The Kitchen Prep: Tasty Travels: Chicago BAKERY Edition!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tasty Travels: Chicago BAKERY Edition!

If you've been following along with my Chicago visit recaps {Parts 1 & 2}, you know that in the short 36 or so hours I've covered so far, I got to do, see, and eat quite a bit! {Would you expect anything different from moi?}

I left off yesterday on Sunday morning after a delicious breakfast with Emily. As it turns out, Emily had a friend's wedding to attend, so she asked her friend Alli to kindly entertain me until she could get back later that afternoon.

Alli loves to plan things of all kinds - parties, menus, itineraries... she's a girl after my own heart. Her plans for us on Sunday afternoon were no different. She had arranged {and mapped out, bless that girl} a walking tour of some of Chicago's finest bakeries! Be still my heart {except, not really because I have too many wonderful, sugary things to see}!

So, she picked me up at Emily's and off we went on a {5 mile} confectionery adventure of epic proportions.

Stop #1: Molly's Cupcakes

Oh, Molly's. Where have you been all my life? My eyes immediately went straight to the bakery cases, packed with decadent treats such as the Cookies & Cream {chocolate cake, cookies-n-cream filling, vanilla buttercream, cookie topping} and their signature cupcake, the Ron Bennington {chocolate cake, peanut butter filling, chocolate ganache, crushed butterscotch topping}, but I decided on a Peanut Butter Nutella Filled Cupcake with Nutella Frosting. {SO. GOOD.}

Molly's not only has a fantastic selection of sweets {and did I mention they have a Sprinkle Station?! *squeals!*}, but also has a super cute story: It was named in honor of the founder's third grade teacher who would often bake cupcakes for her students' birthdays. {Everyone all together: Awww!!} And part of their proceeds go to helping children in the community. Seriously, what's not to love about this place?

I devoured half of my cupcake immediately {we still had a lot of stops ahead of us!}, stared longingly at the rest of the desserts that would not be coming home with me, and pried myself away toward our next destination.

Stop #2: Sweet Mandy B's

We walked off a few of the calories I had picked up at Molly's, and made our way to Sweet Mandy B's. Upon entering the shop, you feel a bit like you've stumbled into a basket of Easter eggs, with it's pastel colored walls and springy "butterflies & birdies" decor. The bakery case continues the whimsical theme with jumbo cupcakes, oversized cookies, and various other sweet treats.

Though I was drawn to the Banana Caramel Cabinet Pudding {basically, bread pudding made with cake}, I opted for a large Snickerdoodle instead since we still had a ways to go in the blistering heat, and I didn't think the pudding would survive the walk until I had room in my belly once again to enjoy it. {I had a tiny nibble of the cookie just to taste test, but brought it home to Steve as a souvenir.} :)

Stop #3: Dinkel's Bakery

If Molly's & Sweet Mandy B's were personified into the girl {and teeny bopper} next door, Dinkle's would be the sweet old couple down the road. With it's old fashioned charm, Dinkel's has been a Chicago fixture since 1922. While many of today's bakeries bank on innovative & funky concoctions to impress customers, Dinkle's appeals to the kid in you that simply wants a tried-and-true treat.

The open space has a retro feel, with cases full of breads, pastries, cookies, and cakes. It was so hard to choose just one to sample... so I didn't. ;) The clerk kindly offered me a complimentary taste of two small cookies that I couldn't decide between {a German Chocolate cookie and a dainty little butter cookie with mocha creme filling}. Both tasted like a hug from a granny. While Dinkle's certainly isn't all about the bells and whistles, it's nice to know that the 4 generations that have run the business over the past 90 years have stuck to what they know works.

Stop #4: Bleeding Heart Bakery

So, you know how I said Dinkle's was like the old couple in the neighborhood that baked cookies for the kids on the block? Well, if we're sticking with that theme, Bleeding Heart Bakery is the pierced & tattooed punk rock kid that frightens the neighbors at first, but then offers to mow their lawn.

Don't be fooled by the edgy exterior, Bleeding Heart is just the right mix of sugar and spice. Upon entering, it's hard not to overload on the color splashed walls, skulls and crossbones, and tattoo paraphernalia. But once you get past the rebellious trimmings, the heart of the bakery is rooted in creating local, sustainable {even vegan!} goodies for all to enjoy.

Um, their whisk pendant lights? Totally amazing.
I had such a hard time deciding which of their baked goods I'd try out... I'm pretty sure that's a normal reaction when you are encountered with cupcake flavors such as Pancakes with Bacon & Balsamic Avocado, or something called a "Cake Bomb" {the BHB version of a cake ball}. They also had quite a selection of savory goods like quiches and croissants. But in the end, I went with a Vanilla Hazelnut Chocolate Chili Whoopie Pie. Holy. Moly. So interesting, subtly spicy... quite delicious!

{Does this bakery sound familiar to you? That's because the owners have been on several Food Network Challenge episodes with their rockin' cakes!}

Stop #5: Bittersweet Pastry Shop

If bakeries were all part of one family, and I had to make a connection between the last bakery I visited and this one, I'd say Bittersweet is Bleeding Heart's distant cousin who went to an Ivy League school, wears pearls and Ralph Lauren, and owns hundreds of monogrammed items. In short, Bittersweet was my {pinkies up} cup of tea.

Top left: Fabulous macarons. Top right: Teensy, mouth watering cake samples.
Bottom center: Me, a completely sweaty mess after walking 5 miles in 95 degree weather.
Bittersweet has the classic, striped awning, fine pastry shop thing down pat. The shop had a high end feel without being too presumptuous. The pastries and sweets were all delicate and gorgeous, and immediately made me feel like buying a few boxes full and throwing a dessert party at Emily's place. {Though I didn't!}

When I saw the rows of colorful macarons in their cases, I just knew I had to have them. So, I bought one of each flavor {Strawberry-Rhubarb, Passion Fruit, Salted Caramel, and Chocolate}, and had them package them up for me so I could share with the girls later on. {They were outstanding. Like the take a bite, pause, and mumble,"OMG" type of good.} It was evident that Bittersweet knows what they're doing, and does it with class.

Believe it or not, we had one more stop we were supposed to make, but there was a little confusion with the shop moving to a new address, so we brought the Tour de Bakery to an end and headed home where - I'm not gonna lie - we dove into those macarons immediately.

I don't know if it was the sugar high I was on, or that I was slightly delirious from pounding the pavement for 4 hours in the extreme heat, but I have to say that Chicago most definitely impressed me with it's bakeries, restaurants, and things to do. I'd highly recommend visiting any {and all!} of the spots I've mentioned because they each had their charm and unique appeal.

So... thank you Emily & Alli for showing me so much of what the city has to offer... there's just so much to do and see! I can't wait to come back for another visit! And you better believe we'll be sampling some more of Chicago's fabulous eats. ;)

For those of you who are considering visiting, I hope this serves as a good guide for a few things you might want to check out while you're there!


Alli said...

This is too cute! Such a fun post and I am glad you had a great time!

Trina said...

Oh those all look & sound oh so delicious!!

The Kitchen Prep said...

Thanks, Alli! :)

The Kitchen Prep said...

They were! All of them! ;)

hautehealthy said...

This sounds like an amazing way to spend the day! The last two bakeries look so fun {they all did, but the last two in particular}!

Chineka said...

I absolutely loved this post. I loved the pictures and how you personified each bakery. How clever 8-) I'll definitely be sharing this blog post on Facebook for all to see. Have a great weekend.

The Kitchen Prep said...

They were all so much fun in their own way... Loved them all! :)

The Kitchen Prep said...

Thank you, Chineka! Enjoy your weekend, too! :)

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