Bite Cafe – Ukrainian Village: A Sundae to Get You To Sunday

I will get to the food at Bite Cafe in Ukrainian Village in a second but I must tell you every Wednesday they feature an ice cream sundae.  My friends and I were celebrating a belated birthday and really went for it ordering main courses. There was no possible way to eat the sundae special I had been eyeing but the waitress said she was bringing it to us, we “had” to try it. It was the best sundae I’ve at a restaurant in Chicago.

Unfortunately the picture doesn’t do it justice but just imagine how great fresh homemade toasted marshmallow ice cream, pumpkin butterscotch, candied walnuts and cinnamon whipped cream tastes. It’s worth it to just go for the dessert. Go. Now.

This was my first trip to Bite after they remodeled. It’s very cozy with exposed brick, white, blue and brown colors throughout and local art on the walls. I would be here at least once a week if I still lived in the neighborhood. It’s also BYOB with no corkage fee.

Image via bitecafechicago.com

Dinner:
-Grilled Tofu- Curried Pumpkin Quinoa, Peas, Scallion, Pumpkin Vinaigrette
-Mussels and Fries- Shallots, Garlic, Leeks, Bacon, Smoked Paprika Butter, White Wine
-Roasted Portabella Sandwich- Roasted Red Peppers, Arugula, Fresh Mozzarella, Balsamic Glaze
-Parisian Gnocchi, Seasonal Vegetables, Herb Brown Butter, Parmesan
-Beet Salad- Arugula, Frisee, Goat Cheese Croquette, Orange, Kalamata Olive, Pistachio Vinaigrette
-Salmon with red wine mushroom risotto and vegetables (special that night)
Told you we ordered a lot…every single dish was flavorful, cooked perfectly and made with very fresh ingredients. My favorite of the night was the Parisian Gnocchi.  The sage cooked in herb brown butter coupled with pillow-like gnocchi = perfection. There are several more items from the dinner menu I would like to try. Also looking for an excuse to go to brunch.  I will definitely be going back on a Wednesday…who’s in with me?

Get in the Holiday Spirit at Christkindlmarket Chicago – Daley Plaza

If you:

-Need help getting into the holiday spirit

-Still need to get some Christmas gifts

-Are hungry for some meat

-Are thirsty for some Glühwein

Then head down to Daley Plaza for the Christkindlmarket.

The first thing I do when I am there is head to the Glühwein line. Depending on the time and day it can be long so by the time you order you might be a bit cold and ready for a warm drink.

The mulled wine comes in a souvenir boot you can get refilled and take home.

Next is the food line. I’ve been to the market more than a few times so have had the pretzel (comes in about 6 types), potato pancakes, brat, Thueringer, snowballs and curry sausage. All was good and pretty authentic, although any German will tell you, not so cheap. But hey, you are here for the novelty and entertainment.

If you have a sweet tooth there is a whole shop where you can buy kettle corn, cotton candy, gingerbread, roasted nuts and much more. Now that you have stocked up on all of the essentials you can peruse the many shops for your holiday gifts.

If you get cold there is a warming tent with tables to take a break. They have a live band at night and the sing-a-long participation is directly correlated to the Glühwein intake.

Great place to bring kids during the day with educational activities offered, check the website for event calendar. It does crowded at night but if you don’t mind a crowd it is a fun party. Usually Mondays are the least crowded. The market ends on December 24th so just under a week left to go. Prost!

Some history from the Christkindlmarket Chicago website:

Inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany, which began in 1545, the Christkindlmarket Chicago brings a cherished German and European tradition with international flair and local charm to Chicago. Chicago’s largest open-air Christmas festival was first held on Pioneer Court in 1996. By special invitation of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Christkindlmarket Chicago moved to Daley Plaza in 1997 and has become a stable event on the plaza ever since.

Floriole Cafe & Bakery‏ – Lincoln Park

Image via floriole.com

My friend April brought me to Floriole Cafe & Bakery because she thought we would both like it. She has a knack for picking good eating spots.

We ordered the Tartine of the Day: Grilled Sourdough Topped with Goat Cheese, Squash and Herbs. It was served open-face with a side salad. I love squash and this was fresh, hearty and filling. I would definitely get this again.

Also the B.A.D.: Bacon, Arugula, Almond Date Spread and Goat Cheese on Grilled Yeasted Corn Bread. A light take on a BLT. The almond date spread gave it some sweetness that was a nice change. If you have a really big appetite the B.A.D. may not be heavy enough satisfy you. In that case I’d get a side of mac and cheese.

My picture of the B.A.D. did not turn out well but there is a good picture on their website for reference.

The cafe itself is on two levels and has a very spacious open feel to it. The top floor has tons of natural light and makes a good spot to enjoy some coffee, lunch and even use as workspace as I saw a few people camped out with their laptop. I was here on a Friday afternoon and it was busy but plenty of seating.

I am looking forward to going back for some sweets (Creme Fraiche Tea Cake, Pecan Sticky Bun, Savory Galette) and more savory, want to try the grilled cheese (Spring Cheddar, Butterkase and Cheddar Spread on Brioche) — they were out when we were there — must be really good.

I also included some other pictures from Floriole’s site to give you an idea of what they have to offer.

The Biggest Village in Germany – Stuttgart

The beauty of the autobahn is the drive to Stuttgart from Munich can be as quick as you want, pending traffic of course. Coming into Stuttgart I was struck by what a beautiful valley I was driving into. It looked like there were vineyards in the hills as well. Wikipedia describes it perfectly, “The city centre lies in a lush valley, nestling between vineyards and thick woodland close by…Thus, the city is often described as lying “zwischen Wald und Reben”, between forest and vines.”

You really can see vineyards from downtown. After learning that Stuttgart is in the Württemberg wine growing area dating back to around 1100 I figured some great wine was in my future.

A Christmas Market (Christkindlmarket) off the Schlossplatz provided my first taste of Glühwein in Germany. A warm mulled red wine that is served at Christmas Markets. It keeps you toasty while you shop and hang out at the market. Coupled with a Germknödel (steamed dessert dumpling covered in vanilla cream sauce) and you have yourself a nice little treat.

Next order of business was to find some authentic Swabian food for dinner. Swabian food is known for its sauces on everything and on the rich side, which is fine by me…when in Swabia I will do as the Swabain. Enter zum Ackerbürger, a rustic farmhouse even the taxi driver couldn’t find. I was lucky to be with some Germans that asked about 5 people on the street for directions before finally finding someone who thought they knew where it was. I have a theory that the locals don’t want any tourist finding out about this place. There was a little too much “keine ahnung” (I have no idea) where zum Ackerbürger was from people standing less than a block away. Don’t blame them.

Established in 1551 it is the second-oldest house in Stuttgart. Their website indicates the back of the tavern is preserved in its original city walls. Stepping inside you immediately feel like you are in a cozy cottage. It is decorated with antiques and trinkets to make you feel like how it could have been at one time.

After taking in what a find this place was it was on to the food. Appetizers of Carpaccio vom Rinderfilet an Ackersalat in Kürbiskernvinaigrette (Beef Carpaccio) and Cremesuppe von champignons (Cream of Mushroom soup). Hands down the best mushroom soup I have ever had. The mushrooms were so fresh I think they actually were picked a few minutes before they were cooked. The sauce was rich and creamy but not so overpowering that you felt you couldn’t move on to a main course. I do suggest splitting it. The Carpaccio was of very high quality and the pumpkin seed vinaigrette was a refreshing change.

The Hauptspeisen (main course) was the Ackerbürgerpfannle – Rinder un Schweinemedaillon vom Grill mit Steinchampignons in Cognacsahne, dazu handegeschabte Spatzle. Wait, what? That was my reaction anyway…basically beef medallions and pork grilled with porcini mushrooms in a cognac cream, served with Spätzle. To say it was good is an understatement. The cognac sauce was rich and the meat was literally mouth-watering. You must get this dish.

It’s rare that I don’t order dessert but I was satisfied enough with the meal that dessert actually didn’t seem necessary.  Besides, we had some Cannstatter Zuckerle Trollinger wine to finish which had some body but was on the lighter side and tasted of fresh fruits. Perfect way to end the heavy meal.