Brunch at Honey Cafe

honey cafe in glen ellyn

It is always a pleasure to spend time with Jacqui of Happy Jack Eats—that girl makes two hours at a Barnes & Noble book signing seem fun—so this last Saturday, after two months of sickness and holidays and traveling and (for her) wedding planning!, we met up at Honey Cafe, a suburban brunch spot I’d read about online that was said to rival the best of the city, and can I just say? It does.

downtown glen ellyn

First of all, it’s in downtown Glen Ellyn, where they have historic houses surrounding a few streets of shopping and dining, all smack-dab next to a Metra station, and there’s a historic theatre and a mom-and-pop grocery (where I bought a loaf of bread! support local business!) and random alleys that make for nice pictures with the blue sky poking through above.

glen ellyn theatre
glen ellyn grocery
glen ellyn alley

Honey’s also pretty inside.

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Friends! Food! Florida!

Florida in January

Before my plane landed in Tampa Friday afternoon (where it would be a balmy 74 degrees!), I did a lot of thinking about the last time I’d touched down in the Sunshine State, back when I was an unhappy freshman, and about how strange our life paths are, with mine taking me from Illinois to Florida to Wisconsin and to Illinois again, and how here I was nine years later, wanting to be in Florida for the weekend when before, I had wanted to be anywhere else.

My friend Elizabeth picked me up at the airport. We had lived together in Unit G—the bed bug unit—and reconnected only recently, through Facebook, drawn into deeper correspondence through, well to be totally honest, this blog, and she lives in the same town as one of my roommates from that college in Wisconsin I ended up transferring to, a roommate who also likes to cook, isn’t that crazy?

Over our fast weekend, we did simple things like eat Thai food at Elizabeth’s favorite hole-in-the-wall place, where I tried Pad Thai for the first time (and loved it):

pad thai

and grabbed breakfast at a bagel place (twice!) where Elizabeth and her family know the people by name, that’s how much they love it (that curly-haired girl is her daughter—gorgeous!):

fishhawk bagels
Fishhawk bagels
elena

and, the highlight of the whole weekend, attended the kumquat festival in Dade City, all because I saw it online and thought it was just crazy enough to be fun, which it was, even with the rain that hit us after about 45 minutes there:

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Breakfast at Chicago French Market

chicago French market

By the time my friend Michele mentioned the Chicago French Market to me last Friday, there’d already been a lot of buzz on it (plus more specific calls to us as individuals: an e-mail to me and a handed-out-on-the-street coupon to Michele) but neither of us had yet been to visit, so we declared 9 AM on Saturday morning the perfect time to do something about that.

Part of the MetraMarket at Ogilvie Train Station in the West Loop, this market dubs itself as a European-inspired marketplace, filled with products from local farmers and artisans—sort of a year-round indoor farmers’ market that’s easily accessible for commuters.

And while it turns out to be more like an upscale version of a shopping mall food court than an indoor version of a street in France (think fluorescent lighting and shiny grocery-store floors), it does have some notable features.

Like, for example, bakery:

bakery
pastries and sweets

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Brunch at Deleece

deleece

It’s true that in Chicago, winter brunch means no alfresco dining, but you could say this weekend ritual makes up for what it lacks with other charms. Like a few weeks ago, just days after Christmas: three of us walked down shoveled sidewalks, fat flakes of snow falling all around us, out of that cold and into the exposed brick walls, white twinkling lights and contemporary style of Deleece in Lakeview.

tea deleece

his tea

Seated at the back end of the wall lined by small tables, we kept our coats on and ordered hot tea, our waitress bringing steaming water in individual glass carafes with black-rimmed necks that make them easier to handle.

deleece inside

street view from inside

From where I sat on the wall side, cradling my mug between my warming hands, I had a full view of the restaurant: nicely sized with room for customers to get in and out (unlike another brunch spot I visited recently), a wide bar, loads of streaming sunlight pouring in through the front wall of windows to the street.

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Getaway to Galena

galena

When you tell people you’re spending the weekend in the quaint little town of Galena, particularly when it’s at a historic bed and breakfast, particularly when it’s at a historic bed and breakfast with your mom and your brother, particularly when it’s at a historic bed and breakfast with your mom and your brother in one room with two beds and hardwood floors so beautiful and old that they creak every time you step on them, well, no one knows how to react.

aldrich house

In fact, we didn’t know how to react either. Sometime in the middle of the weekend, Adam and I looked at each other and said, How did this whole weekend come to be, anyway? We remembered the back-and-forth e-mails of I’m-traveling-this-weekend-and-you’re-busy-next-and-looks-like-we’ll-have-to-go-near-Thanksgiving-will-that-work-for-you-and-when-did-we-become-people-who-are-busy-with-stupid-things-EVERY-SINGLE-WEEKEND-and-well-this-whole-thing-is-really-far-away-from-now-so-whatever-we’ll-worry-about-it-later, but we didn’t remember how they’d started to begin with.

farm

cows

I guess it must have started with Mom, who has been wanting to go out to Galena, to go antiquing, she said, which is something all three of us like now, even though at least two of us didn’t growing up, and, after we kids had arranged to have Friday off work and Mom had booked a place to stay, we drove three hours through farms and fields and sleepy little towns until we reached the top of northwest Illinois, where, oh boy, antiquing is exactly what we did.

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Chicago Food Tour: Near North Side

“If only we could apply a travelling mind-set to our own locales, we might find these places becoming no less interesting than, say, the high mountain passes and butterfly-filled jungles of Humboldt’s South America.” (Alain de Botton, Art of Travel)

chicago

When you travel to a new place, and you see Maine’s thick woods and eat its seafood, and you walk through Colorado’s breathtaking garden of the gods, and you meet Indiana’s farmers and ride its horses, it is easy to be impressed. So much so that when you return to your own city (which, to be fair, isn’t really your city as much as it is the place where you went to school and the place where your brother lives and the place you have always been identified as being from by outsiders, when in reality you keep an address in its suburbs), it is easy to overlook all that has become familiar, saying things like, What is so great about Chicago? while you flip through your pictures and long for where you were.

So thank goodness for you all, I mean it, you who remind me how much the Midwest and Chicago matter, in the way that every place matters for its own beauty and people and unique location, and thank goodness for Chicago Food Planet, the very cool company that gave me and Caitlin of Engineer Baker and Jacqui of Happy Jack Eats the chance to turn a Saturday where we were already planning to meet in the city into a Saturday where we were treated to a tour of new-to-us spots on the North Side. Even after a rainy morning standing outside Union Station hailing a cab, this Second City is winning me over again, at least when it comes to its food.

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