Out and About in Chicago




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We visited the Shedd Aquarium the first week we moved to Chicago.  I had been before, with my family on vacation one summer, but I didn’t remember it at all.  Eric and I went on a Sunday afternoon, and it was chilly and rainy.
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This was the line into the aquarium, which was even longer inside the building.  We waited in line over an hour.  And, uh, not worth it.  Or it’s not worth it if you purchase the cheaper tickets, which we did. 

We looked at some fish…
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…and spent less time there than we did in line.  It wasn’t for us.  I think it would be fun if you had kids and wanted to bring them here.  Maybe we chose the wrong time to come; it was packed full of people.  At least we can say we did it!

I went to the opening day of the Lincoln Park farmers’ market a few weeks ago.  It was pretty cool.  Definitely bigger than the one I used to go to in Springfield.  I think it was too early to go when I did, because there wasn’t a wide variety of produce to choose from – mostly asparagus.  I will be back, though!  I want some fresh fruit.  Do you think they have Concord grapes?  I’ve always wanted to eat/bake with Concord grapes.  I’ll keep you updated.
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When I was leaving I spotted Top Chef Sarah Grueneberg leaving the market.  First Chicago celebrity sighting!  Whoop.  Sorry for the bad picture. 

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A few Chicago natives told me I should try Molly’s Cupcakes, located in Lincoln Park.  Well, I strolled over there one day (it was really busy) and bought two cupcakes.  They had more extravagant, filled cupcakes, but I stuck to basic carrot cake and red velvet.
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Here’s the red velvet with with cream cheese frosting.  It was good.  Moist, not dry at all.  The frosting wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet.  I wasn’t blown away by it, but it deserves a good rating.
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Here’s the carrot cake with browned butter frosting.  I loved the frosting (obviously), and the cake was tasty, too.  I’d give these an A. 

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I have a question for those who have worked in bakeries before.  Are the cakes/cupcakes made from scratch?  Or do most bakeries use a mix?

Oh!  One last important piece of news for you – I’m a proud owner of a new set of wheels. 
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I found my bike!  It’s a used Schwinn road bike.  So pretty!  I love it! 
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I need a bell and a basket now.  And maybe some lavender streamers.
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33 comments:

  1. You MUST go to Garrett Popcorn and get the Chicago mix ASAP--then re-create it, and share the recipe!

    Also, next time you go to Molly's get the Ron Bennington and the strawberry shortcake.. and the Truffle bomb.

    Happy Summer!

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    1. I want them all!! I will get them. Thanks for the advice!

      I love the Chicago Mix from Garrett's. There's no way I could re-create it. That stuff is amazing.

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  2. We tried to go to the Shedd Aquarium once, saw the line, and turned around cause it was too long! I'm glad to know we aren't missing much!

    I love when it's Farmer's Market time in Chicago! And they have little mini ones all around the city on different mornings and nights, so it's a lot more convenient than the huge one. But I like the huge one, too! I definitely saw some concord grapes last year....

    Agree w/ Anon on the Ron Bennington cupcake....so good. And I had the Red Velvet from Molly's with whipped cream icing instead of cream cheese, and it was actually really really tasty!

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  3. I've been to that aquarium! It wasn't too busy at the time though. Love your sparrow necklace in the aquarium pic by the way! I saw one of the girls on Cougar Town wearing one on an episode and I'm always trying to find one!

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    1. Thank you! I bought that one at Forever 21. I've seen them at Charlotte Russe, too.

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  4. I work as a baker and cake decorator and we always make cakes/cupcakes from scratch. I love your red velvet recipe by the way! I've made my own high altitude changes but it always turns out perfect!

    Have fun with your new bike!

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you like it!

      I'm so happpy you used cakes from scratch. I can't believe these phoney bakeries!

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  5. I worked a bakery in Little Rock, AR and all of their cupcakes are made from scratch.

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  6. I've worked in two bakeries, and the first one (the more prominent of the two) I quickly learned used box mixes for EVERYTHING--cakes, frosting, mousse. I was appalled! Needless to say I didn't stay very long. The second bakery was much smaller and made everything from scratch. I guess each bakery is different! But as a customer I'd want to know if I was consuming all those preservatives or actual quality ingredients. Glad you're enjoying Chicago!

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    1. That makes me sad that they used mixes for everything! I think if they're going to do that, the customers have the right to know what's going on. I worked at a bakery for a few weeks here and they used a mix for everything.

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  7. We were not that impressed with the Shedd either on a recent trip to Chicago. The wait in line is horrendous. The day we went it was cold and rainy and we still had to wait outside forever. What a joke.

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  8. I think Sweet Mandy B's blows Molly's out of the water! Also, I've been to the Shedd Aquarium a bunch of times and never seen a line at all, let alone one out the door, so I think you went at a bad time. Sorry! Also, the LP farmer's market usually does have concord grapes, and it gets much much bigger and busier as the summer goes on.

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  9. You are certainly getting out and about. I've been to Chicago once on holiday and loved it. My favourites places were Sweet Mandy B's, The Cheesecake Factory and i-Cream (nitrogen frozen ice cream!) Was a few years ago now, so not sure if they are all still around.
    Keep posting any new finds, I love seing them :)

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    1. I know it's a chain, but I love the cheesecake factory, too!

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  10. Everything is made from scratch at the bakery I work at. It took us a long time to come up with those recipes. But I do know of bakeries where they use doctored mixes. So I guess it's a toss up.

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    1. Good for you! That makes me feel better. I've kind of felt sick lately about bakeries being honest... and if it's something I really want to be a part of. See comment below. :)

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  11. I will also second the "there will definitely be grapes at the market." Like you guessed it does get much bigger and better but also WAY more crowded. Generally once we're in the thick of the growing season I highly recommend getting there early because the crowds can be unbearable and sometimes certain things sell out.

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    1. Will do! I'm excited! I'll probably try and go this week. I want those grapes.

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  12. I don't work in a bakery - my expertise is on the other side of the counter ;-) - but I do think that they should have to post a notice up if they are using a mix. I go to a bakery to get FRESH baked goods. If I wanted a mix, I'd go to the supermarket!!

    Plus I've never seen a place charge a lower price because they're not cooking from scratch. I'm going to start asking in bakeries where you can't see what's going on in the kitchen. I wonder how many would actually tell me the truth!

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    1. I doubt they would tell you the truth. I asked because I worked in a bakery in Chicago for a few weeks (and hated it). They were using a mix for their cakes. All you did was add hot water and oil. They also used pre-made cream cheese frosting and breakfast pastries. Their menu up front was a lie too. It said certain cakes had ingredients that they didn't have.

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  13. looks like you had a blast! and that cupcake....droool!! thanks for sharing! gotta love Chi-Town!

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  14. So excited to read about your adventures in Chicago! We just moved back to the Midwest (from Santa Fe) and are only 2 hours from Chicago! Can't wait to spend a couple of days eating my way through the city! I'll definitely be taking notes on your suggestions.

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  15. Best bicycle basket ever... Room for TONS of Farmer's Market goodies...

    http://www.amazon.com/Nantucket-CompanyLightship-Collection-Classic-Tapered/dp/B0048LR9WE

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  16. When Kevin and I were stuck in Chicago over Christmas last year we tried to wile away the time at the Shedd Aquarium and the line was just so ridiculously long that we decided not to try. Thanks for letting me know we didn't miss much. If you want to go to the BEST. AQUARIUM. EVER. go to the Baltimore Aquarium. It's worth it just for the architecture alone.

    Congrats on the new bike. Chicago is one of those cities that actually has safe bike paths isn't it?

    I love concord grapes, but they have seeds in them, so it might be a pain to bake with them.

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  17. If you ever get to Atlanta, you must visit the Georgia Aquarium. It is amazing!

    My mom just opened a bakery, and everything is made from scratch, but we have heard that some bakeries in town use mixes. Or they have a base cookie mix that they add different ingredients to, so all the cookies taste similar and have the same texture. We've also heard that Publix freezes their cakes.

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  18. Such a pretty bike!! I bought a road bike a few years and I totally bought it by color (turquoise/aqua). It still needs a basket, too :)

    I feel like bakeries baking from boxed mix would be cheating!!

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  19. I worked in a very successful bakery in Dallas out of college and they started with a mix and added to it. Their cakes were amazing!!!

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