Magnolia Bakery

I sometimes forget that I now have access to shops and products that I have been swooning over while living in Singapore. Hence it came as a huge but pleasant surprise when I stumbled upon Magnolia Bakery in downtown Chicago the other day. When the cupcake craze started a few years ago, I remember that Magnolia in New York was one of the bakeries leading the trend. They only have 2 stores in US that is outside of New York, one in LA and one right here in Chicago. 🙂

Usually, I’m not much of a sweet tooth but I make exceptions for cupcakes! I’ve had pretty good ones back home in Singapore. The office is right by Holland V, so making trips to Plain Vanilla was a common affair during lunch time. And I do love their Salted Caramel and Lavender Earl Grey Special. PV remains the only cupcakes I would eat back home. But Magnolia… wow, I wasn’t expecting to be so blown away.

Am not sure how it is with other stores but this particular one in Chicago is a sit down cafe with cakes and ice cream pies on the menu besides cupcakes. Coffee and tea is also available in the menu. Cute T-shirts, aprons and Magnolia cook books were on sale as well.

The cafe was decked out in a pretty mint and cream hue. It also had hints of lace and floral prints which reminded me very much of Cath Kidston. Would have been a lovely place to rest for an afternoon tea break. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time that day, so we took away a few cupcakes to bring home.

We brought back a Red Velvet, a Chocolate with Vanilla, Peanut Butter & Jelly (with a grape jelly in the middle!) and a Pistachio. I would say that PV is pretty comparable in terms of the cake texture and taste but the butter cream frosting at Magnolia was divine and cannot be beat. I later found out it was not just normal butter cream here at Magnolia but a MERINGUE butter cream. It was a lot more fluffy and light, almost like eating a melted marshmallow cloud.

My favourite was the Pistachio that I dived right into once I reached home. The Red Velvet was also really very well done, with a not too sweet cream cheese frosting, the best I’ve had. I did find the Peanut Butter a little cloying and the Chocolate was pretty normal.

The husband who usually doesn’t like sweets loved it too, testimony to how yummy these were. Can’t wait to go back and I need to try the Lemon cupcake the next time.

Magnolia Bakery Chicago
108 N. State Street at Block 37
(near State/Lake CTA Red Line)
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Real Food, Real Good

Currently, I have a slight obsession with this place called Real Food. The food is oh so yummy and I feel absolutely healthy each time I eat there. It’s a place where all myths around vegetarian food being bland and boring are broken.

I didn’t just find out about it though but my first trip there wasn’t that memorable, perhaps I ordered the wrong thing (a beet burger, what was I thinking?!) or the changes in the menu improved the quality of food. Anyway, I can’t stop thinking about their dumpling soup and fried brown rice now, which are my faves. The soup is so flavourful even though it has no meat in the stock. It’s light yet tasty and has really inspired me to try and replicate it one day. And who knew fried rice would be yummy with some nuts and beans thrown in? Their homemade chilli sauce is also awesome. Love their cold pressed juices as well – anyone up for Spinach, Apple and Orange juice? Even the sceptical husband is a fan too.

Real Food has two branches, one at The Central and the other at Killiney Road. Really love the Killliney branch as its so spacious and has more peaceful surroundings. The organic grocery selection there is much bigger too. Recently they added my fave popsicle brand, Popaganda on the menu, a welcomed sweet ending to any meal.

Coffee Addiction

I have been in a coffee addiction phase lately thanks to the indie cafes sprouting up around Singapore. I have always been a Starbucks fan but now it just tastes like coffee water to me; what a coffee snob I’ve become!

Am not too discerning as to be able to figure out the differences between the variety of blends out there but what I like so far has been the coffees at Joe & Dough (great service btw), Loysel’s Toy (laidback vibe) and Smitten (near my massage place). If I can’t go far from home, the coffee at Jones’ The Grocer at Dempsey (Rusty can come along!) is also pretty dependable and they open till late! I was going to say Forty Hands and Tiong Bahru Bakery too but I just went there last Sunday and it wasn’t as good as before. We probably can put some blame on the crazy crowds that has descended upon the place; it’s also super cramp and noisy.

My choice of coffee has also changed from a latte to a flat white. It has less milk and less froth! Great for me because I have never liked the foamy tops of latte and would skim them away anyway. I also find the drink creamier with a hint of sweetness. Silly that I only found out about such a drink now, shows how much I really knew about coffee before this.

Lemon tarts have also been a recent discovery. I’ve never really liked them before as the ones I’ve had have always been too sour and the texture of gel-like curd wasn’t something that appealed. Enter Carpenter and Cook’s lemon CREAM tart which has just the right amount of tartness and a lovely thin pastry. I loved that it has a creamy centre rather than the usual curd version. I’ve gone around trying the different lemon tarts but this one is still my fave.

Shichirigahama

This was a gem of a day. We started out in the morning by hiking through some trails to reach the Daibutsu in Kamakura. It was a great walk, not really because of the destination we were aiming to reach, but it was peaceful and a fruitful time connecting with the husband. We held hands, he helped me climb up slippery rocks and steadied me whenever I thought I was going to fall. We talked… about various random things, with him sharing a lot of his NS stories (we were afterall in a forest area), a side of him that I never really knew about.

We took the recommendation of a recent travel write up and decided to check out the seaside town of Shichirigahama. Call me suaku but I have never heard of Bill Granger till this Tokyo trip. We (ok…I) decided to check out Bills, a restaurant right by the beach. Lunch was a Wagyu Beef Burger and a super yums Panchetta and Porcini Risotto – a good departure from all the days of Japanese food that we had been having.

The restaurant had a great chill out vibe, kinda like what you get in Australia or Dempsey Hill back in Singapore. It also had a great view of the sea and surfers chasing the waves. Weather was simply perfect too, warm and sunny.

Hope to be back again someday.

Breakfast Choco Cro

Breakfast wasn’t included in the hotel package this round (neither was in-room wifi hmmph!) but no matter, Tokyo is full of little cafes and eateries, not to mention well stocked convenience stores. Most days, we grabbed our breakfast at the Choco Cro cafe a street down from our hotel. A latte, a hot chocolate and a bun/pastry each. Too bad we never managed to get the chocolate croissants hot from oven the day we tried them, am sure they would have been even more wonderful.

Simple but yummy breakfast each day, wish we had such places back home in Singapore.