Through eating, we sometimes seek, crave, and desire transport, a mental whisking toward another time and location, to places of comfort, the spots which may now not be near, but where we once were when we experienced profound happiness. For you, this may be your mom’s kitchen, the state you grew up, in or the European city that changed your life. We are not always physically able to return to those places, but in a local bite, we might still experience a reasonable mental facsimile. Advertisements
I didn’t know it, but I’ve waited all my life for this. And by this, I mean a real French person saying the words “Mountain Dew.” First, I want to apologize for America. No one from the land of champagne should even be aware of the neon-green soda.
Are they crazy?
There are restaurants, and then there are respites. It’s tough to say whether Baker Miller, a newish Lincoln Square shop from the former Bang Bang Pie Shop partners Dave and Megan Miller is a restaurant. They bill it as a bakery and millhouse, but there are no glass cases showcasing pies, cakes and pastries—though they do sell those things via a chalkboard menu and a utilitarian metal rack tucked behind the counter. There’s a restaurant-like brunch offering hearty bacon, sausage, oatmeal and savory tarts. There are brews worthy of the most discerning coffeehouse (from Sparrow Coffee Roastery in the West Loop) and a butter and jam bar featuring spiced maple butter and riesling jam to slather on slices of the daily baked bread offering ($3.95).
This being the year of the foodie ploy—cronuts, wonuts and so on—I grimaced when I heard about the secret spicy chicken sandwich served on a glazed doughnut at recently opened Do-Rite Donut & Chicken (233 E. Erie St. 312-344-1374) in Streeterville. Just a marketing gimmick, right?
For a sheltered white suburbanite, freshman year at college is supposed to be an exposure to the real world, a year of intercultural exploration. I suppose there were plenty of meaningful discoveries, but my first learning in those days was this: The Jews have bagels. The gentiles have doughnuts. A New Yorker actually slung a slur at me that first week at the University of Michigan when he found out my childhood Sunday mornings were filled with custard-filled eclairs and not poppyseed or granulated garlic-encrusted circles of bread. I’d filled him in on how doughnuts were not Midwestern low-country foods, but in fact the closest thing to godliness. I’d told him of how I coveted the moments before Sunday school, not because I would soon be regaled with the divine and outsized adventures of Jesus, but that the nuns who ran the weekly church fund-raising bake sale made a killer long john. He didn’t really understand, so we headed out to the nearest Dunkin’, broke bread over a Boston creme affair, and a common understanding was reached. Of course, doughnut worship is not just a religious thing. It’s also a regional passion. Just as Michiganians show you where they live…
I’ve always wanted a tattoo, but I’ve also been hung up on that whole “my body is god’s temple” thing.
Crystal cake from Wan Shi Da bakery While American-style bakeries hew almost exclusively toward rich, cloying and frosted treats, the Chinese variety skew more towards a French cafe philosophy—merging sweet and savory elements. In Chicago’s Chinatown, ham and havarti croissants give way to barbecue pork buns, and confections come stuffed with bean paste instead of fruit. Many of these bakeries also feature adjoining cafes that, in addition to providing a space for community gatherings, offer customers the chance to luxuriate over fresh-from-the-oven baked goods or dim sum breakfast with a cup of coffee and the morning news. We plodded through a few of Chinatown’s best:
Life might be a journey, but sublime food is a destination, and there’s no better destination than the apple fritter at Old Fashioned Donut. People always ask “what’s the best?”, and the answer is usually a subjective handful of choices. Consider it a lock, like the Daley administrations over the last half century, the Old Fashioned apple fritter is the best. These deep fried and super icing slathered concoctions make Krispy Kreme look like the health food section at Whole Foods. Most apple fritters should be called cinnamon spiced donuts, because if you’re lucky they might have one chunk of apple. The fritters at old fashioned are dotted with toothsume hunks and an orchard’s worth of apple perfume.