Category Archives: thick

Sweet on Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

Valentine’s Day cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery

Whether you’ve got a honey or not, you gotta love Valentine’s Day for the sheer abundance of sweets that seem to find their way to your desk (OK, maybe it’s just my desk at Plate). If you’re looking for a last-minute gift, or want to show yourself some love. Here are my current favorite Chicago sweets in no particular order.
1) Goddess and Grocer red velvet cupcakes. I have always had a weak spot for red velvet, well anything, but the cupcakes here have some sort of hypnotic hold on me.
2). Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, too, but mostly it’s the banana pudding here that rocks my world, as well as the old-school bakery vibe, flourless chocolate cake and more.
3). Speaking of banana pudding, I’m also currently in love with the banana pudding dessert at Fat Rice. I can’t explain its deliciousness, just get it.
4). Key lime pie at Shaw’s. Their two-bite desserts are the perfect guilt-free indulgence.
5). Chocolate chess pie at Hoosier Mama..holy yum.
6). Crème brûlée doughnut from Glazed and Infused. Imagine the crackly shell of crème brûlée over a vanilla doughnut with creamy vanilla curd on the inside. It’s completely redic.
7). The mocha panna cotta from Balena, a explosion of chocolate, banana, hazelnut crunch and brownie.
8). Asparagus flan at Macku…sounds gross, is truly divine. An oldie but a goodie.
9). Sea salt brownie bites at Trader Joe’s. OK, sea salt/chocolate anything.
10). 75% dark chocolate bars of any brand, kind or shape.

Share in the comments what sweet treat you’ll be sharing with your boo, or indulging in solo…



Filed under Best bite, red velvet cupcake report, thick

My Best Eats of 2011

Smoked steak tartare at Henri

So another tasty year is coming to a close, and while my newfound hobby of cooking at home has certainly caused my dining out habits to suffer this year, I definitely had my fill of best bites in Chicago and beyond. It’s so hard to recall them all..but here are the top ten in no particular order…here’s to more delicious bites in 2012!

1. Reese Pieces macaroons by Sweet spot macaroons.
2. Bittersweet chocolate cake with shiitake gelato at Girl and & Goat
3. Baja shrimp bruschetta at GT Fish & Oyster Bar
4. Duck breast at Next, Paris 1906
5. Hors d’œuvres tray at Next, Paris 1906
6. Turkey leg at The Purple Pig
7. Green Day Live juice at Peeled
8. Smoked steak tartare with quail egg at Henri
9. Lamb shank, Central, Las Vegas
10. Salmon rillets, everything bagel at Ardeo & Bardeo, Washington, D.C.

Turkey leg excellence at the Purple Pig


Filed under Best bite, I like to eats, thick

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

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Filed under Best bite, I like to eats, thick

Guest blog post: JenyLee CupCakery

Last Friday night I attended my friend’s birthday party where his fiance surprised him on stage of the show she was performing in with a song, and a cupcake topped with a plastic Superman ring and a lit candle. Yes, we are talking about a 37-year-old man, but it wasn’t the superhero theme of it all I was hating on, it was the store-bought cupcake. Dry, crumbly, bland, almost cornmeal-y, with sticky strangely red frosting.. we all unfortunately got one. Luckily our own superhero accessory on top saved the day (I rocked my Spidey ring for the rest of the night). But it reminded me of two things: one, that that no matter their age, guys will always be obsessed with Superheroes, and two… that I hadn’t had a good cupcake in far too when Amber Gibson decided to blog about Naperville-based JenyLee CupCakery for her second guest post..I was thrilled…and even more so that she did her post interview-style… and cool is the word “cupcakery”?

Hazelnut mocha

“I’m obsessed with cupcakes and I’m kind of a floozy when it comes to Chicago’s cupcake bakeries. I’ll try any and all of them, and if there’s a new flavor, I’ve got to have it too. I never thought much of the suburban cupcake scene though. That is, until I tried my first JenyLee Cupcakery delivery-only cupcake. I was impressed by how moist all of her cakes are and her creative flavors.

Of the cupcakes I sampled, Peanut Butter Candy and Key Lime were my favorite. Key Lime was the perfect ode to the end of summer, while the peanut butter, which I was afraid might be too rich, was just right. Reese’s pieces inside and on top were the perfect touch to this decadent cupcake.

Cherry Chocolate Chip was like Cherry Garcia (my favorite ice cream flavor) in a cupcake and inspired me to do some baking of my own with fresh cherries. Next time, I need to try her Tiramisu, Pistachio and Salted Caramel flavors. Salted Caramel is JenyLee’s flavor of the month, with a portion of the proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Jeny Lee of JenyLee CupCakery

Past life: Project manager at Tellab’s for 13 years

Café du Monde moment: Jeny was inspired by the success of New Orlean’s famous Cafe du Monde, which sells just beignets and coffee. “Why do I have to do cakes? Dinosaurs and Dora? I don’t have to do any of that stuff. I can do what I do best.” Mardi Gras colors also inspired her website.

Milestone: June 2011 marked her one-year anniversary, and JenyLee Cupcakery is still a one-woman show. “ It’s still hard, I’m still at a make or break point. Cash flow is becoming an issue, but I’m going to stick it out as long as I can.”

Brick-and-mortar: While her own bakery is still in the works, you can soon taste JenyLee’s cupcakes at the SciTech Hands On Museum. The perfect solution for those who want to buy just one or two cupcakes as opposed to ordering by the half-dozen.

Favorite Chicago cupcakery: Molly’s Cupcakes. “Molly’s has not failed me ever.”

New flavor: French Toast. “There’ll be maple syrup and bacon. I want to get it out there before anyone steals my idea!”

Peanut butter candy

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Filed under guest blogger, red velvet cupcake report, thick

Speaking of Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse…

A tour and tasting there this week had me salivating over shrimp and grits, crispy chicken and waffles, juicy bone-in rib-eye and a shrimp “garbage” salad with 23 ingredients, but my favorite bite by far was the crispy, golden, buttery and extra garlic-y garlic bread doused with a melty Wisconsin blue cheese fondue. Besides the fact that MJ’s is a pretty stunning restaurant with a contemporary bridge that brings you up and close and personal with the InterContinental’s historic lobby ceiling, and separates the dining rooms, it may be the best reason to make a reservation. Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312.655.2300

Garlic bread with Ader Käse Reserve Blue Cheese fondue

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Filed under Best bite, new restaurants, thick

Peninsula 10th Anniversary

Chicago picked the right week to finally warm up. Not only did NoMi in the Park Hyatt kick off the post-Memorial Day week with a swank party for their reopening and redesign, but the Peninsula celebrated 10 years last night with a blow-out celebration throughout the hotel. From steamed bao, dumplings and spring rolls in Shanghai Terrace to a sushi and raw bar station on the Terrace and a caviar (oy, not kidding!) bar that we couldn’t really tear ourselves from, there was fabulous food everywhere we looked
… just a few highlights from the never-ending eats…

The Pen celebrates 10

Alaskan King Crab with trout roe

The spread at the caviar bar

More caviar for the tasting

The dessert spread begins

Double-stacked doughnuts

Fruit macaroons

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Filed under ..and more, thick

Ode to the doughnut

I noticed an abundance of doughnut shots leaving their sugary mark on my iphoto, and decided to compile a few I’ve been lucky enough to try lately. Seemed appropriate, what with the white-hot Doughnut Vault I’m still dying to check out (do you really need to get in line at 7AM? Oy!), Dirty Betty’s doughnuts setting up shop in the Cookie Bar space today, and well, last weekend’s discovery that the doughnuts at The Portage are fried in duck fat. Yep. Anyway, a few to drool over below, and check out a few that cast their own doughnut-y voodoo long ago here..

Famous line-waiting doughnut holes at Lou Mitchell's

Old Town Social beignets with bourbon-spiked cream sauce

Duck fat doughnuts with chocolate sauce at The Portage


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Guest blog: Baconfest 2011

While I am not fast enough to jump on Baconfest 2011 tickets, my dedicated readers are! So when Jacky Hackett of cooking blog guessed her second post correctly, (this time the mystery goat), she asked if a post on Baconfest would be, er, Kosher? Since I didn’t get to bask in the bacon-ocity, I was happy to get her full report as well as some mouth-watering photos below…

Baconfest 2011 and the crowd is ready to go hog-wild

“My husband and I were lucky enough to score tickets to Baconfest 2011. Baconfest is four hours of bacon goodness with some of Chicago’s greatest chefs preparing amazing dishes, and a few liquor sponsors provided drinks featuring bacon. But it’s not only about the swine, a food-drive is run at the event and a portion of the Baconfest proceeds are donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

We arrived at the UIC Forum to find a line winding around the block. Bacon fans poured over the menu to plot their strategy for working their way through the fest. The menu was an amazing read with offerings like bacon cotton candy, bacon biscotti, bacon-stuffed bacon, applewood smoked bourbon bacon jam, BLT martinis and bacon-infused rum. With more than 50 dishes it was a bit overwhelming; you truly did need a strategy.

We managed to hit about two-thirds of the stations. Even though servings were small, we got quite full after just a handful of dishes. A few of the chefs were out of food before we got to them, some just weren’t appealing enough to add to our overly full bellies, and a few we just overlooked. Choosing a favorite would be like choosing a favorite child, it just can’t be done…but here are a few we’re still thinking about..

Old Town Social (Jared Vancamp) served a Triple S Farms smoked bacon wrapped around a Monterey Jack-stuffed hot dog topped with pickled jalapeños, salsa fresco, and a lime aïoli. The hot dog can only be described as smooth, the bacon gave it a great smoky flavor and the toppings added a nice freshness.

Tijuana Hog Dog

Lillie’s Q (Charlie McKenna) served a pork belly and grit hash with a smoked gulf shrimp, bacon, on top of an ENC vinegar sauce. The pork belly and vinegar sauce were a match made in heaven and the grits were creamy and rich dotted with bits of bacon.

We also loved crispy pork belly with grilled ramps, peas, and farro drizzled with bacon agrodolce served by Gamba Ristorante (Tony Graves). Not only was it good-looking but the pork belly was cooked to perfection. The sweet and sour of the agrodolce balanced the rich fatty belly perfectly.

Pork belly with farro

Magnolia Café (Kas Medhat) served their interpretation of Pork’n’Beans; white bean spread topped with thick cut bacon and greens on a sourdough bread.

Terzo Piano (Margaret Colleran Sahs) served an empanada with Dreymiller and Kray cinnamon bacon, dried seedling strawberry, toasted almond with a salsa verde. The empanada had just the right amount of sweetness with a touch of savory in the salsa verde. My husband described it as tasting like Christmas. We left the fest happy, full, clothes smelling faintly of bacon, and in desperate need of a nap.”  — Jacky Hackett


Filed under guest blogger, hot dog hunt, mystery spot, thick