Category Archives: I like to eats

Magnolia Bakery

Sure, everyone knows that NYC-based Magnolia Bakery (which landed in the Windy City’s Block 37 early fall) is all about the line-around-the-block-wait-worthy cupcakes, but what about mini red velvet cheesecake, old-fashioned ice box cake and the famous banana pudding? Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Devil’s food cake cupcakes with meringue icing, but within the pastel-hued old-school bakery confines of this bakery are so many other sweet treats…and espresso to boot, it’s worth a stop before your next holiday shindig. Magnolia Bakery, 108 N. State Street.

Devil's food cupcakes with meringue icing

Hannukah cupcakes...who knew?

Chocolate cookies

Banana pudding and red velvet cheesecake

Ice box cake

Mini cheesecakes


Leave a comment

Filed under great for date, I like to eats, red velvet cupcake report, Take the 'rents

Chocolate parfait at Balsan

A Feast on Fashion luncheon at Balsan in the Elysian had me both drooling over the fall clothes that’ll be available at the soon-to-open Gold Coast location of Perchance boutique, as well as the chocolate parfait I ordered for dessert. Served in a mason jar, silky smooth cool chocolate custard was mixed with thick chunks of chocolate brownies and crispy chocolate candy pieces. Slowly melting over it all was a quenelle of super-fresh housemade mint chip ice cream and a green mint sprig. Of you don’t need an exclusive fashion lunch to dig into this dessert perfection, head to Balsan to dig in and get your drool on…maybe after fall clothes shopping… 11 E. Walton.

Chocolate parfait

Leave a comment

Filed under Best bite, I like to eats, thick

Salted Caramel popsicles

I love me some pop-up shops, especially when they involve things like dark chocolate pudding and kicky Mexican mole coming together in one velvety, homemade popsicle. Salted Caramel confections set up shop for one day last weekend in Lincoln Square, where they doled out small-batch offerings of other popsicle flavors like cherry-cucumber, Thai Mango curry yogurt made with coconut milk, and granitas in flavors like watermelon-coriander and orange-lime. Unlike the sickly sweet popsicles of your past (remember push-ups? Blech), you can taste the actual flavors rather than syrupy sugar. And balancing ingredients like mole, curry and Greek yogurt infuse the perfect amount of a savory, while dark chocolate and coconut milk keep things sweet. Check out their Facebook page to find out where to stock up on Salted Caramel pops, and pop-ups.

Chocolate-mole pudding popsicle

Other Salted Caramel goodies

Leave a comment

Filed under Best bite, I like to eats

ChiaTe Taiwanese cakes

What could be better than an awesome intern? One who brings ChiaTe cakes to the office, of course. I had never heard of these little packaged fruit cakes from Taiwan before, and immediately fell in love at first bite with their dense, cake-y texture and and chewy fruit center that actually tastes like the fruit (think moist, fresh, homemade fig newtons without the subtle processed cardboard flavor). I tried kiwi and pineapple, and apparently they make pineapple walnut cakes and sweet melon biscuits. A perfect snack, gorgeous packaging and not-too-sweet so you don’t end up taking a bite and tossing the rest. You won’t be able to read a g’damn thing on it, but the company Web site is as cool as these little cakes.

ChiaTe pineapple pastry

A surprisingly fresh street snack from Taiwan

ChiaTe kiwi melon pastry

Leave a comment

Filed under I like to eats

Sarah’s Pastries & Candies

The cupcakes just keep on a-coming to the Gold Coast, but I still love the old-standbys like Goddess and Grocer for red velvets, and Sarah’s for monthly cupcake specials like the coconut cake with velvety-smooth passionfruit buttercream (available through the end of April). Other more year-round Sarah’s stand-bys below…Sarah’s Pastries & Candies, 70 E. Oak Street

Coconut cake with passionfruit buttercream

French macaroons

Rocky Road and Royaltine chocolate-enrobed treats

Chocolate ice cream bars imported from Zarlengo's

Leave a comment

Filed under I like to eats

Co-op Hot Sauce

My first dining experience at BYOB restaurant, Treat, in Logan Square was also officially my last. The laid-back restaurant shut its doors this past weekend after five successful years of serving up a Indian-inspired, global menu of dishes like chicken tikka masala, panko-crusted crabcakes, scallops and fall-off-the-bone Mint Creek Farm lamb chop to the neighborhood. I loved it.. I mean, where had it been all my life? More specifically the last five years when I never knew it was there. Alas, I did get to enjoy one of their last nights of dinner service with friends, when I was also introduced to another hidden local gem, Co-Op Hot Sauce. Seated next to me at the group table was the founder and hot-sauce “doctor” Mike Bancroft, who plunked down a bottle of original sauce when he sat down. While I have marveled at famous hot sauce collections before, I’ve never been a keep-the-fridge-stocked-with-Tabasco type, but I had to give the original, locally made, smoky formula a try, especially when a platter of golden, glistening fried calamari came to the table just waiting for a dousing. Turns out Co-Op was already used in a number of Treat recipes, but it was the smoky, dense and not too-spicy dipping sauce the calamari craved. Besides the original, Co-Op offers habañero spicy green or red jalapeño and other boldly flavored rubs and sauces made with ingredients grown in kid-run gardens on the West Side. And with proceeds going to help youth arts and community service initiatives in and around Humboldt Park, there’s no reason not to pick a bottle or three online, or watch for Co-Op at Whole Foods and Farmer’s Markets this summer.

Co-op hot sauce

Leave a comment

Filed under ..and more, I like to eats

Sweet on Girl & the Goat

I mean, who isn’t? If you’ve been lucky enough to dine at the James Beard Award nominated-restaurant, you understand the deliciousness that is Stephanie Izard’s hiramasa crudo, goat, veal and pork sugo, housemade bread slathered with f’ing chicken liver butter (I mean, sweet Jesus), and every other savory dish served up by a killer staff. But lately it’s the sweet side of the menu that has me clamoring to repeatedly score a last minute seat at a communal dining table. And even when that does happen (try after 9:30PM early in the week), and you think you’re too full for dessert, the menu arrives taunting you with evil promises of bourbon apples with maple fat gelato and sesame semifreddo with pork fat donuts. Just like the savory side of the menu, these surprising flavor and ingredient combinations take the desserts at G & G off the charts..namely two I was lucky enough to enjoy in the last few weeks. The first is the blood orange sorbet with parsnip pot de crème, moist pistachio cake, crumbly cornmeal crust and a cluster of crisp candied parsnips that (in this photo) mask the perfection that is this dessert (photo does not do justice, just go, order before its taken off, repeat).

Blood orange sorbet with parsnip pot de crème

Just when one vegetable-tinged dessert blew me away, along came another just this past weekend, the bittersweet chocolate with shiitake gelato, mushroom gastrique and toffee crème fraîche. The wacky combo seems a little too out there to work and it does get just a little messy on the plate, but no matter—the balance of bittersweet chocolate cake, hefty scoop of just slightly mushroom-flavored gelato (it’s actually delicious on its own), subtle mushroom gastrique and crunchy bits of toffee and a drizzle of rich crème fraîche is so rich and perfect it’s downright ridiculous, and currently on top 5 favorite desserts of all time. Girl & the Goat, 809 W. Randolph St., 312.492.6262

The bittersweet chocolate cake with shiitake gelato might be the best dessert at shiitake.

1 Comment

Filed under Best bite, great for date, I like to eats

5411 Empanadas

From meaty balls to naan sandwiches, there’s an army of delicious food trucks milling about the city, but I rarely spot one, well, parked anyway, especially right outside my office. So you can imagine my delight when rumors of a big blue truck stocked with flaky, fresh-baked Argentine empanadas parked outside began filtering through the office. I know the idea is to follow something as delicious at 5411 empanadas on Twitter, but hey, sometimes if you’re lucky (or if someone in the office above you makes a special request for a lunchtime appearance) they pull right up with hot empanadas like beef, barbecued chicken, ham and cheese, spinach and cheese and $1.99 a pop. About half an hour after we all stocked up on these hot little pockets, the truck was gone…onto North and Clybourn to feed hungry Apple store browsers. As spring finally decides to show up, this is one truck (of many) I’ll be eager to track down around town.

Empanadas on the run

Corn empanada

Leave a comment

Filed under I like to eats, new restaurants, quick lunch, random spottings