the 4th. finally.

IMG_3972

Miss Fats is embarrassed by the delay of this post.  She’s finally getting around to giving you the run down on her 4th of July…3 weeks later.  Part of the reason is that she’s been at work baking much more exciting cakes for celebrations and she frankly failed to properly document the backyard BBQ shenanigans of Independence Day.  However, as Chicago finally cools down, she thought she’d share the delights of a little garden party to remind everyone that summer is actually awesome and not a miserable hot towel wrapped around your face threatening to suffocate you (at least not all the time).

Part of the delay on posts is due to the fact that Miss Fats is currently in the process of moving.  The worst.  This is hardly the most difficult move she’s ever experienced, but there’s something about the chaos and constant movement of schlepping that puts Miss Fats into the worst mood.  She apologizes to all her friends who have now seen the effects of this process.  However, despite the fatigue, sweat and strange box bruises all over her body, she could not be more excited about her new apartment.  She doesn’t like to brag (false: she loves bragging) but this place is out of control: backyard, porch, fireplace, and a DISHWASHER.  And these are only a list of amenities.  She should probably throw in the fact that the place is absolutely gorgeous.

Miss Fats can’t take credit for this place: she’s moving in with her lovely friend N, who has been kind enough to allow her to inhabit this incredible apartment and put up with her constant baking and moving watching.  She could not be more delighted to begin life with N and her partner M, in September, where there will likely always be a new craft cocktail and cookie every night.  Cue exit from reality.

IMG_3959M was in town for a short summer visit during the weekend of the 4th, so the three of them decided it was an excellent chance to their first party as future roommates.  It was all pretty impromptu: they had to pull it all together in about 48 hours.  But for team N, M & M? Not a problem.  (Clearly: see above)

They kept it simple with burgers, brats, and hot dogs to be thrown on the grill, and asked friends to bring additional drinks and sides.  Thanks to M’s amazing bartending skills, there were fruity Pimm’s Cups for all. (Not to mention she kept Miss Fat’s excellent  G & T full at all times!)  Their awesome friends filled in all the gaps between spicy margaritas, and a huge haul of cool beers.  For the most part, they all just hung out in the backyard, nomming and drinking (as it should be on the 4th).

IMG_3962

Miss Fats was, naturally, in charge of dessert.  And she has to admit that she had alterior motives for this party from the beginning.  She’s just going to come out and say it: she suggested this party because she wanted to make a big ‘ol cheesecake.  Not that Miss Fats couldn’t just make one for the hell of it, but the 4th of July seemed to be begging for a proper red, white and blue, creamy cold cake.  To her, nothing screams backyard BBQ more than a bright dessert topped with a heaping pile of fresh berries.  And ever since her recent cheesecake success, Miss Fats has been itching to get a little more practice in while berry season is ripe.

So all set with a venue, Miss Fats baked up a bright lemon and vanilla cheesecake base, topped with rhubarb sauce and fresh blueberries.  Happy Birthday, America.  She used the same lemon cheesecake recipe from Food 52, with the same alterations as her first attempt.  Unfortunately, it didn’t come out quite as beautiful as her first attempt.  (Anyone who’s baked a cheesecake knows that the pesky beast is always coming out slightly different.  Damn that temperamental cooling process.)  So as you can see, the cake’s edges pulled from the pan a bit too soon and didn’t create the most elegant of corners.  Oh well.  However, the cake itself was close to perfect: Miss Fats was shocked.  She couldn’t believe the final texture and flavor of this thing.  Typically, a cheesecake dips slightly in the middle and loses it’s heft a bit.  Not this one.  Somehow, the cake remained perfectly fluffy, slightly firm and beautifully creamy from crust to center.  This sat a-top a thin and crisp graham cracker crust with good hit of salt and was topped off with a creamy and tart layer of sour cream.  Cake miracle.  Look at that thing:

photo

Miss Fats kept the toppings simple and tart to cut through the creamy cake base.  She made a simple rhubarb sauce (since she’d obsessed), that required cooking down a couple of stalks in a bit of sugar and vanilla.  Miss Fats worked the fruit through a fine strainer to get that beautifully clear and smooth sauce.  Then she simply mounded fresh blueberries (they needed nothing: so plump and crazy sweet) on top and let the rough, messy edge all hang out.  Miss Fats doesn’t need fancy perfection: she’s much more concerned about what happens in when the cake gets in your mouth.

Initially, she planned to just move forward with the cheesecake, since guests would likely be stuffing themselves full of grilled meat objects.  But as she was checking out at the grocery store, she happened to notice a bag of super processed, red, white and blue star-shaped marshmallows that obviously needed to be purchased.  Then it dawned on Miss Fats that it was fucking July and she hadn’t gotten her s’more on at all this summer: not okay.  Upon this realization, Miss Fats threw in all the necessary s’more makings and anxiously awaited the oozing toasted marshmallow fest to come.  Double dessert.

IMG_3968

Don’t pretend like s’mores aren’t always a good idea.  Come on: look at that thing.  Even blue ooze is beautiful.

In the end, the party was a big success.  Mostly because it was so little work and filled with so many taste-goods.  Lets get real: Miss Fats couldn’t care less about America’s birthday, but she’ll take any excuse to make an excessive dessert, char meat, and wind up covered in sticky sugar and chocolate.  And this party hit all of the marks.  There were even bubbles.  (M & N are the best.)  Miss Fats wishes she could say more, but there are leftover s’more ingredients calling to her.  More BBQ’s to come.

donuts and drinks party

EndoftheYearInvite

Miss Fats’ dreams came true last week.  You know how sometimes all of the forces of the universe converge at fix all problems ever?  This happened last week, and it will forever go down in history as the day of infinite donut luck.  (Now when she says “all her problems were fixed,” Miss Fats really means that a big ‘ol fried dough band aid was slapped across her life and the universe called it a day. Donuts can’t write papers, but they can definitely delay them.)  Anyway, one (miraculously) sunny morning, following one of the greatest classic raised donuts of her life (that shit was warm, but more on that in a future post), she received a text from J inquiring whether she’d “won donut party.”  Naturally, given the donut party that had just happened in her mouth, she went on an on about that classic raised.  To which J responded to check twitter.  Logging on she found a cryptic tweet-back to a response she had totally forgotten she’d posted.  Late the night before she’d suggested a party option for Glazed and Infused twitter contest to win a “donut party for 20-30 people.”  Pitching and “end of the year party,” Miss Fats forgot her lame idea and went to bed.  So naturally, this was a huge surprise come morning.  She’ll save you the boring details of correspondence, but within thirty minutes she’d secured her winnings and was well on her way to dreaming up the ideal donut bash.

IMG_3677

Miss Fats was now sitting on top of a sugary evening for 20-30 guests up at Glazed & Infused Lincoln Park location.  They generously offered the entire shop on a Friday or Saturday night from 9 pm ’till 2 am, and donuts for all of my guests.  Now luckily Miss Fats has a little party-planning position in her department and access to funds as a result.  She and her partner had been struggling to nail down an end of the year gathering given Chicago’s weather schizophrenia.  And here was the answer, delivered fried and delicious by Glazed & Infused.  This meant that Miss Fats had a significant chunk of change to supply drinks with the donuts, and turn the evening into a real party (“real” party according to society at large.  Miss Fats considers almost any occasion where fried dough is consumed to be a party.)  Now the trickiest part of this party was really getting enough stressed grad students out of Hyde Park and all the way up north during finals.  Miss Fats was real worried she wasn’t going to be able to make it happen.  However she seriously underestimated her department and friends love of fried dough and drinks.  By the end of the RSVP period she was sitting on a guest list of 60 + people.  Glazed & Infused was incredibly kind to welcome everyone and offer donuts for all.  Life was good. Miss Fats was looking at a trunk full of alcohol, a donut supply for 60 excited guests, and a whole shop to themselves into the early morning hours.

IMG_3674Glazed & Infused Lincoln Park shop turned out to be a nice, intimate space for the gathering.  The long, two-roomed space had plenty of tables and even a nice bar to display the wide variety of drink options (see above).  Abraham (the greatest donut store manager of all time), let them have full control of the sound system to pair some tunes with the treats.  All in all, this was literally the easiest party Miss Fats has thrown all year.  Glazed & Infused laid out an incredible spread of donuts throughout the space.  Baking sheets were piled with a variety of their insanely indulgent treats and Miss Fats was delighted to see tray after tray of fried dough keep coming out.  They had everything from a classic vanilla bean raised to Glazed & Infused famous bacon maple bars and a range of crazy goodness in between.  Miss Fats seriously had trouble containing herself while those donuts were laid out; and naturally, as soon as they appeared to be finished, she and J tore into those suckers.  Instant sticky fingers and happy faces.  This was preceded by an insane tasting session, as they ran around trying all the different types and shoving their favorites into their purses (bad form: yes.  But she knew it was worth waking up to an old fashioned glazed the next morning.)

IMG_3676

By then, guests had started to arrive and the evening had started.  Miss Fats watched group after group of people arrive and their eyes burst out of their faces as they saw the sugar smorgasbord.  Most people got super excited and dove straight into the selection, emerging seconds later with sticky faces and hands.  It was like a delightful return to a childhood sugar rush over and over again.  Only you got to top it off with a cool refreshing adult beverage afterwards.  Guests meandered around the room cutting off bites from every flavor, trying their best to select a favorite.  Given the pace at which people seemed to dig into the spread, Miss Fats was a little worried they’d run out.  She underestimated the crashing powers of the sugar rush and actual number of donuts out there.  That initial gorging moment seemed to create a premature end to the donut-consuming portion of the night.

IMG_3675

Alright, alright enough of the people, let’s get to the donuts.  Miss Fats tried them all (you know: for “research” purposes).  The flavor list included: old fashioned, chocolate old fashioned, vanilla bean glazed, chocolate glazed, bacon maple, coffee glazed, lemon blueberry glazed, pistachio passionfruit, apple fritters, banana cream cheese, and blueberry goat cheese. That’s right. Take a moment to marvel in that list.

In the end, Miss Fats’ favorites included the chocolate and traditional old fashioned, vanilla bean glazed, and the lemon blueberry.  Clearly Glazed & Infused does the classics well.  The old fashionds were both incredibly flavorful, moist, cakey donuts that were not too sweet, but still a sugary delight: ideal coffee pairing donut.  The vanilla bean glazed was the big surprise of the night.  She almost never goes for a simple raised donut at a gourmet shop, but boy was Glazed & Infused a beautiful surprise.  The massive glazed donut was light, airy and perfectly moist.  Total cloud donut.  Finally, the lemon blueberry was a summery, tart mouth party of fun flavors.  They were such a nice treat following the gallon of classic donut glaze that was filling up her gullet.  Refresh your pallet with one of these dude on your next donut binge.  Now Miss Fats can’t go finishing this post without a shout out to the bacon maple glazed.  This has become a staple at most gourmet donut shops, but she has to say that Glazed & Infused serves this up right.  It’s hard to get the right balance between the fatty, salty bacon and the super sweet maple, but these long johns hit that symphony of salt and sweet that Miss Fats is always looking for.  Despite the fact that the bacon just kind of sits in the middle, every bite strikes the balance and never leaves you just eating center meat portion and doing away with the scraps.

photo (16)Despite the fact that the combo of alcohol and excessive sugar caused most of her guests to sugar crash (sugar party hard) before the clock struck midnight, Miss Fats has to say this might be the most successful party she’s ever thrown.  An essentially endless supply of donuts and the company of all her friends created a fantasy sugar evening that will go down in friend dough history.  The insanity of her twitter prize still shocks Miss Fats, and she hopes all her guests enjoyed themselves and had the proper sweet hang over the next morning.  Miss Fats would like to extend a HUGE THANKS to Glazed & Infused for all their hard work, crazy delicious treats, and awesome space.  It was a great party success (people need to marvel just in the fact that Miss Fats got 40+ students to show up), and she could not be more pleased with her undeserved winnings. She hopes everyone now be inspired to see donuts as the new ultimate party food and go throw an excessive sugar bash themselves.   You’re guaranteed to have nothing but infinite donut smiles:

IMG_3667

THANK YOU, GLAZED & INFUSED!

Note: This post is not officially sponsored by Glazed & Infused.  But hey, they did give Miss Fats a free party.

Other Note: Sorry for the lameness of these black & white images.  Miss Fats was too busy eating to properly document this miraculous event.

Pastry Walkabout Part I

Miss Fats fears saying this out loud, but Spring may have finally arrived in Chicago.  Sure, she shouldn’t complain: winter was pretty damn mild, at least snow-wise.  But Miss Fats seems to have found herself with a small dose of SAD (confusing considering the fact that she spent most of her life in the greyest city on the planet) and needs some sunshine asap.  Well the last couple of days have BEEN ABOVE FREEZING AND SUNNY (say what?), which basically means spring is here in full force.  So she’s puttin’ away that parka and busting out the standard wool coat (hello, friend, I haven’t seen you in three months).  What spring means is Miss Fats can emerge from the toasty confines of her apartment and hit the streets of Chicago and continue to learn this city hard.

IMG_2685

Miss Fats’ favorite way to get to know a city is by walking the hell out of it.  She will literally just wander for hours: looking at buildings (fantasy apartment search), pop in and out of shops, and learn the streets.  But where to begin?  Rather than randomly selecting a place in the city, Miss Fats tends to orient these derives (pretentious grad student French nonsense) in search of a sweet treat.  Typically she’ll select a bakery, shop or restaurant that sounds tasty and head out into the unknown.  Where the wander takes her from there, no one will know/like there is such a thing as “unknown” with bestfriendiphone.

So, in celebration of Spring’s kickoff, Miss Fats will be sharing a couple of neighborhood/treat pairings to encourage all you winter hermits out there to emerge into the daylight, if only to grab a delicious cookie and quickly retreat back into your hole.

Lakeview (East): 

photo (12)

Lakeview (right around Diversey), is a frequent wander spot for Miss Fats.  This is probably because critical elements of her livelihood exist here: Aveda Institute (for those cheap haircuts), Korean Tacos (more on those later), Trader Joes, and most importantly, Molly’s Cupcakes (2536 N Clark). Miss Fats’ first trip to this neighborhood happened about a year ago thanks to a groupon for a “new” cupcake shop in town.  Little did she know what she was in for.  This is Miss Fats’ go-to cupcake shop in the city.  It’s damn expensive, but they know how to make a decadent cupcake MIss Fats-style.  Her favorites include the Ron Bennington (peanut butter filled genius) and the Butterscotch (no words). They tend to abide by Miss Fat’s cupcake formula: gotta have a great cake base, tasty filling, and the right amount of frosting.  Miss Fats has now sampled more cupcakes from here than she’d like to admit, but she personally favors Molly’s more decadent cupcakes.  The fruit and pie-themed ones are solid, but the chocolate or sugar explosions are out of this world.

IMG_2313

So now you’re full of cupcake goodness, wandering around the shops and have purchased too many nuts and fancy things that come in little plastic containers from Trader Joes.  You’re debating whether or not to hit the zoo while you’re up here (I mean hey, why not? It’s free.)  While you’re deciding, Miss Fats recommends a stroll down Clark to Orange (2413 N Clark) for a weird, but refreshing sweet treat: Frushi.

Each day Orange serves up two frushi (fruit sushi) options: a maki (roll) and sushi.  Miss Fats tends to be a spoiled, annoying sushi snob, so you may be asking why she’s recommending this.  Because frankly, it’s not sushi.  It’s a deconstructed/reconstructed tasty rice pudding dessert.  The frushi Miss Fats had featured a little bed of thick coconut rice pudding topped with a mandarin orange slice, and the roll had some mango flavored rice action with a little grape on top.  Nonsense? Yes. Delicious and fun? Also yes.  Miss Fats encourages all of you to get out there and remember whimsy.  She knows it’s hard.  But winter is over, people.

Lakeview (West):

IMG_2699

Miss Fats hasn’t made her first journey to this neighborhood a couple of days ago.  She’s not sure why this particular stretch of the city had yet to be hit, but boy had she been missing out.  Dinkels (3329 N Lincoln), people.  How could she have missed this?  Dinkels is the classic bakery that has everything from candies, to bright frosted buttercream sheet cakes and house made pastries.  Naturally, Miss Fats opted for their doughnuts.  These are no gourmet, bougie, $3 doughnuts: they’re just the classics served up without all the fuss.  For $1 you can get just about any flavor and Miss Fats ended up taking bakery boy’s rec: classic old fashioned.

IMG_2701

This was a SOLID doughnut.  The perfect dipper for your morning cup of coffee.  Crispy outside, tender inside and completely unassuming.  Miss Fats is glad Dinkels is so far away because it could be mighty easy to just pick one of these up with a cup of coffee everyday.

West Lakeview is perhaps less scenic than some of the other north neighborhoods, but this particular stretch has a number of great “Old Chicago” buildings and businesses.  It took basically all of Miss Fats’ self-control to not spend the entire day hopping from one diner to the next.  Those diner milkshakes were seriously calling her name, especially with a little sun shining on her back, but somehow Miss Fats managed to resist. (/will probably be back next weekend…)

IMG_2708

If you wander down Lincoln (with that Dinkels donut in hand), you’ll eventually hit Diversey and you should probably hang a right and head over to Fritz Pastry (1408 W Diversey).  Miss Fats had sampled one of their chocolate chip pretzel cookies at Wormhole Coffee a couple of weeks ago and was intrigued by this mysterious bakery that clearly understands the beauty of the chocolate pretzel combo.  After a little googling she learned of their doughnuts and it was a no-brainer. Had to happen.  Unfortunately Miss Fats lives very far from here and was not able to get herself that far north in time for a doughnut.  All sold out. Oh well.  The cute little shop had some tasty cookies left for her, so she selected a chocolate peanut butter oatmeal.  This was a damn good cookie.  Better than the pretzel (shocking, I know).  It was surprisingly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  And, of course, excellent salt balance.  Miss Fats could have used a little more peanut butter flavor (naturally), but overall this was a lovely cookie/sunshine experience.

Lincoln Park/ De Paul:

IMG_2426So Miss Fats would probably never live in Lincoln Park (hah! not like she could ever afford it), but it makes for a pretty walk and is kind of the ideal spot to pick out your future fantasy home.  She’s a big fan of wandering down Lincoln Park’s many quiet side streets that boast fancy townhouses kept safe by little pristine gates (fear me, Lincoln Park!).

IMG_2430

She knows this neighborhood has a TON of bougie bakeries and food shops, but the reason why Miss Fats continually returns is for Sweet Mandy B’s (1208 W Webster).  Yeah, yeah.  I’m sure you are all sick of hearing about this glorious bakery.  It’s been featured on tv shows, magazines and is continually raved about.  Which is usually something to be weary of, but for once the bakery is worth all the hype.  Miss Fats loves Sweet Many B’s because it fails to ascribe to all the fads.  This is a classic bakery that is only concerned with making delightful and damn good-tasting treats everyday.  You’re not going to find a tomato cupcake here; only chocolate covered marshmallows topped with sprinkles.  It’s hard to resist buying everything here, but Miss Fats favorite is the  Toffee “Cabinet Pudding,” which is basically bread pudding made with leftover cake.  THAT’S RIGHT.  So it’s Sweet Mandy B’s insane caramel sauce that hooked Miss Fats from the get-go.  The perfectly salty, sweet, buttery sauce is pure heaven.  And the cabinet pudding features chunks of moist chocolate cake drenched in this sauce.  It’s literally one of the most incredible desserts Miss Fats has ever put in her mouth.  It’s not always around, so if you see it: get on it.  Order it immediately and ask them to warm it up.  Then sink into it’s moist, gooey indulgent center.  Miss Fats dreams about the bottom of this dessert: where all the caramel has pooled and created a soft layer of soaked cake and salty-sweetness.

Miss Fats’ ultimate afternoon in Lincoln Park includes a long wander through the neighborhood so she works up a serious appetite for that pudding.  She takes that pudding to go and strolls down to the movie theater a couple of blocks away, parks herself in front of a screen, and dives into that dessert.  Most of the time when the lights come up, Miss Fats finds herself covered in caramel sauce: like she cares.  Did you see that pudding? She got to eat that.

So Miss Fats has officially over-excited herself.  She needs to take a break and think some more about that cabinet cake.  But she’ll be back with part two of this post that features an array of traditional treats and weird dessert options.  Go out and explore in the meantime.

Also, these are just Miss Fats’ favorites, but as you’ve now read, she’s always in for a new adventure.  Has she missed any critical shops in these neighborhoods? What are your favorites?