If you want to get your fix of gourmet mini donuts from Beavers Coffee & Donuts, you normally look to their website or Twitter to find the food truck’s location and hours. But once Beavers opens its first storefront restaurant in the Chicago French Market in early January, you’ll know where and when to get your hot breakfast on demand.
Since the Beavers truck opened in December of last year, requests for its catering service—and for donuts after the truck’s weekday morning-through-lunch hours—grew so rapidly that co-owners Gabriel Wiesen and Jim Nuccio started planning an expansion this summer. “Logistically, it makes sense to have a storefront in conjunction with a food truck,” Wiesen says. “Being able to facilitate those requests was really hard without a store.”
Operating a food truck makes starting a brick-and-mortar restaurant a much easier task. For starters, the idea has already been tested: Food-truck owners know what sells, know who their customers are and, when scouting for locations, know where their customer-base lives. They already are making money, and they’ve built a brand that can attract investors. Read the rest of this entry »
Owner, Hoosier Mama Pie Company
If anyone can take over the world one bite at a time, Haney, armed with her incredibly flaky crusted sweet and savory pies, is definitely poised to do it. Everything we’ve ever eaten here, be it jiggly banana cream or custardy quiche, is one of the best things we ever put in our mouth.
We all know from the card and chocolate crowd that Valentine’s Day is the ultimate time for making sweet overtures to the one we love, a chance to find respite from the deep-winter chill in the arms of another. And playing on that theme, chef Nate Meads of Fritz Pastry offers a Valentine’s Day dinner that is as sugary as it is intimate.
Meads has an exceptional resume as a pastry chef, having previously made sweet things for such prestigious establishments as Blue Water Grill, Tru, Everest Room and Brasserie Jo. He left the restaurant biz, however, in order to carve out his own piece of the pie (no pun intended), starting Fritz Pastry, 1408 West Diversey,
in May of 2009, and it’s a testament to Meads’ talent that he’s been able to get the little boutique patisserie off the ground in the middle of a recession. And after more than a year and a half of excellent service to the community, Fritz has racked up a fair amount of buzz. While you might have heard about their killer macarons, Meads’ favorite Fritz production is his chocolate croissant. “I tend to eat at least one a day, to keep me warm in winter,” confesses Meads. Read the rest of this entry »
Just as a baby’s first Christmas receives a special spot in the scrapbook and on the tree, a bakery’s first holiday season can distinguish it from the burgeoning crowd of cupcakes, cookies and confections.
Finance manager by day, Michelle Olszewski has been offering her cookies as collateral at client meetings and regular office hours for years. When coworkers, friends and family went bonkers over her sweet and tangy strawlemon cookie concoction last year, Olszewski said, “Why don’t we do this? It would be fun and people already love it, so let’s extend it. Let’s make it into a real business.”
Hey! Sugar’s cutely named staples include the award-winning Strawlemon (strawberry bits in a lemon cookie), Choc3, (triple chocolate), PC Toasty (gluten-free pineapple macaroons), the Boyfriends (chocolate chip, vanilla and walnut), and Aloha (pineapple, coconut and macadamias in a snickerdoodle). She tests new recipes at home, then spends her Sundays baking big batches at Kitchen Chicago, a commissary kitchen that rents space by the hour to startup food companies. Read the rest of this entry »
A worldly collection of tapestries, ceramics and paintings glow in warm yellow light, while classical melodies glide through the bright display case brimming with chocolates that look almost too delicate to devour. Even traditional milk, dark and white bites dress up under intricate gold leaves or white snowflakes imprinted on the glossy bon-bons.
At Canady Le Chocolatier, one can satiate a desire for chocolate and pumpkin simultaneously with a Pumpkin Pie Truffle, or settle another craving with more than seventy sweet, even spicy, confections.
Holiday suggestions include Amerena Ganache, Creme de Tiramisu and truffles with pistachio, mint, cheesecake or red pepper. Praline and coconut mingle in chocolate ganache; hazelnut blends with caramel butter cream in a Dolce de Leche; toffee bits sweeten the slight kick of a red pepper ganache. Mix and match a personalized assortment—one or two, one pound or two pounds.
“It’s totally up to the customer,” says owner and chocolatier Michael Canady, whose demeanor matches the serenity of his store. “I get the opportunity to experiment once in a while [with flavors], and I like that. It’s always nice to come up with new recipes.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Michael Nagrant
If he weren’t dead, I’d sure like to have a few words with Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable about the weather in Chicago this past July. I mean I’m sure in 1779, Lake Michigan’s unbesmirched shores were breathtaking and all that. But, as the area’s first non-indigenous settler (usually this means Native American-exploiting white dude—but, refreshingly du Sable was a black Haitian who married a Potawatomi woman and became a high-ranking member of the tribe) Du Sable must have known (he set up a fur-trading post on the north bank of the Chicago River) that, when the pelt business dropped off in July because it was hot and swampy and no one wanted to drape their sweaty bodies in beaver, well, the sticky heat might also be a minor annoyance for future generations. Of course, Du Sable was no Al Gore, and thus couldn’t be expected to anticipate global warming, let alone invent the internet, and so I guess the jungle climes we’ve endured most of this past month aren’t entirely his fault.
Still, what to do when my curly blond fro is frizzin’ like one of those “just add water” sponges that turns in to a four-foot-wide dinosaur from the humidity? Head to Las Vegas in August. Crazy, right? Well, as the joke goes, it’s a dry heat.
Actually, while I’ll relish swimming next to Elvis-jumpsuited dudes in huge football-field-sized pools while sipping on suntan-lotion-scented pina coladas in the shade of fake plastic architecture, my real intent, as it always is, is to discover the real side of Vegas food. While I’ll check out French masters Joel Robuchon’s and Guy Savoy’s places and local boy Shawn McClain’s new Vegas spot Sage, I’ll also be out searching for what some consider the best Northern Thai food in America at Lotus of Siam and the Japanese charcoal-grilled fare at Raku. However, while I’m baking in that arid desert, I couldn’t leave you without a few of my new favorite things. Every single one of these tasty treats is as sure a bet as a pair of panties gracing a Tom Jones concert stage. See you in a few weeks. Viva Chicago, baby! Read the rest of this entry »
It’s hard to go somewhere within the city of Chicago and not run into a shop that sells cupcakes. In the last couple of years these tasty treats have been popping up in specialized bakeries, coffee shops and markets all over the city with a local domination to rival the Asian carp invasion. But a new pastry in town just may have what it takes to steal the cupcake crown.
At the end of 2009, when foodies were pegging the next big trends in the culinary world, macarons were mentioned everywhere from New York magazine to the James Beard Foundation blog. These delicate little French confections are cookie-like pastries made up of almonds, egg whites and sugar with a center filling. While these treats are just now finding their way onto the bakery shelves in the States, they have been a staple in France since the 1500s.
“If there’s a way to a nerd’s heart,” says Chicago Nerd Social Club leader Rachel Baker, “it’s usually through his or her stomach.” Combining one of the most famous tenets of nerdom with home-baked pies, the CNSC is hosting Pi(e) Day this Sunday at Firkin & Pheasant. The night starts at 6pm and will be filled with trivia and contests for nerds and noobs alike. Along with a baked-pie contest, there will be a Mad Math Minute where contestants attempt to complete 100 simple math questions in one minute. There, of course, will be a Pi-Off where contestants see who can recall Pi to the most decimal digits. Where “bros” might question their manhood by how many beers one can slam, here “you can declare yourself more nerdy by being able to declare more digits than someone else,” says Baker. There will be Pi/nerd trivia with the winner receiving one hundred dollars cash. This event, however, isn’t just for the upper-crust nerds. Even if you start to stumble when recalling Pi, 3.141…5?, Baker is quick to say, “We’re not nerd-elitists by any means. Everyone can be nerdy in his or her own way.” Presale tickets are five dollars and ten at the door, with all the nerd-baked pie you can eat inside. (Peter Cavanaugh)
By Michael Nagrant
Since 2000, Chicago has gone from being a Rat Pack-worthy steak-and-potato-slinging stereotype to a destination for international culinary travelers. Chicago’s affordability, its diners’ willingness to suspend disbelief and its proximity to the sublime bounty of the Midwest all play a role in that transformation. Most important to the renaissance are the places that put everything together to inspire our collective culinary imagination, the best restaurants that opened in Chicago this decade.
The history of cuisine was written in the kitchens of millions of chefs, but we only remember a few by name, guys like Escoffier, Careme and Robuchon. There are probably only three Chicago chefs, as of now, who have a shot at making that list: Jean Banchet, Charlie Trotter and Grant Achatz. Though Achatz started making a name for himself at Trio, Alinea was the game changer, the restaurant where every aspect of dining from menus and silverware to the wine service and emotional content of the food was reimagined.
Love it or hate it, this was ground zero for what is now today’s communal table free-for-all. More importantly, Avec was the place that launched a thousand salumi, the fringe of Chicago’s now-burgeoning charcuterie movement. Koren Grieveson’s restrained soulful style is still the late-night hang of choice for chefs.
You probably don’t remember Gerhard Doll or David Hayden, the chef-stewards who drove the good ship Avenues through a successful seafood-driven era, but there’s no doubt you won’t forget the Pop Rock and foie-lollipop fantasia, the convenience-store chic of Graham Elliot Bowles. Without Bowles’ whimsical, accessible style, the emotional roller coaster of Grant Achatz’s cooking and the theater at Homaro Cantu’s Moto likely wouldn’t have quite captured the nation’s imagination, nor garnered Chicago cuisine the countless magazine features it received mid-decade. Today, Curtis Duffy, the culinary love child of Achatz, Thomas Keller and Alice Waters, is executing some of the most exciting cuisine Chicago has to offer. Read the rest of this entry »