Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Taste ~ Eat ~ Enjoy

The day started out a bit late, late enough for lunch.  Portillo's Hot Dogs (don't let the name fool you) is a Chicago institution.  Yes, it is a chain restaurant with four different styles and yes they are even out of state (California and Indiana).  Italian Beef and the chop salad are highly on our "must have again" list.

While this is not a real cake, it is one of the items on display at the Navy Pier's exhibition of stained glass.

We found that Mondays are the day that some bakeries (and restaurants) are closed, but this window display at Bittersweet Pastry caught our eye.

Dinkel's Bakery on Lincoln Ave has been in operation since 1922.  It's  a traditional bakery with tons of cookies, pastries and cakes. For us, the almond bearclaw, cinnamon roll and hot cross bun really hit the spot.

This poppyseed swirl loaf came from Austrian Bakery and Deli on Clark St.  We were there just a bit after the lunch rush, and most of the morning pastries were sold out, but it is definitely a great bakery/deli in the European style.

La Farine Bakery is a small European bakery located in the West Town neighborhood, the Almond Mocha slice and a double espresso (so far the best in Chicago) was just the mid-afternoon jolt we needed.  Their website unfortunately does not have much information.

La Farine Bakery

Cakes take center stage at Pierre's Bakery on North Milwaukee Ave. They have three locations and  specialize in European artesian breads. Wedding cakes birthday cakes, sweet 16 cakes, Gelato, French pastries, cookies, Mexican and American pastries.

Pierre's Bakery Case

It was later in the afternoon when we finally got back to Pasieka Bakery located just doors from the Polish restaurant we had dinner at the other night.  Both are located in the Polish/Logan Square neighborhood on North Milwaukee Ave.

We walked and walked...to and from L stations...and back again....for a very full (chilly) day!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A weekend in Chicago

A classic Chicago River view of downtown Chicago.
It's still cold but it's clear here in "The Windy City." Larry spent Saturday and Sunday at Kendall College at a class on "American Baking in the Heartland"sponsored by the Bread Bakers Guild of America. Gerry spent the two days trying to keep warm while walking through (and taking pictures) of downtown Chicago....where there's a phenomenal variety of architectural styles.

Among the bakery items made during the class were (clockwise from left) strawberry-whipped cream pazckis (Polish-style filled donuts), apple strudel, bienenstich (German pastry cream-whipped cream filled pastries with candied almond topping, custard-filled pazckis, and fruit filed kolachkys. Unfortunately, most of the items are too time-intensive to fit into our market production schedule.

Instructor Jory Downer, owner of Bennison's Bakery, Evanston, stretches paper-thin strudel dough

Streusel-topped apple pie --- delicious and baked in a brown paper bag.

New and old architectural styles are side-by-side throughout the city.

The Chicago Tribune tower from Michigan Avenue

Four (elevated) L train lines circle "The Loop" providing good service to most parts of the city.

The second most visited tourist spot in Chicago is Milennium Park built over Illinois Central Railroad tracks. It's an amazing space with all sorts of interesting features including the "Cloud Gate" sculpture. 

A view of Lake Shore Drive and Lake Michigan from the top of the John Hancock Center, the city's second tallest building.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bakeries and the University of Chicago

On our early jaunt (cold and windy) we headed to Bennison's Bakery in Evanston.  The owner, Jory Downer is teaching the class Larry is taking this today and Sunday.  Their bakery is very traditional, can you say Crumb Cakes, Danish, and the most amazing red-velvet donuts!!!

Next stop was Pasticceria Natalina, a small gem Italian bakery tucked along North Clark Street. The two owners were there, and we so enjoyed their wit and beautiful products.

Owner, Natalina starting the day's baking.

Simple but very elegant!

A suggestion was to check out Sweet Mandy B's in Lincoln Park, a very cute bakery/cupcake shop. They are a super busy place, and we could see why.

We met up with Whidbey Island friends Nicole and Luke, it was great to catch up, and they showed us around the University of Chicago campus on the city's south side. What incredible architecture on a campus about five blocks from President Obama's Chicago home.

On the way home (by train from the Hyde Park neighborhood) we walked along Michigan Avenue. It was after dark and the clear night offered some wonderful opportunities to see classic landmark buildings.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day one in Chicago

We're in Chicago for a Bread Bakers Guild class on Midwestern Baking....and we're spending a bit of off time exploring the city where Larry was born -- and lived -- until he was in seventh grade .... a long, long, long (yes, it was) time ago. Our plane was held up in Seattle 2.75 hours by weather delays in Chicago...and blustery weather continued Wednesday. As I write this, it's snowing... We bought a seven-day transit pass and are taking L-trains and busses all over. Our place --- the Affinia Hotel --- is two blocks from the Chicago Water Tower (and four blocks from Lake Michigan).

Low clouds present a gray view from our room.

The "L" Red line train is elevated in much of the city but underground in the Loop

Many, many years ago Mary Ellen (my sister) and I and our mom and dad lived in this small place on Kostner Avenue --- across the street from the Milwaukee Road railway --- now a Metra train route.

Big chocolate bar at the Hershey's Store nearby. We didn't buy it (or any!)

The line-up was halfway down the block and two cars deep as downtown customers waited in line for drive-through service at Portillo's Hot Dogs. Half a dozen car hops handed out menus to speed service as the lines continued during the busy hours.

We haven't found any Seattle's Best Coffee Shops, but they must be around because there sure are a lot of billboards advertising them. This one was across the street from this the biggest McDonald's we've ever seen. Get a load of those (above, below)

We hadn't planned to go, but we were near Ed Debevic's about lunch-time and so we stopped in for a delicious Midwest meal: Gerry had a hot dog and fries. I had a cheeseburger and fries...and we shared a greasy side of onion rings. Food was okay but the show was great --- sassy (you might even say rude) waitresses sashayed around the place taking orders and insulting guests with gusto. Our waitress delivered our plates and said "don't bother me any more...After all, I don't go to your place of business and inerrupt you while you're working." Quite a place.

L tracks run above city streets. Stations are a maze of lines.

And, of course, the city's filled with great architecture....old, new and re-newed buildings line every street.