brunch

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Last weekend we celebrated the day o’my birth and my sister came in to visit me for the occasion. We had tons of girly fun – mani/pedi’s, boutique shopping, coffee runs & meals at fab restaurants. It was exciting and relaxing, exhilarating and restorative, all in one. Family time is good for the soul.

[the two sisters]

For some time I’ve had my eye on a brand new little brunch spot down the street from my place. The menu was clean and inventive, plus the two guys behind the restaurant hail from the iconic Charlie Trotters. Once I saw this rave review in Daily Candy, I was sold and knew I couldn’t waste anymore time. With my sister in tow, we set out for a Friday mid-morning brunch at Lincoln Park’s newest hot spot, 2Sparrows.

[and that, my friends, would be the general manager making house-made beef jerky right atop the bar]

We ordered the foie gras pop tart with cherry compote [!!] for a little app, then we each ordered the eggs benedict [had to see what the b-y-o hollandaise was all about].

[cappuccino made with intelligentsia coffee to start the day off right]

[the richness of the foie gras offset the sharp tang of the cherry. 'twas all wrapped up in a buttery, flaky crust. mmmmm.]

The eggs benedict was EGGCELLENT [shame on me. couldn't resist]. I’ve had quite a few eggs benedicts in my time and I would go out on a limb [branch?] by saying 2Sparrows has the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Where oh where do I begin:

-the ham. I don’t normally like the greasy, fatty canadian bacon that typically comes with eggs benedict, therefore I order mine sans meat. In this case, our [amazing] server informed us that all the ham is made in-house and so I decided to give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. This ham was wonderful. Just the right amount of salty smokiness to round out the dish.

-the toast. Sometimes the richness of eggs benedict can leave you with that nauseously overfull feeling. I blame that feeling, not on my own gluttonous ways, but on the filling bread that most eggs benedicts are perched on. At 2Sparrows the small, almost bite-sized pieces of toast are just the right amount.

-the big green salad. I’d never seen eggs benedict paired with a big green salad before and oh lordy, was it delicious. My sister loved the fennel and the dressing was light and refreshing. The perfect compliment to our eggy & indulgent brunch.

-the b-y-o hollandaise. Whoa. This was another first for me. Our meal came with not one, but two different hollandaise sauces – one was infused with roasted red pepper, the other with scallions. You build your own [b-y-o] and mix it up however you like. Who knew brunch could be so much fun?

The atmosphere was dynamic [even for a Friday afternoon], the service was excellent, the food was right on the money [and for that matter, quite reasonable given the upscale feel of the place]. I can sum it up with this – never before have I been at a meal where my companion and I both completely cleared our plates. We ate every last crumb. 2Sparrows, I will see you [and your eggs benedict... & probably your maple & bacon doughnuts] again soon.

 

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[r + r]

This weekend while the rest of Chicago was getting saucy & celebrating St. Pat’s, Vince and I roadtripped to Cleveland for my mom’s birthday. Although we missed the bulk of the St. Patty’s festivities, it was one of those weekends that hit the spot; relaxing and good for the soul. We caught up on lots of sleep + quality fam time, had brunch with some of my high school pals, and topped it off with a birthday lunch celebrating my mom.

[trust.]

[team effort]

 

[party dress fit for a twirl]

 

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My family typically does a big [and I mean big] Italian feast for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’re talking eggplant parmesan, lasagna, stuffed artichokes, hot peppers, and meatballs all loaded with my mom’s homemade sauce. Of course we never leave out the traditional American staples of turkey [one deep fried and one oven roasted], cranberry sauce [jarred and homemade, because some people prefer one or the other], stuffing, mashed potatoes, crusty bread, green bean casserole, and on and on and on. What can I say, we’re Italian and eating good food is in our DNA.

With that being said, my family is doing Christmas very different this year. From the venue to the menu, we’re shaking things up. Instead of dinner, we’re opting to do brunch. Everyone seems to be curiously excited about how this will pan out. The ever present pot of simmering sauce will be noticeably absent from the stove, but I trust there will be new tantalizing treats on the table that will have us wondering how we ever did without.

This year I’m making these deeelicious cinnamon buns using a recipe that claims they taste identical to Cinnabons [and they actually do]. Just look at these things [I'm sure that photo above got your tongue wagging]. This was my first stab at making bread [which was the base of the bun], but it was easy enough and besides, I dare you to mess up a recipe that is essentially butter, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar. They were velvety and sweet and the frosting oozed with decadent gooeyness. I also loved how the kitchen smelled like cinnamon ‘n sugar for the rest of the night.

[fresh from the oven]

Homemade Cinnamon Buns

for dough:

  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 packet of dry yeast

for filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

for frosting:

  • 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Let it stand for 10 minutes, until yeast is foamy. Heat oven to 200F, then turn it off. Mix in the sugar, butter, salt, and eggs. Add flour and mix well. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in warm oven for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  2. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.
  3. Roll dough into a 16 x 21 inch rectangle. Spread dough with butter and sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 400F.
  4. Bake rolls on a lower rack in preheated oven until golden brown, about 12 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and salt [note: I actually doubled the frosting recipe and suggest you do the same]. After taking it out of the oven invert the pan so that the drippings re-coat the buns. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving. Yields 12 rolls.

[into the oven you go]

[sure beats a scented candle]

[ready for their close-up]

*i can’t take all the credit. adapted from this recipe.

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