Chicago Cupcake Tours: Explore the Gold Coast one cupcake at a time

New York and Los Angeles, you may have invaded our city with your cupcakeries, but Chicago cupcakes are still the best in the world! And Chicago Cupcake Tours proves just that.

Swirlz Cupcakes (left), More Cupcakes (right)

Swirlz Cupcakes (left), More Cupcakes (right)

Last Thursday, I attended its cupcake tour in the Gold Coast. Our tour group was asked to promptly meet at 4:45 p.m. inside the Bloomingdale’s Building at 900 N. Michigan Ave. This was the perfect meeting place, because it gave us time to do a little window-shopping and hydrate before the tour. (Tip: Buy a bottled water at King Café Gourmet & Go before you start sampling cupcakes. Trust me, you’ll need it!).

Our tour guide Kerri Morrison was easy to spot by the entrance of the mall with her bright green flag and warm smile. Next to Kerri was the founder of Chicago Cupcake Tours, Valerie Beck, who greeted each of us as soon as we checked in. To me, it was nice meeting a Chicago business owner who cared about local businesses. Valerie could have easily added Sprinkles Cupcakes (based in Los Angeles) since it’s along the tour path, but she consciously chose cupcakeries from Chicago.

At the start of the tour, Kerri gave us a rundown of our itinerary: 2-hour walking tour, 4 locations, and lots of cupcakes! (Tip: You’ll be outdoors for a good amount of time, so check the weather forecast in case you need a coat or umbrella. The tour will carry on rain or shine!). Kerri also took the time to remember all of our names, which was impressive considering there were at least 12 people in our group. It turns out most of the guides with Chicago Cupcake Tours are actors like Kerri, so they’re good at memorization and putting on a dynamic performance.

Once introductions were over, our cupcake journey began…

Sarah’s Pastries & Candies (70 E. Oak St.) is a patisserie owned by Chicago native and Northwestern graduate Sarah Levy. As the name of the shop implies, Sarah’s sells more than cupcakes. In fact, we were escorted to the back of Sarah’s kitchen where breads are baked and chocolate is tempered. Staff handed us samples of crispy chocolates to show what quality chocolate truly is – shiny and snaps when you bite through it. After the chocolate demonstration, the shop had individually wrapped Black & White cupcakes ready for us at the front counter. Sarah’s Black & White cupcake is similar to marble cake, but has a vanilla-chocolate ganache frosting on top. The cupcake is a little piece of heaven, both light and moist.

Swirlz Cupcakes (705 W. Belden Ave) is not located in the Gold Coast, so they set up a pop-up cupcakery at the information desk inside the Bloomingdale’s Building. Swirlz employee Jamie Finnan gave our group two offerings. First, we sampled a mini red velvet cupcake with a light cream cheese frosting, dipped in chocolate. We then tasted a mini strawberry-chocolate cupcake with Italian buttercream frosting and fresh strawberry preserves, which was created specifically for Chicago Cupcake Tours. Jamie also passed out Swirlz buttons and a voucher for one free Swirlz cupcake. Great incentives to get us to the Swirlz shop in Lincoln Park!

Hendrickx Belgian Bread Crafter (100 E Walton St.) was my favorite stop on the tour, because we got a cultural lesson with our cupcakes. The bakery is co-owned by Chef Renaud Hendrickx and Dominique Schewebach, who are both from Belgium. Dominique explained that bakeries in Belgium use simple ingredients in their baked goods. For instance, the country bread we sampled from Hendrickx contains flour, yeast, water, and salt. Simplicity is also key to making Belgian cupcakes, which are different from American cupcakes. Belgian cupcakes have less sugar and no frosting, but have delicious fillings, such as dark chocolate and marzipan.

More Cupcakes (1 E. Delaware Pl.) was our last stop on the tour. Unlike the other cupcakeries, More Cupcakes is like a cupcake gallery. The cupcakes are a work of art with their unique flavor profiles, like feta-cranberry and piña colada. On the tour, More Cupcakes gave everyone a double chocolate mini cupcake to eat at the shop and a full-size ‘More’ cupcake (similar to a Hostess cupcake) to take home. The Gold Coast may have a lot of high-price designer fashion, but More Cupcakes offers affordable designer cupcakes.

The Gold Coast Route with Chicago Cupcake Tours takes place every Thursday at 4:45 p.m. It may not be a practical time for workers, but it’s a perfect activity for vacationers and staycationers alike. (Tip: Book a cupcake tour for a bridal shower or bachelorette party, especially if the bride needs help choosing cake/cupcakes for the wedding!).

Watch this video to get a taste of Chicago Cupcake Tours…

 

Other tips about the area:

  • If you haven’t completely spoiled your appetite after the cupcake tour, walk down the street from More Cupcakes and step inside The Goddess and Grocer at Delaware Pl. and Wabash Ave. Grab a tasty salad, cup of soup, or light sandwich made with local products. (Tip: Get one of my favorite sandwiches in the city – California Dreaming!). This is also the perfect place for out-of-towners to pick up Chicago souvenirs for foodie friends, like chocolate bars from Vosges Haut-Chocolat and coffee from Intelligentsia (both originating from Chicago). If you prefer a relaxing meal, go to The Goddess and Grocer’s sister restaurant Feast. Sit back and enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner!
Advertisements

Frasca: Not your average pizza joint in Roscoe Village

Finding a spot to eat in Roscoe Village is never an issue. There are restaurants like Orange and Kitsch’n for brunch, as well as bars like Village Tap and Volo for happy hour. While the food and drinks are incredible at all of these places, oftentimes you’ll have to wait patiently for a table to open up or you’re practically sitting in the diner’s lap next to you because it’s too darn crowded. At Frasca, a pizzeria and wine bar located at Paulina St. & Roscoe St., you don’t run into these problems.

Frasca

Welcome to Frasca

My roommates and I wonder why we haven’t had to wait 30+ minutes to grab a table at Frasca. Perhaps drivers lose patience if they can’t find a parking space nearby. I admit, it’s easier to take the Brown Line and get off at the Paulina stop to get there. Or, maybe it’s the efficient wait staff and sensible layout of the restaurant that allow service to run at an even pace. The bar wraps around the center of Frasca and seats up to 18 people. (Tip: Great place to dine for a casual date!). For larger parties, the booths and tables surrounding the bar are comfy and evenly spaced. And, if weather permits, there are plenty of tables outside for al fresco dining.

Needless to say, Frasca Pizzeria + Wine Bar is known for its pizza. Frasca’s pizza is not the traditional deep dish pizza or pan pizza Chicagoans are familiar with. It’s Italian style pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven to make the thin crust perfectly crisp and chewy. The Prosciutto, Margherita, and Soprano pizzas are among my favorites. (Tip: Dine at Frasca on Wednesdays for buy one get one free pizzas!).

Although the pizza is fantastic, I typically go there for brunch or happy hour. There are many drink specials throughout the week for a cheap happy hour, such as ½ off bottles of wine on Mondays and $6 dollar specialty martinis on Thursdays. Also, ask your server for the Farmers Table menu, which features a variety of bruschettas, cheeses, and cured meats. I fully recommend ordering a butcher’s plate, so you can sample different items on the menu. For instance, I can split a small butcher’s plate with a girlfriend and select the Tomato & Basil Bruschetta, Brie & Apple Bruschetta, Delice de Bourgogne Cheese, and Prosciutto. Four items may not seem like much food, but trust me, the portions are generous and filling. And, Frasca adds fun accouterments to the butcher’s plate like grapes, almonds, and chutneys.

Small Butcher's Plate

Small Butcher's Plate

Weekend brunch at Frasca is equally amazing! Though they serve typical brunch fare – pancakes, French toast, etc. – you want to order items with an Italian twist. The Breakfast Pizza is something you won’t see at most restaurants. And, the Paulina St. Omelette is to-die-for with mozzarella, mushrooms, sautéed spinach, and a drizzle of hollandaise. (Tip: Skip the diet! Order the side of potatoes instead of fruit. Frasca adds alfredo sauce and rosemary to its potatoes…YUM!). If you want to splurge even more, try the cinnamon-sugar donuts. They come fresh out of the kitchen piping hot.

Paulina St. Omelette with Potatoes

Paulina St. Omelette with Potatoes

Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts

Cinnamon-Sugar Donuts

Frasca is open Monday through Thursday 4:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., Friday 2:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m., and Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Hope to see you there soon!

Other tips about the area:

  • Need a cute outfit to wear for a date at Frasca? Then, head over to Bazar fashion boutique (Frasca’s next door neighbor). Bazar has lots of flowy dresses, cute accessories, and even a few decorative pieces for the home. It’s a great place to find gifts for your girlfriends, because items are reasonably priced around $50 dollars or below.
  • If you’re not in the mood for wine, stop by Northdown Café and Taproom down Lincoln Ave. The beer menu is insanely long, but don’t be intimidated! The bartenders are incredibly nice and help you navigate the extensive list of brews on tap, bottles, domestics, and imports.

My kind of town…

Hi there! Welcome to Tip C: Travel in Patricia’s Chicago. This blog is a compilation of all the places and activities that I think make this city second to none. I hope this will become one of your go-to sites when you’re trying to figure out where to have brunch on a Sunday (without having to wait in line forever), where to shop when you want to find unique gifts/souvenirs for out-of-towners, and which neighborhood festivals you should scope out this summer. Basically, I’m here to offer you tips about Chicago.

Before we begin our journey, I think you need to watch these videos. To me, they capture the true essence of Chicago…

This is the video that kicked off “Sh*t Chicagoans Say.”  The stuff regarding Michael Jordan, Da Bears, pizza, gas prices, snow, and “pop” are all real!

The comments made about this YouTube video are pretty accurate – these sayings apply to Northsiders. I’m a Northsider and I admit I’m criminal of, at least, 90% of the things said in this video. Sad, but true.

Andy Bear’s “ODE to CHICAGO” is both artistic and fun. I love that he shot part of the video at Hot Doug’s. If you didn’t see my photo in the About tab of this blog, go check it out. As you can tell, Hot Doug’s is a hot spot. 

Plain White T’s is a Chicago band, so it made sense to shoot the music video “1, 2, 3, 4” in Chicago. Most of it was filmed in front of the Art Institute of Chicago and in Millennium Park. But you will catch glimpses of other Chicago institutions, such as Wrigley Field, Metro, The Cubby Bear, and Delilah’s. Catchy song too, right?

This video by New Era came out on opening day at Wrigley Field. While the “Chicago vs. Chicago: Round 1” video is hysterical, I think it should be renamed “A Time-Honored Tradition: Cubs vs. White Sox Debate” or “The Northside/Southside Baseball Debacle.” It just shows how loyal Chicago fans are to their sports.