Lottie + Doof + Spilt Milk

When we moved to Oak Park seven years ago, it was not a town with a thriving restaurant scene. We have a bunch of restaurants that are fine, but I am never really excited to eat at any of them. It bummed me out. When someone visits from out of town, we almost always leave Oak Park to eat. Seven years later things are basically the same—this isn’t a redemption story—but there is one very important exception. Last autumn, sisters Meg and Molly Svec opened Spilt Milk Pastry, a tiny storefront bakery near the center of town, and just a couple of blocks from our house. read more+++

Fight the Real Enemy

I keep thinking about my long-standing feud with Madonna. It began in 1993.

The previous year Sinead O’Connor (one of the most underrated musicians of all time) performed on Saturday Night Live as the musical guest. At the end of a moving cover of War by Bob Marley, she famously held up a picture of Pope John Paul II, tore it into pieces, looked into the camera and commanded: Fight the real enemy. It was, as you can imagine, controversial. It was also, for teenage me, the best thing I had ever seen. O’Connor used her platform to call attention to the sexual abuse rampant in the Catholic church and covered-up by its leaders, though few people understood that at the time. read more+++

Ispahan Sablés, bruh

Dorie Greenspan posted a recipe for raspberry and rose sablés in her Times magazine column recently. They are absolute perfection and you should make them tout de suite.

But then you should also spend some time LOL’ing about the people who comment on New York Times recipes. This round many of the comments center around people being exasperated that they are not familiar with some of the ingredients. Whenever I don’t know about something, I definitely lash out at people who do. Of course!

Luckily, a hero arrives to say:

To other readers: clearly you go online to post a question here. Why not just google terms like “sanding sugar, ” ” dried raspberries,” “rose extract.” You can get an immediate answer!

DUH.

Although props to the person who retorted: Because we crave human contact.

But seriously, these comments: read more+++

Spinning J

Spinning J, a bakery and cafe in Chicago’s beautiful Humboldt Park neighborhood, is located down the street from The Chicago High School for the Arts. At the beginning and end of the school day, Spinning J serves as 60622’s Peach Pit and is full of fresh-faced teens sharing pastries and milk shakes. I love these kids and I wish I had a place that cool to hang out in when I was in school. And they make me love Spinning J more, because they prove it to be a place that is comfortable and fun for the truly diverse group of patrons who walk through the door each day. Old curmudgeons like me, future stars of Disney musicals, millennials, neighbors, foodies—we all love Spinning J.

read more+++

Turmeric Millet-nola

Are Instagram posts the new food blogs? Ever since Elisabeth Prueitt started posting recipes as captions to her Instagram posts, I find myself getting more and more kitchen ideas from Instagram. I even posted the recipe for my favorite galette filling there. Am I a Millennial now?

Recently, Jessica Koslow posted a recipe for something she called Millet-nola (groan). It was a puffed millet granola. I can’t really explain why I was so fixated on it. In part, it was her enthusiasm. I am also going through a Granola Phase. A Granola Phase being a period of time in which I keep experimenting with granola recipes in an effort to perfect mine. One of the things I have learned is that adding puffed grains really improves a granola. Also, maybe cinnamon is not a good idea? So this recipe kind of lined up with what I have been thinking about. And you know I have strong feelings about Koslow. read more+++

Special/Limited Edition Oreo Flavors Ranked from Favorite to Least Favorite As of July 2017*

 

 

  • Marshmallow Crispy (Perfection)
  • Yellow Birthday Cake
  • Cinnamon Bun
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha (These taste exactly like those sugar wafer cookies that come in packages of Strawberry/Vanilla/Chocolate)
  • Choco Chip
  • Peeps
  • Fruity Crisp
  • Waffles and Syrup (Impressive flavor engineering!)
  • Coconut Thins
  • Cookies and Cream
  • Red Velvet
  • Salted Caramel Thins
  • Key Lime Pie
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Jelly Donut (I am still confused by this one—it doesn’t taste like jelly or a donut)
  • Blueberry Pie (Fruit flavors are always the least successful)
  • Firework (This is so low on list mostly because it was such a dumb idea)
  • Caramel Apple (Is there anything worse than artificial apple flavor?)
  • Swedish Fish (Absolutely vile)

 

*I know some are missing, these are just the ones I tried and can remember. Who can keep up?!

Galena and Mineral Point

We don’t have the dough for a big vacation this summer, so we’re spending time doing what we love: exploring the Midwest.

We just got back from a long weekend in Galena, Illinois and Mineral Point, Wisconsin. Both towns are in the Driftless region of the Midwest, an area (primarily Wisconsin, though it also includes a bit of Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota) that is known for its natural beauty and unique topography. The landscape  is a result of it having been untouched by glaciers when they were last moving over much of the rest of the region. The material (silt, sand, gravel, boulders) that glaciers leave behind is called drift, so the region is driftless.

Despite having spent almost all of my life in the Midwest, I had never been to this particular corner of it and was overwhelmed by how beautiful it is. A rolling agrarian landscape dotted with farmhouses and cows and sheep. Ridges and river valleys. It reminded me of central England, and at times even of Iceland.

We started our adventure in Galena, a 19th century (former) port town that has been beautifully preserved. At one time the Galena surpassed Chicago in population and importance, but now the river that once brought steamboats and trade to Galena is reduced to a stream. The former glory of the city is evident everywhere, and in fact the town seems to be experiencing a bit of a new kind of glory. The charming curved main street that followed the form of the river has now been turned over to tourists, which means it is mostly fudge shops and places that sell flavored olive oil or hand-painted signs that say “Live, Laugh, Love” or something. Businesses seem to be booming judging from the lack of vacant storefronts on main street. I might not go to Galena for the shopping, but the beauty of its natural landscape and well-preserved architecture has me eager to return.

read more+++

It is Happening Again

It would be impossible for me to overstate the importance of David’s Lynch’s iconic 90’s television series, Twin Peaks, in my life. Nothing has had a bigger impact on my aesthetic development—almost anything I am interested in I can find some seed of in Twin Peaks. I’m not alone, the show’s influence on my generation is evident in so much of our culture. When I heard the series was coming back for a third season (I’ll see you again in 25 years.”) I was absolutely on board. People seem worried that it will be bad or disappointing or whatever, but I can’t imagine it not satisfying the part of me that just wants to return to the town where “a yellow light still means slow down, not speed up”.  It is with great excitement and emotion that I await Sunday’s premiere.

Twin Peaks had a real point of view on food that recognized the beauty of American classics like diner pies, cups of black coffee, and police station donuts; but also acknowledged the deliciousness of a baguette sandwich from Paris. It was aware of how food could be creepy (creamed corn) or sexualized (that cherry stem!). Lynch clearly cared about food. So it is important to carefully consider what you are going to serve at your viewing party. I am partial to this delicious donut cake. Basically a butter cake that is scented with nutmeg, filled with jam, and then crusted with a cinnamon sugar mixture. Serve it a little warm and you’ll be really happy. The sugar coating has a generous amount of kosher salt in it and makes this cake exceptional. I used a blueberry and blackberry jam that the original recipe suggested (see link for that recipe) but cherry might be a more obvious choice. Although, the violence implied in a black and blue jam might satisfy Lynch. Your call.

read more+++

Toast Your Sugar, Friends

A quick note to suggest that you all toast your sugar. I learned of the technique from Stella Parks (one of the greats!) over on Serious Eats. She uses granulated sugar in place of beans or pie weights when she is blind baking pie shells. The sugar eventually takes on color and a caramelized flavor. But you don’t need to wait for the next time you’re making pie, toasted sugar can be made anytime. Instructions here. I like the results after about 3 hours. And this stuff is great in a lot of places. Pavlovas! Ice cream! Scones! Cookies!

Speaking of Stella, she recently brought another pastry secret into my life. Her fruity whipped cream technique has you whip heavy cream with some sugar and some freeze-dried fruit in a food processor. The resulting thick and delicious cream (kind of like clotted cream) is super stable and can keep in the fridge for days. It is genius. I especially like raspberry. She explains the whole process here. Sweet!