February 21, 2018

Defloured, baking gluten-free goodies for Chicago & Milwaukee

My dog Ralph turned me onto a bakery called Defloured. On walks, he would bee-line to this storefront and routinely use his paw to knock on their front door. Johanna, the baker/owner has become one of his favorite neighborhood friends, due in no small part to the treats he receives from her and her staff.

Defloured is a gluten-free bakery and creates sweet treats that suit many restricted diets. These are not your cardboard tasting health foods, but delectable brownies, bars, cakes, cupcakes, cookies and whoopie pies.

Not only do they sell delicious products from their Andersonville shop, but their baked goods are sold at some of the more discerning coffee bars, grocery stores (Whole Foods) and restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.

They also create custom cakes for events and cookie or bar trays for parties. Not only can they do gluten-free bar and cookie trays, but Defloured also can do vegan or dairy-free cookie trays.

Ralph and I both agree that this bakery deserves a big high-five paw up.

http://deflouredbakery.com/

New Apple building graces the Chicago River

I continue to cheer every time a new structure is added to the Chicago River scene. The new Apple Store under Pioneer Court at Michigan Avenue and the river bridge was constructed with international supplies and know-how.

The architectural firm that planned this glass marvel is Foster + Partners from London. A Dubai company supplied the carbon fiber roof panels. The glass elevator is from Japanese company, Mitsubishi. Granite is from a quarry in China, and the leather throughout the store is from France’s Hermès.

The architecture is a mixture of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie-style with wide eaves paired with 21st century glass laminate walls that make the building appear to be transparent. The views of the river and the surrounding buildings make this a new Chicago jewel.

The interior features a 6 K resolution screen that literally floats above the seating for visitors. Yes, the main purpose of the building is to sell Apple products but architectural buffs and tourists alike will want to pay a visit to this new Chicago architectural wonder.

Photo by E. Doyle

Farmer’s Fridge for Healthy Food on the Run

At O’Hare airport, I was trudging past the usual fast food concerns with hunger pangs lowering my food selectivity. All at once, I caught sight of an automated food kiosk called Farmer’s Fridge in the American terminal. The bright green colors immediately made me think of fresh and possibly healthy food. Jackpot!

I had brought my own vegetables (don’t ask), so all I needed were some protein sources. Peppered hard-boiled eggs and chicken breast came in cute little hard plastic jars that popped out of the machine after I easily paid by debit card. I also bought a snack with chocolate covered fruit and nuts. Yum!

Some of the larger jars contained veritable full meals with colorful layered ingredients. I plan to check out salads like the Peach Caprese with basil couscous, romaine lettuce, peaches, yellow tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, spinach, pine nuts and balsamic vinaigrette, or the North Napa salad with cabbage, mixed greens, grapes, cucumber, chickpeas, avocado, feta cheese, pistachios, dried cherries and vinaigrette.

Heartier dishes like Soba noodles and Salmon Nicoise also appear on the menu. One can opt for protein snacks like Phoenix Bean Tofu or the afore-mentioned chicken or hard-boiled eggs. You can also add various flavors of LaCroix water as one’s beverage.

Breakfast options include almond butter oatmeal, Greek yogurt and granola along with pineapple coconut chia pudding.

The kiosks are refilled every morning with unsold food donated to zero percent, an organization that disperses unused products to local food pantries. There is also a slot on the machines to recycle empty jars.

Farmer’s Fridge food kiosks can be found at venues like McCormick Place, Willis Tower, The Rookery, Revival Food Hall, Block 37, the Merchandise Mart, Northbrook Court and at various hospitals and educational venues. Some kiosks have 24-hour access. For a more complete list, go to: http://www.farmersfridge.com/location

All ingredients, calories and nutritional facts are viewable on the kiosk screen so you can make intelligent healthy food choices.

If you live outside of the Chicago area, you may want to petition the Farmer’s Fridge to add a kiosk to your frequent haunts. Your taste buds and waist line will thank you!
http://www.farmersfridge.com/

New Amazon bookstore on Southport in Chicago

Since March 2017, Amazon has had a bookstore on Southport in Chicago, the only one in the Midwest. I finally got around to stopping in last night. As a supporter of independent bookstores, I had mixed emotions about the internet behemoth setting up shop in Chicago.

Let me confess that I bought a book. As a Prime member, the store sold me the book I wanted for the low price I had found on the internet. My debit card info showed up on their system confirming that I was a Prime member and away I went with my selected book. The salesclerk said I could also download the Amazon app to buy products in the future.

As a downside, the book selection is not deep. Amazon’s on-line best-sellers are apt to be the majority of books available and all book covers face out which looks nice, but limits stock space further. There is comfortable seating throughout the store for customer use.

The store is also a hub for all things Amazonian like the Echo, the Kindle and the Fire. I was intrigued by the Phillips lamps and light bulbs which can be controlled by digital assistant, Alexa. There were also small items for kids in the children’s literature section.

A coffee bar within the store, but separated by glass from the merchandise, has limited indoor seating. Outdoor tables now overlook the trendy Southport boutique and restaurant crowd.

It occurred to me that Amazon saved the free prime shipping fee by selling me this book for the low internet price. Might they be thinking of using this model for other items they sell?

Amazon has several other business concerns under its umbrella such as imdb.com, audible.com, AbeBooks, Goodreads, Twitch.tv, Woot, Zappos and now Whole Foods Market.

Oh, and the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos has also invested in airbnb, Uber, Google and he bought the Washington Post newspaper in 2013. His space company, Blue Origin will begin offering rocket ship rides in 2018. Talk about a vertical and horizontal operation!

Robotic lawn mowers: Honda’s Miimo

A friend of mine uses an electronic system to keep her dog in their fenceless yard. Lo and behold, robotic lawnmowers are now combining that concept with that of the Roomba vacuum to keep lawns clipped and mulched.

The number one on-line choice appears to be the Honda Miimo lawn kit which comes with 3 elements: perimeter wire with pegs to mark your property’s boundaries and to mark off flowers, trees and bushes from being mowed, the robotic unit itself and the charging station.

Using a smart phone app, the owner can set the grass cutting height and the mower proceeds to manicure the lawn. The device can be programmed to only run at night with a sound equivalent to an air-conditioning unit. Contrast that with the ultra-loud power mowers of yore.

The machine finely slices the grass into mulch which is left on the lawn as a natural fertilizer. When the mower runs low on juice, it automatically goes to its charging station and powers up.
The Honda Miimo comes in two price models, the HRM 310 for $2,499 or the HRM 520 for $2,799 so only the well-heeled will be buying these mowers, for now.

A couple of my nephews make money mowing sporting fields in the summer. Let’s hope these robotic mowers don’t come down in price and proliferate until these two young guys are out of college!

Three Arts Club Cafe in the Restoration Hardware store

I fondly remember giving a concert in the old Three Arts Club in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Built in 1914 to house women involved in music, painting and theater, the brick building was the architectural work of the storied Holabird & Roche firm. With sadness, I heard that the club had been sold to developers in 2007.

Much to my relief, Restoration Hardware has created a five-story emporium that has left many of the architectural details intact. The courtyard houses a delightful restaurant called the Three Arts Cafe which kept the old fountain and features an all-weather glass ceiling that allows diners to be bathed in sunlight.

The food is as impressive as the setting with a curated menu including “seasonal ingredient-driven” recipes. The shaved vegetable salad was beautiful to look at and to eat with brightly colored root vegetables and baby greens dressed with finely chopped pecans and cider vinaigrette. For sheer gluttony, I ordered a side of bacon which was the thick-cut kind found in British cuisine. My luncheon partner ordered a bacon club sandwich which she endorsed by eating every morsel.

The menu is small but there are several items that entice me to make return visits such as the Truffled Grilled Cheese sandwich, the slow roasted chicken with garlic confit and the house-made chocolate chip cookies served warm out of the oven.

After lunch, we strolled the five floors of rooms decorated with Restoration Hardware furniture, lighting fixtures, accessories, bedding and even some articles of clothing. The top floor has two outdoor terraces which must be divine in the warmer months. The main floor has a Three Arts Club Pantry that sells scrumptious looking donuts and hot beverages.

A visit to this historic building is like a mini-vacation with excellent food and drink sampled before or after one peruses the five floors of tastefully decorated display rooms. I’m wondering if they would let me move in?

3artsclubcafe.com