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!

Bowls

Now feels like an awkward time to publish a cookbook on grain bowls. They’d become a joke in our house a while back and even lamestream food media seems to have recognized that they are over-hyped, at least as a trend. As a way of eating they remain wonderful and essential. But add them to the pile of faded cultural moments along with small plates (or maybe just having small plates explained to you at excruciating length?), “everything is better with bacon” (No, it’s not.), cupcakes, and prohibition-era cocktails. But from the trash heap of food frenzy we get to salvage the remains of what we like and incorporate them into our lives.

So maybe I am wrong and it is a good time for one more book of bowls. This one, Bowls of Plenty: Recipes for Healthy and Delicious Whole Grain Meals, is from Carolynn Carreño, one of my favorite cookbook coauthors, who is finally venturing out on her own. I know her mostly as the woman who collaborates on Nancy Silverton’s wonderful books, though her resume is long. She’s also proven herself to be a great internet pal, and she kindly sent me a copy of the book.

read more+++

Throwing Parties During the Apocalypse

IMG_2348

After the presidential election in November, we were suddenly (at least it felt sudden) confronted with the holiday season—for many Americans a time of celebration and gathering. But enjoying Thanksgiving can be difficult when your president-elect is filling his cabinet with people whose only qualifications are being white and rich. Watching lawmakers play games with people’s healthcare can make it hard to enjoy unwrapping gifts. Though the holidays were a salve in some ways, providing a distraction and an opportunity to spend time with people we love, they highlighted the fact that we need to change the way we live. Hopefully more of us who have had the privilege and disgrace of ignoring things for so long, are waking up.

Having the time, energy, and resources to throw a party is a privilege. Having something to celebrate is a privilege. I hope in the new year we can all spend some time thinking about how we use that privilege. I propose that it is possible to have fun and throw parties while also doing some good. In fact, I think our hosting and homes will feel better when we combine the two. Remember, everything is political. And rich people seem to throw fundraisers all of the time, why can’t we? They rent ballrooms and have Beyoncé perform, we might have to settle for our backyard and a boombox. Our parties will be more fun and have better food.

We hosted a small holiday open house in December and turned it into a Planned Parenthood fundraiser. The deal was, I would bake a lot of cookies (cookie parties are the best parties), Bryan would make some drinks, and our guests would bring cash to be donated to Planned Parenthood. We made it clear that our guests should not bring anything else (no host gifts or cookies or bottle of wine or whatever—CASH. But we all stressed that it was not necessary, we do not want to make friends who may be strapped for cash feel bad about not being able to donate—there are other ways to help.). I put some latent crafting skills to work to make a donation box. We designed and produced three custom buttons for the event (I bought a button maker years ago). And I printed some fact sheets about the great work that Planned Parenthood does and had them available throughout our apartment. Otherwise, it functioned as a fairly standard holiday party, though with perhaps a bit more talk about politics. At the end of the night we had spent time with some of the people we love, had eaten our fill of cookies, AND we had raised $750 for Planned Parenthood. Not a bad score for an afternoon with friends. Even if we had only raised $50 it would have felt like a success. Something is always better than nothing. The revolution starts with lots of little things. We need a revolution—now. (We needed it ages ago, but now is all we got.) read more+++

Lottie + Doof Gift Guide 2016

dsc03234

Julianne Ahn makes some of my favorite ceramics at Object & Totem. She has quite a following, so things go fast. But they are worth waiting for.

dsc03271

Okay, okay, this is a major splurge. But after years of being curious about linen sheets my friend Grace convinced me they were worth the money. She was right. We’ve become linen converts. I find myself talking about them way more than I should. The only problem is, they’re fucking expensive. But Bryan and I had been sleeping on the same cheap cotton sheets for most of our decade-long relationship so we felt like we could justify the upgrade (I am The King of justifying upgrades). We now have a set from West Elm that we got on sale and some from Parachute. I especially love the off-black (coal, as they call it) from Parachute–it is just such a great 90’s goth color. We like them because they are cool (we both run hot) and yet have a comforting weight to them. Hard to explain, but delightful.

dsc03310

We Are Everywhere. For real.

dsc03220

DS & Durga have made it to this guide before, and I can never get enough of their everything. They recently released a line of pocket perfumes. Oil-based roll-ons that you can easily transport. They even come in the perfect felt sleeve. And as always, the graphic design on these is A+. Spirit Lamp is based on a favorite candle of theirs, described as:

  • Tea service at the colonial parlor of Mme. Revere, topless psychic.
    Hot silver heated by open flame. Bohea vapours, radiant heat, milk.

dsc03204

These beautiful little match holders are from Evanston-based artist Julia Finlayson’s Grandmontstreet Ceramics. Each perfect little vessel holds a handful of matches and is ribbed for striking. They’re available at one of my favorite Chicago shops, Asrai Garden (who recently launched their very own web shop!).

dsc03213

Pillows! This pillow is great, but so is everything from Banquet Atelier and Workshop in Vancouver. I am pretty obsessed with their textile patterns and a lot of my domestic fantasies revolve around curtains for our dining room in one of their rad fabrics. read more+++