Sprinkles

chubs is obsessed with cupcakes. we frequent the many cupcake bakers in cincy often. in fact, we even brought boxes of cupcakes as gifts for our friends in chicago. when our friend N found out about this obsession she insisted we visit sprinkles.

it was nice to see that a small cupcake maker (from the west coast) who had made it to the big time still do things the right way. sprinkles focuses on keeping things simple without compromising the quality of ingredients.

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the cupcakes were fresh. and judging by the line outside the place (45 mins!!!), everyone loves it. we liked it too but we are partial to our queen city bakers. chubs has a new favorite in town which she will introduce to you in our next post.

Intelligentsia

one of my favorite parts (and there were many – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) of our trip to chicago was our 15 minutes spent in reflection over a cup of brew at intelligentsia. there are coffee geeks and then there is intelligentsia. they take it to the next level. even at one of their busiest locations just off michigan ave. near the millenium park they manage to preserve the sanctity of their brewing processes. they pay as much attention to pulling an espresso as they do to brewing the perfect drip.

chubs and i had a great time just sitting by their amazing coffee bar watching the baristas bustling around making coffee after coffee. each one brewed to perfection. at one point we were quite stunned to see what seemed to be a perfectly good cappuccino dumped out because the barista didnt deem it good enough.

A New Leaf

it’s not all food and eating in our backyard (although we would not complain if it was!).

one of our stops while in lincoln park in chicago was a new leaf, catty corner to the perennial. what looked like an ordinary flower shop was not so ordinary when we stepped in.

i have never seen flowers arranged so well in a shop! everything was thoughtfully placed around the store. cheeks and i split up and wandered around this urban sanctuary. i spied an open courtyard at the back, stepped outside and was again taken somewhere extraordinary.

i love shops like this where the owners and workers all put their hearts in what they do. you can see how they want you to feel when you walk in the store. i almost did not want to leave. it felt like i was swept away to a lush paradise.

Perennial

we return to our regularly scheduled programming (from our trip to chicago) and introduce you to perennial in lincoln park.

this eatery was recommended by a friend (thanks SP), who loves everything about chicago. i’ve only been to the magnificent mile and the suburbs in my past trips to this city, so i was eager to eat in lincoln park and explore this neat little neighborhood.

(above: sancho’s omelet (roasted poblano peppers, chorizo, queso fresco, cilantro cream))

(above L: citrus house cured gravlax (fingerling potato salad, caramelized onions, toasted bagel chips); above R: bravas style potatoes)

(above L: pain au chocolat; above R: “Eat, Drink, Repeat”)

it was a delicious brunch to get us on our day. our visit to rick bayless’ xoco the day before still left us craving for chorizo. sancho’s omelet was an easy choice. their citrus house cured gravlax was a bit tricky to eat (the bagel crisps would break when any weight was added to them), but was very good! it was like a deconstructed bagel with salmon bits and cream cheese. mmm and ofcourse i couldn’t pass up the pan au chocolat.

“eat, drink, repeat”? yes please!

XOCO

the adventure continues…

we were pleased to know, upon arrival, that xoco was only 3 blocks away from our hotel. the newer (and more casual) eatery by rick bayless is right next door to his previous babies, topolobampo and frontera grill. having drooled over his creations on top chef masters and his shows on pbs, mexico – one plate at a time, this was one place we made sure to check off our list.

a line was already forming outside frontera grill (which was not set to open for another hour!), so we were quite glad we were going to xoco which didn’t appear to be as crowded. unfortunately, as soon as we walked in, we discovered that we were mistaken!

the wait was going to be for another 45 mins to an hour! normally we would have left, but we were there; we’d gotten ourselves excited about it; we were staying. the wait actually gave us enough time to make our food choices (which was not easy because ALL their tortas sounded good, and we debated whether to order an additional sopas to share).

even before we ordered, we chose our seats – outside naturally. time to eat! we decided to split 2 tortas: the choriqueso (homemade chorizo sausage, roasted poblano, artisan jack cheese, tomatillo salsa) and the woodland mushroom (wood-roasted garlic mushrooms, Prairie Fruits Farm goat cheese, black beans, wild arugula, 3-chile salsa). both were prepared in the woodburning oven, which gave the housemade baguette an extra crunch with every bite.

2 tortas later, we talked about trying the goat barbacoa, the saturday special, but unfortunately, the line was still as long as it was when we first arrived. in hindsight it was probably a wise choice. i dont see how either of us could have eaten another torta. instead we decided to get churros to go, along with a cup of classic hot chocolate (which is more like chocolate sauce than beverage). mmm perfect way to end a really good meal.

read more about our chicago adventure.

Weekend in Chicago

chicago, i thought i knew you, but i’m glad i am getting to know you better.

long weekends call for a getaway, and that’s what cheeks and i did over the labor day weekend. road trip to chicago!

cheeks has been to the windy city plenty of times before and knows his way around. this wasn’t my first time either, but my past visits have mainly been to cousins’ homes in the burbs, the magnificent mile (for the shopping) and chinatown (just for joy yee’s mango bubble teas mmm). this time around though, with cheek’s planning, and friends’ recommendations, i saw chicago with new eyes.

it helps to stay in the city when you visit, and i’m glad we did. we walked everywhere! walking definitely gives you a new perspective on your surroundings.

we intended to have a relaxing weekend, so on our first day out we took our time walking towards grant park for the jazz festival. we walked through millennium park (a touristy area but still a must-see) and meandered along the bp bridge to get across the street. more fun than crossing down below.

we arrived at grant park, the field carpeted by jazz enthusiasts with picnic blankets and folding chairs. we followed a path past the first stage to a smaller one under a cluster of trees, and there we stayed for the next hour. i don’t remember the band’s name, but the music they played was memorable. it was a hip-hop/soul-inspired contemporary jazz that fit our mood that evening. we stood with a chill crowd, bobbing our heads along with the beat. i even ran up to the stage to get some shots of these cool men.

the walk back to our hotel offered some architectural eye candy and i channeled julius shulman for a shot or two.

and this was just the start of the weekend. as is customary with our backyard, cheeks and i checked out a few choice eateries. look out for our next posts.