Tag Archives: francophile

Events in the City: Chicago French Market Brunch

In February, I went to a brunch event at the Chicago French Market. If you haven’t been to the market, you really must go because it’s set up like a European market and they have some really phenomenal vendors (including those that sell macarons…but we’ll talk about that another time). The event, “Meet Alpana Under the Eiffel Tower”, was sponsored by Wine D.O.C. & Wine Cru and was an 8-course tasting menu of foods prepared by the vendors of the market. Alpana Singh of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants and WTTW’s Check, Please! was the special guest of the event and provided us with some reflections on the wines that were paired with the food that we tried.

It was lovely getting to meet Alpana, as she was gracious meeting everyone and even taking the time to answer our questions. This was the first time that this specific event was hosted, and while they have some kinks to work out if they decide to host the event in the future, it was all-in-all a fun and well thought out program.

Each attendant received a signed copy of Alpana’s new book Alpana Pours, which I have really been enjoying, as well as a goodie bag filled with snacks and other tidbits from the vendors. It was truly a lovely Saturday morning.


Veuve de Vernay Brut Rose (France)
Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Lavazza Tierra Blend (Rainforest Alliance Certified)
Espirito Lagoalva (Portugal)
Monastery Tvrdos Cabernet Sauvignon (Bosnia & Herzegovina) <–I loved this
Domaine Saint-Vincent Brut (New Mexico)

Course 1

Grape Leaves Stuffed with Rice by Chicago Organics <– delicious
Cavapi Beef and Lamb Kabobs by City Fresh Market
Fresh Feta Salad by City Fresh Market
Course 2
Raw Vegan Lasagna by Raw <– couldn’t even tell it was raw (except that it was cold)
Crushed Red Pepper Popcorn by Pop This! Gourmet Popcorn & Candy Shop <– unreal
Course 3
Op la Frittata by Saigon Sisters
Hot Chili & Teriyaki Chicken over Fried Rice by Bowl Square
Course 4
Pastrami on Rye Bread by Fumare
Belgium Fries with Curry Mayo by Frietkoten <–i can’t even begin to explain how much i love curry dipping sauce
Course 5
Sole Fish Taco by City Fresh
Homemade Guacamole and Chips by Buen Apetito
Course 6
Croque Monsieur by LM Cafe
Rigatoni and Marinara Sauce Fasta Pasta
Course 7
Ambre Dessert by Vanille Patisserie
Red Velvet Cupcake by Sweet Miss Giving’s
Strawberry and Cheese Kolacky by Provo’s Bakery
Sorbetto Cremespresso by Lavazza Espression
Marzipan and Raspberry Macarons by Delightful Pastries
Course 8
Delice de Bourgogne
Aged Marieke Gouda
Aderkase Reserve
Fig and Black Tea Spread
Cinnamon Roasted Almonds
Assorted Berries

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Sweet Crepes

From a Groupon class at Flip Crepes


  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 brown eggs
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 pint skim milk

Mix all solids with a whisk (I find that wire works best). Dig a well in the solids and add the eggs, butter, and vanilla. Add 2 cups of milk and begin mixing until the batter is smooth with no lumps. Add the rest of the milk and whisk well. Optional: let the batter rest for 2 hours.

Butter and heat the crepe pan. Ladle a few drops of batter into the pan if they begin to cook immediately, the pan is ready. Ladle the batter into the pan, swirling to coat the entire pan. Once the surface of the batter is no longer shiny, flip the crepe and cook until the down-side is slightly browned. Fill with your favorite filling. Repeat until all the batter is gone, being sure to butter the pan in between crepes.

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I learned how to make crepes!

For those of you who don’t know, I have 2 sisters, one of whom recently graduated from college. I’m a big fan of “activity” based gifts, so my gift to Carrie was a crepe-making class. Our grandmother loved all things French (one of the many things I inherited from her), but she especially loved making crepes. She would hand make sweet crepes every year for Christmas to serve with vanilla ice cream inside and my mother’s famous fudge sauce drizzled on top with some raspberries. I was actually lucky enough to inherit her crepe pan and recipe. But as crepes have always intimidated me, I was nervous to attempt crepes without a bit more guidance.

The crepe making class was a perfect fit for us both. Hosted by Flip Crepes, the class consisted of 12 students and 2 instructors. Over the course of 3 hours we learned how to make sweet crepe batter, actually cook crepes, as well as learn a very thorough history of crepes. It was such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and I am now exponentially more prepared to make crepes in future!

Below are Carrie’s thoughts on the crepe experience (a pseudo-guest post)

Annie and I had such a fun time learning how to make crepes. Our grandmother used to always make us crepes and it was nice to finally learn how and to make her proud. We had a rough time starting out with all the flipping. Annie seemed to get the hang of it sooner and was making perfect circles and flipping like a pro. I did not do so well with the flipping, but i think in the end they turned out alright 🙂 We were able to add different toppings and then made our own orange topping. It was so much fun to be in a little french crepe shop with french cooks as our teachers. It was a wonderful way to spend a sunday night!

Click here for our recipe

awkwardly attempting to flip the crepe

Loosening the crepe from the pan


Completed crepes and the topping selections

sisters 🙂

Batter in the pan

with the flaming crepes!

Our Crepes Suzette (with Grand Marnier sauce) yum


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Winter Macarons – Mexican Hot Chocolate

I’ve really been enjoying making macarons lately, but my most recent attempt needs some slight tweaking (I didn’t even take pictures). But I thought I would share it with you anyway

Using the recipe that I previously posted, I modified the cookie ingredients to achieve the Mexican Hot Chocolate Flavor. For those of you that don’t know what Mexican Hot Chocolate is, click here. I would highly recommend trying some. And for those of you in Chicago, Xoco (a Rick Bayless restaurant) has STELLAR Mexican Hot Chocolate.

Ingredients (for cookies)

  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or almond flour…I used Red Mill)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3 large egg whites (at room temp.)
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

Combine the ingredients using the recipe linked here, including the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and cocoa-powder in the sifting process.

I think that I added too much cayenne, but everyone in my office really liked them and thought it was ok. The next time I make these, I’ll probably be doing 1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne.

All in all, the macarons paired really nicely with the bittersweet ganache that is listed in the recipes linked. (I love that ganache). I think that a light vanilla cream would also work well.

Any suggestions on the next flavor pairing?

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More Macarons – Girl Scout Remix

More Snow Day fun, this time with macarons. As I mentioned earlier, I took full advantage of my snow day and baked up a second blizzaster in my kitchen! (For real…there was powdered sugar everywhere!)

I made more macarons because I just couldn’t get enough, but this time I wanted to go for something a little more decadent. Enter peppermint extract.

I used the same recipe as before, but made the following substitutions:

  • 1/2 cup ground almonds (or almond flour…I used Red Mill) –> change
  • 1 cup powdered sugar –>change
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder –> addition (remove cinnamon)
  • 3 large egg whites (at room temp.) –> same
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar –> same
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract –> addition (remove vanilla)

While my macarons didn’t turn out as pretty as last time, they were still delicious!

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Macarons! It’s like being in Paris!

For those of you who don’t know me (or know me well), you might not know that I am a francophile. It actually pains me that I haven’t made a visit to Paris in 5 years (esp given my other recent travels). But hopefully that will be reconciled in the near future. Until then, these delicious macarons have helped transport me to my favorite Parisienne bakeries and cafes.

A couple years ago, I gave my mom the cookbook i ❤ macarons by Hisako Ogita as a thank you for everything that she does for me. (She loves macarons as much as I do.) So I borrowed (or potentially stole) the cookbook from her to make the macarons this past weekend. Macarons are sandwich type cookies with a light and airy cookie with a jam, chocolate, or cream/custard center. There are hundreds of options for macarons in terms of color and flavor, but I opted for a cinnamon cookie with bittersweet ganache. I used the bittersweet ganache recipe that I learned in my Chocolate Truffle class.

NOTE: The cookies are actually pretty easy to make, you just HAVE to follow the directions as written.

Ingredients (for cookies)

  • 2/3 cup ground almonds (or almond flour…I used Red Mill)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 large egg whites (at room temp.)
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

Cut a sheet of parchment paper (or other nonstick liner) to fit your baking sheet. Draw 1-inch circles on the paper (use the wide end of a 0.4 in metal pastry tip), spacing them about 1/2 in apart. This pattern will be your guide for squeezing out the macaron batter. In a food processor, grind almonds and powdered sugar together to a fine powder. Sift the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve twice. Set aside.

In a stainless-steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they are foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites. (NOTE: Before beating the mixture with a hand mixture, scrape the remaining meringue from the bowl’s sides with a spatula. Do this each time you start the mixer. After the sugar has been added, beat egg whites on high speed until they reach stiff, glossy peaks, about one minute. You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer.) Add vanilla and stir lightly. When the meringue is stiff, firm, and has a glossy texture, it is done.

Add half of the sifted flour mixture earlier. Stir it with a spatula while scooping it up from the bottom of the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and mix it lightly in a circular motion. This step is called macaronnage (mixing the flour and meringue). When you run out of flour, press and spread out the batter against the bowl’s sides. Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down. Repeat this process about 15 times. NOTE: If the macaronnage step is repeated less than 10 times, the baked macarons will lack luster. However, if it is repeated more than 20 times, oil stains may remain on the pastry’s surface when the macarons are baked. When the batter becomes nicely firm and drips slowly as you scoop it with a spatula, the mixture is done.

Attach a 0.4 in tip to the pastry bag. Twist the bag to hold the tip tightly. This prevents the batter from leaking out. Place the pastry bag, tip down, inside a deep measuring cup and pour the batter into it. Helpful hint: Fold the sides of the bag down on the outside to prevent batter from getting on the outside of the bag (where you will hold it later).

After pouring the batter into the bag, clip the top of the bag to prevent the batter from leaking out. You can use a string or rubber band (or try twisting it). Place the parchment paper with sketched circles on the baking sheet and squeeze out the batter onto the center of the circles. Make small circles since the batter tends to spread out after being squeezed, as you can see in the picture :(.

Rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter or other flat surface. This helps the macarons hold their rounded shape and helps the pied (foot in French) to form. (It is an important step!)

Dry the batter at room temperature, uncovered, for 15 minutes. A slight crust should form on the top of the macarons. On rainy days, it helps to dehumidify the room. If the batter circles do not stick to your finger when you touch them, the drying process is complete. On a dry and sunny day, the drying process takes approximately 30 minutes. Mine were done in about 20 minutes. (The batter is settled when no tips can be seen in the circles.)

Place the oven racks in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. As I mentioned earlier, my oven is very difficult and while it was set to approximately 345, I will probably make it a little cooler next time. It will take a couple times to figure out the best temperature.

Stack the baking sheet with the batter into an EMPTY baking sheet and slide both into the oven. This is an important step as it prevents the bottom of the macarons from overbaking and prevents them from puffing up or cracking.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until slightly crisp and crackled on the top. Rotate the tray half-way through baking to ensure even cooking. If the insides of the macarons are still soft after 15 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 300, cover the tray with aluminum foil and bake for another 3-5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Remove from baking sheet once completely cooled.

Ingredients (for ganache)

  • 2 heaping cups of bittersweet chocolate (I used Baker’s Chocolate which is 64% cacao)
  • 1 cup Heavy Whipping cream

Grind the chocolate in a food processor or chop it (with a serrated blade…trust me!) until it’s the consistency of coarse meal. Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. (Don’t scald). Add the cream to the chocolate in the food processor or a stainless steel metal bowl and mix until smooth and shiny. Let the ganache cool until room temperature, or a little cooler

Sandwiching the cookies

To combine the cookies, add the ganache to a pastry bag as you did with the macaron batter. Pipe ganache onto the bottom of a cookie. Add another cookie on top and lightly press, but don’t let the ganache spill out the sides.

ENJOY! They are magnificent!


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