Tag Archives: sweet treats

La Michoacana

La Michoacana pilsen chicago 18th blue island 3rdarm arthur mullen mangonada

The intersection of 18th, Loomis and Blue Island is the perfect place for an ice cream stand, and La Michoacana fits that role like destiny.

La Michoacana pilsen chicago 18th blue island 3rdarm arthur mullen mangonada

The place is brightly lit and clean, but we all know the real reason to go is La Michoacana’s amazing mangonadas (sweet, refreshing, spicy, limey, salty, damn) and liquados… nevermind so many flavors of delicious paletas!

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Mano Derecha

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As Chef Alfonso’s right hand man, I started working the weekends as a dishwasher, and pushed harder for 5 Rabanitos social media content. We started listening to my mix of cumbia covers called, “Me Juegas,” every Saturday. Chef decided I would be more valuable as a server, and I integrated with the team on the floor.

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Raven and I started spending lots of days in each other’s company. I wanted to show her some of my favorites before I had to move. Together we hit up all the best spots in the old neighborhood for bites: Filipino style breakfast at Uncle Mike’s Place, Cuban medianoche sandwiches at Nini’s, Italian pan pizza at D’Amato’s Bakery, New Mexican chile sauced sopapillas at Flo.

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Dos Urban Cantina

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Chef Jennifer Jones is one of my top all-time most loved former chefs: for her desserts, to be sure, don’t even get me started, and somehow even more for her positive attitude and calm, focused energy. We are talking about some of the best desserts on planet Earth… I am just underlining how amazing Chef Jennifer’s shining is, that her good energy tops her sweets in my book.

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When Chef Wil and I visited her restaurant, Dos Urban Cantina, for the first time (which she opened with her husband the legendary Chef Brian Enyart) we came bearing gifts: tomatoes fresh off the 40 foot vine, and Korean beer of course. The chefs were out on a date, their only night off together, and the kitchen and servers still went above and beyond for Chef Wil and I, even though they didn’t know us from different brands of Korean beer.

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The guacamole was just amazing, and their sikil pak (Yucatecan pumpkinseed spread) was fruity, nutty and satisfying… the star of the appetizers for me, which I can still taste if I close my eyes, was the chicharrones and French onion dip, a kind of dream snack for the late night stoner, crispy and rich. Other standouts included the juicy pork carnitas balanced by lime green broth of tomatillo and crispy taquitos of shrimp in spicy, acidic roasted tomato sauce.

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There was one savory item that brought me even more pleasure than the items listed above, all of which I want to eat again and am actively salivating over, just writing this. The best thing I had was their corn tamal. I have eaten A LOT of tamales in my life, and this one was so much better than anything I had eaten before it may as well have been Tamal #1. Smoky, spicy, so forward with the flavors of tomato, corn and fire, it erased the memories of all previous tamales like Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black with his pen thing.

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And guess what? All the savory goodness (a tough act to follow) was just setting the table for what was literally the best single piece of chocolate cake I have ever eaten in my life. I missed Chef Jennifer’s desserts so much I had to hold back from getting emotional at the table. From the beautiful decor (including so many milagros), flawless friendly service, to the food, oh man, the food… There was the sharp crack of the wooden bat as the ball was driven hard from home base, flying strongly upward, its trajectory carrying it high above the outfielders, beyond all lights of the ballpark, disappearing and gone into the endless night sky. Chefs Jennifer and Brian have crushed a homerun!

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First Slice Pie Cafe

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I adventured all the way up to the far North side, beyond Devon Ave, to the part of the city where the grid breaks down and I no longer recognize whether I’m in Chicago or Skokie, or even which way is the lake. It was a journey to hang with my friend Whitney, to go to Target and bring her cat to the vet with my car.

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We stopped for lunch at cafe that came recommended for its pie. Not that I was up late the night before obsessing over pie in my pajamas… OK I was. I really wanted some pie.  First Slice Pie Cafe puts out an excellent slice. Based on my friend’s Southern background, we shared a huge slice of French Silk. The chocolate mousse was silky as advertised.

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To balance the sweet with the savory, we shared a ham sandwich with melted Wisconsin cheddar and sundried tomato. I love how soft (yet still toasty warm) the bread it came on was. Thank you internet for a great recommendation for pie! My name is Arthur and I’m a pie addict.

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Churro Tower

3rdarm roly poly cat maine coon cat arthur mullen chicago 3rdarm xoco manager rick bayless churro tower

Mood Scale “Churro Tower” Edition: We got a fantastic review from Infatuation Chicago – and have been featured all week on their Instagram account. Please have a look! https://www.theinfatuation.com/chicago/reviews/xoco

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Mood Scale (My last RickBayless.com seasonal menu blog post edition): I have realized more than ever, in training Maria, that although I take great pride in the social media, there are so many more important things to manage in Xoco. THAT BEING SAID, I still like to think the blog posts got our guests and even our own team excited. Here is my last one: http://www.rickbayless.com/comfy-pantuflas/

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Padaria Ribeiro

Padaria Ribeiro croissant port wine squash pastry candied spaghetti tiago portugal 3rdarm

This bakery is in a small space but produces a great variety of Portuguese breads and pastries. Everything I tried was awesome. My biggest regret is that I wasn’t here every day of my visit!

Padaria Ribeiro croissant port wine squash pastry candied spaghetti tiago portugal 3rdarm

My friend Tiago (how could he not be Portuguese?!) insisted I try a savory pastry filled with shrimp, which was a good snack. With my sweet tooth, however, I was happy to move on to the sweet treats. I really enjoyed a small tart filled with candied spaghetti squash.

Padaria Ribeiro croissant port wine squash pastry candied spaghetti tiago portugal 3rdarm

Unfortunately, after just a few bites and an espresso, we had to take off. Tiago had an unexpected emotional outburst in response to the port-soaked croissant. IT WAS JUST TOO DELICIOUS! Face all red, he RAGED about how it’s IMPOSSIBLE to get croissant like this in the USA. I could see he wanted to order another one, but I was afraid of what might happen if he did.

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“Rabanadas” Majestic Style

rabanadas majestic style porto portugal 3rdarm french toast cafe con leche art nouveau

The Majestic Café, designed by architect João Queiróz in the nineteen twenties, is still today one of the most beautiful and meaningful examples of Art Nouveau in Porto. I may have missed a few of those striking details because I was distracted by my friend’s Audrey Hepburn-style beauty. The servers were gracious even though we arrived right before they closed. Majestic’s classic French toast was perfectly light and at the same time impossibly rich. It made for an unexpectedly epic and decadent midnight snack.

I thought their cafe con leche was on point. On the restaurant’s website, Gloria Montenegro, President of the Paris Academy of Coffeeology, is quoted saying, “The Majestic Café is a wonderful place, where muses, thinkers and artists can get together to live the best moments life has to offer: simply sharing communication through words and gestures, glances, smiles and even a few tears sometimes.” I don’t see why not. My friend and I shared “Rabanadas” Majestic Style, and it was pretty amazing.

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João Chagas Garden

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Arriving in Porto in January, I was impressed by the presence of green leaves on the branches of deciduous trees, and upon closer examination, evidence of tropical plants. One morning I took my coffee and pastry and I went exploring some of the city’s public green spaces. Known to locals as Jardim a Cordoaria, historically a place where artisans made rope, João Chagas Garden is located between the architectural beauty of Santo Antonio Hospital (by British architect John Carr, features the statue of justice) and the iconic Clerigos church.

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João Chagas Garden was commissioned by the city in 1865, designed by German landscaper Emile David, who also developed the gardens at the Crystal Palace. The park was damaged by a cyclone in the early 1940’s, but is still home to some magnificent ancient trees that must have withstood that storm. Bunya pine and London plane are shoulder to shoulder with a giant sequoia that would be at home in the redwood forests of Washington state. Deformed, swollen trunks mark the London planes as survivors of traumatic sickness in their youths, decades ago.

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If plant life, pastries and coffee is not your thing, the João Chagas Garden’s vibrant artworks may still be your cup of tea. In 2001, when Porto was named the capital of European culture, Spanish sculptor Juan Muñoz installed the piece, “13 Laughing at Each Other.” This sculpture captures the uneasy essence of the paradox of a loud silence: the 13 figures frozen in the moment of uproar while the act of hilarity or ridicule remains forever obscured. A few years before he finished, “13 Laughing at Each Other,” Juan Muñoz said of his art:

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“I sometimes feel that some of my work is about waiting, waiting for something to happen; on the one hand afraid in case it does happen, or even wishing that it had never occurred. It is like keeping a work in that state that we would call desire- keeping it at that level of desire, just holding it there that wish, that uncertainty, keeping the work still just here. Or like watching a door which one day a person might open.”

João Chagas Garden is also good for people-watching.

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Pérola do Mar

pastel de nata Pérola do Mar matosinhos porto portugal 3rdarm coffee cafe

When I arrived from Chicago, my friend brought me immediately to a cafe called Pérola do Mar. She is smart: I needed sweet treats and caffeine ASAP. There were too many to choose from behind the old school display counters. I deferred to my friend, who ordered for both of us. She got toasted bread with butter.

I loved my first experience with Portuguese coffee and pastel de nata. The creamy egg yolk custard in layers of flaky pastry was topped with burnt sugar: so good. The coffee was richly aromatic and small (European style) but an excellent accompaniment.

Pérola do Mar is a cozy neighborhood bakery with beautiful breads, pastries and coffee, and if I was a local I would enjoy it too much.

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El Alma Y El Cuerpo

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The last folks to dine on the patio were a group of 7 or 8. They had driven into the city from Plainfield to celebrate a birthday, with the big birthday dinner being at Xoco. Unfortunately, the birthday girl’s modified milanesa was not correct (we only got 2 of the 3 requested modifications.) We refired, and while Chef Glenn and Tiffany Ward (TW- one of the all time greats on the wood-burning oven) made sure the replacement was out ASAP, I stayed outside with the table as they were asking all kinds of RB-related questions. It turns out the girl’s parents had come to FG for the first time twenty years ago. They had to wait a few hours for the table, even back in the day. From what I understood of their story, they then ordered one type of fish and received another. To compensate, the manager back then had written on a business card, “Front of the line,” and their next visit to Frontera Grill they impressed the couple dining with them by not having to wait at all for a table.

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I thought it was remarkable because their story was a perfect example of our hospitality mantra, “The guest will not always remember what they ate, drank, etc, but they will never forget how we make them feel.” With that story informing my next actions, I put in a comp2mgr ticket for 7 churros, which Wendy made in the shape of a heart. Chef Jennifer and Abby wrote “happy birthday” in chocolate on one of the long dessert platters, and we plated the heart shaped churros with chocolate and cajeta for dipping. We brought this outside with a candle and sang happy birthday to the young lady. 20 years down the line, I hope her memory is as good as her parents!

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