might-actually-be-a twitter addict then you need to add these sugarcoated tweeple to your follow list ASAP. Tweets about delicious treats maybe not be as good as eating them but they are titillating -- it's dessert foreplay, if you will.

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Shanna Quinn

Recipe Tue Oct 20 2009

DIY Candy Pumpkins

"What possessed you to make your own candy pumpkins?" -- I've been getting this question a lot over the past few days as I talked about writing this piece. The only answer I have is because it sounded fun ...and it was fun!

My original plan entailed making candy corn but as my sugary adventure progressed, I felt GBfavoritepumpkin.jpgtaking the leap into candy pumpkins was way more impressive--and I enjoy being impressive. The recipe is exactly the same for candy corn if you chose to go that route.

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Shanna Quinn / Comments (4)

Dessert Wed Jul 15 2009

It's My Party

Last night, I did something that proves that I've lost all sense of adventure and surprise: I bought my own birthday cake--a beautiful one from Sweet Mandy B's, with seashell-shaped frosting around the border. Oooh. So pretty.

All I need is a glass of skim milk and I'll be good to go.

This brought up a question--what the are BEST birthday cakes? Homemade? Bakery made? A package of Dunkin' Stix ate with a cup of coffee?

Please discuss.

Robyn Nisi / Comments (7)

Random Tue Jun 16 2009

Have Your Cake & Wear It Too's shirts are so cute, sometimes you just want to eat them up. In fact, many people have -- by turning their favorite designs into cakes.

It's not just for fun, either -- it could be for profit, too, if you enter the Threadcakes contest this summer. From June 15 (ie, yesterday) until August 3, you can submit photos of your own Threadless shirt-based cake to the contest for a chance to win a Threadless 12-Month Club membership, "tons" of Guittard chocolate and a Charm City Cakes prize pack. There are two categories -- 2D (just the design on the cake) and 3D (the design is the cake) -- and you can submit as many cakes as you want. So read the rules, sign up and get to baking!

Andrew Huff

Openings Wed Jun 10 2009

New Starfruit Cafe Opening

Starfruit, the frozen kefir cafe, is opening a second location in Lincoln Park on Thursday. The grand-opening will have a live DJ and activities for kids served along with the kefir smoothies and parfaits. And, on Thursday only, each kefir purchase comes with a free topping. For Chicago parents facing a day with bored kids at home waiting for their teachers to finish filling out report cards, a little face-painting and frozen-treat outing might soothe a lot of pre-report card angst. The cafe is at 2142 N Halsted Street.

Lori Barrett

Dessert Fri May 29 2009

Wanted: Your Cookie Genius

If you're like me (meaning, you have little to no self control when it comes to sweets), you've been guilty of making an emergency run to Whole Foods not for organic wheat germ or Acai berries, but for one of the way-inappropriately sized Carol's Cookies sold in their bakery. (Toffee Crunch is my fave.) Recently, I learned Carol's has been making these half-pound beauties in the Chicago area since 1979 - the year of my birth. Coincidence? I think not.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Carol's recently put out a call asking loyal fans to submit ideas for the company's next cookie flavor. (Yes, the winners get free cookies. Stick with me here.) To participate, visit Carol's Web site or join the new Facebook fan page, "Carol's Cookies Giant Cookie Club." The contest starts June 1 and runs through Aug. 12, 2009.

After reviewing all entries, Carol's bakers will select the top five flavors and spend four weeks perfecting the recipes at the Carol's cookie factory. The five finalists' recipes will be judged on Sept. 15, 2009, at the Carol's factory by Carol Goldman (yes, the Carol), and foodies Katrina Markoff of Vosges Haut-Chocolat, Marc Shulman of Eli's Cheesecake, Bryant Keil of Potbelly's Sandwich Works, and restaurant critic Sherman Kaplan from WBBM AM 780 radio.

The winner will receive a year's supply of free cookies, as well as virtual applause from the online universe. Oh, and the champ also gets to be guest baker for two days at Carol's Cookies Highland Park bakery. The runners-up even get some cookie dough. So what more can I say, people: Cookie it up!

Mandy Burrell Booth / Comments (1)

Dessert Mon May 11 2009

Flower Shopping Made Easy

The queasy period of spring, when we don't know if a heat wave or a blizzard is waiting around the corner, has ended. I put away my winter boots just this past week. It felt great. So great, in fact, that I decided to pick up some annuals for my porch.

I made it to Adams and Sons, a Humboldt Park garden supply that is housed in a deceivingly small building--as I wandered around (for way too long) checking out row after row of plants and gadgets, I got hungry and realized that Tipsycake was only a few doors south. And that it was open. I took a break from my overwhelming petunia shopping.

When the bakery opened a few years ago, Tipsycake was known for its Lamingtons, an Australian treat that is a square of white cake with a layer of raspberry jam and coated with chocolate and flaked coconut. Perhaps they're the answer to our Hostess Sno-Balls: reportedly they're as common as donuts Down Under. For good reason, a pile of Lamingtons still dominates Tipsycake's daily offerings: they're awesome. I was concerned that the chocolate would have a Ding Dong-esqe waxy coating, and instead it was a blessedly thin layer of (real) chocolate glaze. The flavors are not overwhelming but it made me wish I could seven more of these, even if they don't look like the delight they actually are.

I went back to the flower place and was able to figure out the color scheme for my potted impatiens in seconds. I credit the cake.

Robyn Nisi

Business Tue Apr 21 2009

Ben & Jerry's: Free Cone Day

Stop by Ben & Jerry's today to receive a free cone. Participating Chicago area locations include:

Ben & Jerry's Navy Pier
700 East Grand Ave.

Ben & Jerry's Navy Pier Kiosk
600 East Grand Avenue

Ben & Jerry's Oak Park
1025 West Lake Street

Ben & Jerry's Evanston
1634 Orrington Ave.

Gemma Petrie

Event Wed Apr 01 2009

Serious Fake Pie

Hoosier Mama Pie's Paula Haney will share the ovens today with cooking personality Bertha Mason. The pair will be making mock apple pie -- which isn't an April Fool's joke at all, but a Depression era cost-cutting classic -- at the store, 1618-1/2 W. Chicago Ave., from noon to 4pm. Stop in for a taste and a laugh.

Andrew Huff

Business Mon Mar 30 2009

The Yogurt Invasion Continues

Perhaps in time for the warm weather that's due any day now, another Korean frozen yogurt shop is rolling into town. Red Mango, which has set up shop in Evanston and Naperville, has a cheery HELP WANTED sign covering a storefront window on Clark Street, just above Diversey--probably at the exact latitude in the city's grid system as YoBerri, a few short blocks away on Halsted Street. Last year, after the suburban locations opened, both Time Out Chicago and Chicago magazine named Red Mango the best probiotic frozen treat. Now we have to wait and see which will arrive first: the "fresh" and "bright" frozen yogurt or the fresh and bright spring we're waiting for.

Lori Barrett / Comments (1)

Dessert Fri Mar 27 2009

Vosges "The Green Collection" truffles are here for Spring

Vosges has their "Green Collection" for Spring available now in their boutiques and on linevosges green.jpg.

The collection includes:
Ellateria - Indian green cardamom + dark chocolate + white poppy seeds
Kaffir - Thai kaffir lime + fresh coconut + dark chocolate
Kayoko - Japanese macha green tea + white chocolate + cherry blossom petals
Buddha's Leaf - Malaysian pandan leaves + dark chocolate + cocoa powder

Green Truffle Collection, $28-$42

Vosges is also making great strides in eco-conscious production. Their shipping department uses air-filled bags that are made from 100% post-consumer waste and are biodegradable as opposed to styrofoam peanuts. Vosges manufactures their products using 100% renewable energy and heir boutiques in Chicago, New York and Las Vegas run on 100% renewable energy as well. Catalogs are printed with paper from a mill in the USA that is 10% post-consumer waste and certified for sustainability.

So you can feel good about all that chocolate you snarf down.

951 W Armitage
520 N Michigan (North Bridge Mall)

Christine Blumer

Dessert Sat Mar 21 2009

Dessert Pig: Coco Rouge's Andalucia Bar

I am as big a fan of the bacon in dessert trend as anybody can be. I've consumed chocolate-dipped bacon from Bleeding Heart, bacon candy bars, bacon-maple cupcakes from More, bacon-fat gingersnaps, and bacon brittle; I've made bacon-fat truffles (thank you, Schwa, for giving me your recipe) and bacon baklava. The last four items in this list were all consumed at a Baconalia party.

But I have a little secret: my favorite sweet involving a pork product doesn't involve bacon at all. It involves chorizo.

Coco Rouge is already well-known for their Carnassier bar, using maple-cured bacon. I prefer their Andalucia bar, which has been out for some time, but hasn't received the same attention. The base of the bar is a bittersweet chocolate with Aleppo pepper; in the chocolate, there are bits of honey-sweet toffee studded with small morsels of chorizo. The overall effect is mostly sweet, with an occasional burst of smoky, savory sausage. The pepper used in the chocolate is a terrific counterpoint to the chorizo. I'm not sure sausage would work in many of the other desserts where bacon can be used (sausage baklava?), but in this case, the combination is perfect.

Leah Williams

GB store

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...
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