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.

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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): 

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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.

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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):

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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.

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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…)

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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!).

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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?

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