Category Archives: bakeries

5 cool December-in-Chicago happenings

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We hate to admit it, but for many of us the holidays are an official excuse to overindulge ourselves – in sweets, in over-the-top decor, in food and wine. And why not? That’s why New Year’s comes right after the holidays, right? So we can make resolutions to lose the weight, get back in shape, forego ice cream or booze or whatever our particular downfalls might be.  So here are a few ideas to get you started overindulging – and one for helping save the farmers while you eat healthy.
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  1. Naha quiche

    Cocoa + Co., 1651 N. Wells St., debuts a new savory café menu in partnership with Michelin-starred Naha’s Pastry Chef Craig Harzewski. The Old Town café just started offering a rotating selection of flavors to reflect the season: Empanadas ($5.50) – Duck, squash and cannelloni bean or Ratatouille; Quiche Tart ($5.75) with bacon and chard or without bacon; Gluten Free Baked Oats ($4.50) – apples, raisins and house-made plum preserves. Also, Chef Harzewski will now be crafting Coca + Co.’s signature items like Apricot Oat Cookies, Salted Big Chip Cookies, Inside-Out German Chocolate Cake, Salted Caramel Brownies and more.

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2. Hilton Chicago, 720 S. Michigan, is sporting a giant gingerbread hotel with city skyline, as well as extravagant décor for the holiday. The gingerbread hotel stands over six feet tall and took three pastry chefs more than 270 hours to create using 380 pounds of flour, 280 pounds of powdered sugar. Celebrating the building’s 90th anniversary, Executive Chef Mario Garcia this year added to the Chicago skyline display that includes gingerbread replicas of famous landmarks like the John Hancock, Willis Tower, The Bean and more. Watch a time-lapse video here. And check out the hotel’s iconic decorations – the 24 ft. Christmas tree with thousands of metallic ornaments, 2000 inches of decorated garland, a 30”-diameter Poinsettia kissing ball, and 60-foot wreaths throughout the hotel. 60 FEET!? Wow.

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3. Maggiano’s, 516 N. Clark St., is now offering its Holiday Lunch Family Style. Enjoy the riches of Maggiano’s menu while you celebrate the holidays together. Check out their lunch menu – warm and comforting food without the hassles of cooking and serving yourself. Family style lunch only available November 27th to December 29th, Monday-Friday 11am – 3pm. $19.95 per person, $12.95 for kids ages 5-12.

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Peninsula chocolate bar

The Peninsula Chicago and Executive Pastry Chef Dimitri Fayard present ‘Chocolate at The Pen,’ Chicago’s premier chocolate bar in The Lobby at The Peninsula Chicago, accompanied by live jazz music by Stephanie Browning. Friday and Saturday evenings from 7 to 10:30pm. Pick from a selection of one- and two-bite elegant chocolate desserts and petite chocolate delicacies or a hot chocolate station. Call for reservations 312.573.6695 or e-mail diningPCH@peninsula.com.

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5, Imperfect. One in five fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. don’t meet the strict cosmetic standards of grocery stores, usually causing them to go to waste on the farm. The curvy carrot, the miniature cherry and the oddly-shaped orange are all delicious and nutritious, but are often left to rot in fields or sent to the local landfill.

Why? To eliminate food waste, help farmers benefit from a full harvest and make healthy fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable. Each customized box is filled with a variety of organic or conventional ugly fruits and vegetables priced at 30 to 50 percent below grocery rates, grown regionally and shipped from Imperfect’s Northlake, IL distribution center. Choose boxes for singles or families, and customize the mix of fruits and veggies in your box each week. Chicago residents can sign up for the new delivery service, that launches Monday, December 4.
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Brunch, Bourbon and Bake in bonny Wicker Park

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Wicker Park is one of the hottest ‘hoods in Chicago these days. New restaurants and bars are constantly popping up, as existing establishments tweak their offerings to attract even more business. Here are a couple of cool places to check out on Division St.

Brunch at Bourbon on Division – Tasso Belly Hash

Bourbon on Division, 2050 W. Division,  serving only brunch (11 to 5pm) and dinner, offers a forward-thinking and innovative Southern-style menu of dishes that are made from scratch and change with the seasons. Check out some of these brunch items:

  • Grilled Walnut-Sweet Potato Bread Pudding ($15) with bourbon apple honey and spinach frisee Salad
  • Spicy Pecan Fried Chicken ($16) with a corn waffle, collard greens and bourbon apple honey
  • Grilled Shrimp and White Cheddar Grits ($16) with smoked tomato gravy, wilted spinach and celery leaves

Whether you eat at one of the two bars or on the elevated dining space, you can select your beverage from their craft beer selection or imbibe in one of their craft cocktails like Blackberry Julep ($10) with Buffalo Trace, blackberry-mint simple syrup and prosecco; Helluva Way To Wake Up ($10) with Old Forester, iced coffee, honey-rosemary syrup and whipped bourbon cream; or Basic Bitch ($10) with Tito’s, plum bitters, cranberry, simple syrup and press.

Whipped bourbon cream? Adding this to our must-try list.

Bake 4th of July cake

Bake° Bakery, 2246 W. North Ave. in Wicker Park, has a way with sweets to help Chicagoans celebrate summer and every other season. This year for Fourth of July they created a stacked American flag cake. Sorry, it was only available for the holiday, but it gives you a good idea of what they can do.  The cake consisted of 6 layers of vibrantly-colored red, white and blue cake and a thick layer of Bake°’s signature Vanilla Bean Buttercream sandwiched between each layer. Happily, they do stuff like this all year around.  This  picture ought to  get your tastebuds riled up.

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