Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chicago, the Sugar Shack; part one.

Please head over to my new blog at TheUrbanHousewife.com, where you'll find this post & more!

On a whim, I booked a trip to Chicago recently. I always like to explore new cities & Chicago has long been on my list of places to see. Not only do they have a selection of vegan options, they also have the awesome Natalie from Bake & Destroy & the posse at Chicago Soydairy! When contemplating dates, I noticed an upcoming listing for Renegade Craft Fair. How could I resist?

The trip started Thursday afternoon, when I flew in to town & caught the El to my friend Joy's house to stay with her & her dog, Rosetta Cheese. After a bit of rest, Joy & I headed over to Handlebar to meet up with Joel & Meave who also happened to be in town from San Francisco. Handlebar is a pescatarian bar & grill frequented by bicyclist & has a menu with a selection of vegan options. The Buffalo 'Chicken' wrap & seitan Tortellini were ordered among the table & despite the lacking amount of buffalo & ranch sauces in my wrap, all satisfied with our selections. Joel opted for mini apricot hand pies for dessert, which I was lucky enough to get a nibble of; they tasted like jelly filled donuts!

The next day I headed out in to the rain to the Chicago Diner, famous veg dining spot since 1983. Between suggestions from Steven, my dining companion & some online research, I chose "The Radical Reuben" & boy, was it a good choice! The combination of the grilled seitan, sauerkraut, & thousand island dressing was wonderful & I've been trying to recreate it at home ever since. I also had "Stuffed Potato Skins" with melty Teese all over them! Of course, I had to try the baked goods, since the diner has quite the selection of vegan cakes, cheesecakes, & other treats. The first thing I noticed was the cakes were refrigerated. As someone who's not a fan of cold cake, I asked them to pull my selections out of the case before my meal, so they could come back to room temperature. I insisted Steven split the Cocoa Mousse cake & the Cookies & Cream cake with me & luckily they were almost at room temperature when we were ready for them. The cakes have a hearty, wholesome taste to them, likely due to the wheat flour used. Unfortunately, the refrigeration had got to them a bit, so they were on the drier side, but I enjoyed all the different frostings & wondered how they made the nice whipped cream-like frosting. Rumor has it, the weekend specials are the best treats to try, so I'll be sure to check those out next time!

Later that night, Steven & his friends had a potluck! You know I love a good potluck, so I was thrilled to be invited. The Chicago crew knows how to do it up & I was stuffed with tons of amazing food including "Isa Pizza", mini cucumber sandwiches, roasted potatoes, Teesey bread, & more. Much like myself, everyone loves to make dessert, so the sweets spread was phenomenal! Apple pie, Mint Devil dogs, Zucchini muffins, homemade Caramels, & 3 awesome types of Temptation ice cream filled my plate! I think I surprised everyone with the amount of dessert I consumed, but I may have shocked them even more when I couldn't resist going back for another round of ice cream; Lemon Verbena & Blueberry Temptation?! I mean, c'mon, amazing!

On Saturday, the gruesome twosome, aka Natalie & myself, embarked on a sugary tour of Chicago, that would make even the sweetest tooth cry. Chicago decided to hate on me by pouring down rain, but we were determined to get sugared up & started off at The Bleeding Heart Bakery! The Bleeding Heart Bakery may be the coolest pastry shop I have ever laid eyes on. I felt like I was walking in to my dream bakery, from the brightly colored kitsch to the cupcake tables. After browsing around & meeting Michelle, we settled on 2 organic, vegan cupcakes; Chocolate peanut butter & Chocolate vanilla. The cases here are kept at room temperature, thankfully, & while the moisture of the two cakes was inconsistent, the chocolate peanut butter was downright lovely! If nothing else, it's worth a visit to see the amazing shop, but I say grab yourself a treat. I only wish I had made it to Chaos Theory Cakes as well since it's the home of unique flavors.

Next, we braved the rain again & headed to Renegade Craft Fair where we got soaked, I spent a bunch of money at Circa Ceramics, & I ordered a custom bag from Made by Hank. Who I am kidding? I bought a lot more than that, for I am a sucker for cute. For the rundown of awesomeness, check out Natalie's guide to Renegade which includes a ton of links to businesses & is far better than I could scare up.

Tired of the rain & ready for sugar shock, round 2, we headed to Sweet Cakes Bakery. While they don't advertise as being a vegan destination, the owner is actually vegan herself, so many of the cakes are as well, despite not being labeled as such. Luckily, her father runs the counter & can tell you what is vegan. Being the end of the day, the case was a bit bare, but we each had mini Mint Chip & Orange Vanilla cupcakes & I ordered a small Peach pie. Once again, the case was refrigerated, so the cupcakes were a bit dried out, but the orange had some nice flavor to it. Outside Sweet Cakes, Natalie & I had some fun in the courtyard taking pictures with the odd stacks of trucks & giant horse statue. I hope the owner will make use of the patio in the future, it was a great space!

Jittery & ready to be out of the rain, we headed back to Natalie's house. You may be surprised to find out, we headed to yet another vegan baked goods spot, but I'll be saving that until next time!

By the way, many of you asked for tips on the taquito making from my previous post. One of our chefs that night, Mark, was cool enough to post 10 taquito making tips on his blog, so you can get your fry on!
Also, for those of you in the San Francisco area or those who are planning to come visit, check out Vegansaurus.com for an often hilarious guide to eats & treats in the Bay Area!


Anonymous said...

Can I travel with you, please? That sounds like such an amazing (and yummy) trip!

Jennie Panic said...

what an amazing and delicious adventure!

Anonymous said...

Super fun times! Next time we'll hit up the fancy veg spots!

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Sooo fun about hitting up Chicago!!! I love that town - especially Chicago Diner :0)

River (Wing-It Vegan) said...

What a fun trip! You guys are so adorable!
The Bleeding Heart Bakery's website is so cool. I love their pictures, everything is so colorful!

Vegan_Noodle said...

What's up with the refrigerated cakes Chicago? Besides that and all the rain (was that courtesy of Ike which left me powerless for 12 days?), sounds like a real sugar shack to me!
Chicago is now bumped up to #6 on my list of US destinations...

Leslie Richman said...

That sounds like a wonderful trip. I loved my first visit to Chicago last February!

...barbara... said...

your trip sounds uber awesome....
hooray for all things sugary....

Kati said...

Aww, I miss Chicago. :'-( *sniff*

Jenni (aka Vegyogini) said...

Congratulations on the opening of Sugar Beat Sweets! I wish you tons of success. :) Thanks for reviewing Chicago's vegan fabulousness for us. I love seitan reubens!

Tami said...

You really packed a ton of goodness into that trip!

If you perfect that reuben, please post the recipe! It's such an amazing sandwich!

Bianca said...

Oh, I wanna go back to Chicago so bad! I've been once, and I was there for a work conference, so I didn't get a chance to venture to the Chicago Diner. I was stuck in Evanston all weekend with no car and no knowledge of how to work public transit alone.

Oh well, it's only an 8-hour drive from here. I'll keep all your sweet suggestions in mind.

mel said...

That cookies and cream cake looks so good! I need to go to Chicago.

tofufreak said...

AAAHHH!! your trip to chicago sounds like so much fun!!!!

I wish i could just randomly travel. lucky :D

The Esther Bunny said...

hello! it was nice meeting you at the veg festival! and i absolutely loved your cupcakes!

Lisa (Show Me Vegan) said...

what a great review. I had no idea Chicago had so many vegan options!

Anonymous said...

Chi town and the Renagade Craft Fair? Color me jealous!!

Paula said...

I keep meaning to make a trip to Chicago just for the food! Last time I went there I wasn't vegan. That reuben is calling to me.

shannie cakes said...

aw looks like you girls had a great time!

Bethany said...

that looks like so much fun. all that great food. I'm with you in spirit. I have my pink striped chicago socks on right now. I really want to visit there someday.

x said...

Your trip sounds awesome, so many vegan bakeries!

TJF said...

The Chicago Diner actually shared their recipe on Vegetarian Times...I'm going to go ahead and post it to my blog, portlandveganreubens.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Those layer cakes look especially good, but it all seems delicious! I had no idea there were so many vegan-friendly places in Chicago.

bazu said...

It all looks so cool- especially the cute people photos! I love Chicago, I've only been once, but I want to go back. Global bisques unite!

Anonymous said...

Everything sounds yummy! A friend of mine was selling bags at Renegade Crafts (though not vegan ones), and I LOVELOVELOVE the Bleeding Heart Bakery! I ate brunch there once when we were visiting my gf's sister in Chicago. So good! and cute!

funwithyourfood said...

Um I WISH I could just hop on a plane and go somewhere on a whim! Looks like you had a fantastic time.
Thanks for making me jealous haha ;)

Cakespy said...

OMG--this post has too much delicious, too many good looks, too much awesome--I think I'm gonna die! (but oh what a sweet death!)

Anonymous said...

what fun! all the food looks tasty!

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