Portillo’s Lemon Cake: a modern love story


Oh the power of the internet…… Forget about match.com, eharmony or even Tinder, because thanks to a plea on Reddit, Ben and his true love, Portillo’s Lemon Cake, are back together again after a loooong 10 years of separation. And we can all share in his joy because, well, we can all share in some lemon cake.

Basically Ben was just sitting around missing Lemon Cake one day (no judging, we’ve all been there), so he took to the interwebs to see what could be done. He promised to pay $300 to anyone who could obtain the recipe. And Portillo’s heard his desperate cry.

From today (June 13) until July 31 (and for much less than $300), all Portillo’s across the land are bringing back their long lost dessert. Available by the slice or by the whole cake (call ahead a few hrs if you want a whole cake), the legendary Lemon Cake tastes like if a kid in your 3rd grade class brought lemon cupcakes to school for his bday. Maybe the kid’s name was Ben?

*side note: as I took my first bite of cake “What a Wonderful World” came on over the loud speaker. Well said, Louis. Well done, Ben. #faithinhumanityrestored


Sunday Study Sundae


A single scoop – normal. A double scoop – hey now. A triple scoop – whoawhoawhoa. A quadruple scoop – who even does that unless you’re Napoleon via Bill and Ted??!?!? But if Jeni’s understands one thing, it’s that it’s hard to pick just one flavor. Which is why you can ask for unlimited tastes (doled out by always smiling faces), and when you order 4 scoops they call it a “study,” not a “fatfatty,” and simply ask cone/cup/cookie with that? (also they make you feel less crazy by calling their scoops “half scoops,” but who are we kidding? these are normal size)

And so for this Sunday’s breakfast, I was an ice cream academic doing full coursework on summer flavors. Having had an unusually indoored summer this year, it was lovely to run through a sprinkler, visit a farm, go to the drive-in, lay out at the Cape and run through meadows all in the span of 35min.

Watermelon Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt – if Jeni’s shut down all flavor production and closed all but one shop and was just left with a little hut selling this one flavor in some off-road middle-of-nowhere town, there will still be a line out the door. It’s like childhood sour taffy but fresh and refreshing (like running through front lawn sprinklers while chasing the ice cream truck down the block).

Sweet Corn & Black Raspberries – reminds me of my summers spent on the farm….jk jk, maybe I’ve actually never been to a farm? But I did summer around a lot of corn and pick wild black raspberries when hiking in the woods, so basically this ice cream is Midwest at its best (sans mosquitoes).

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk – if ever a strawberry milkshake could give you a hug, this is what it would be like. And then you just get a blanket in the backseat of some car at the drive-in and get down to business.

Lemon and Blueberries Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt – if you’re at Jeni’s and having a hard time deciding on a scoop of the whole lemon sorbet or the ultramarine, let me give you a pro tip: get a scoop of this instead bc it’s the best of both worlds. Tart tart with sweet and jammy berry ribbons, each bite is a bright shock with a smooth, calm finish – much like the recurring cold shock of entering the freezing ocean on a boiling day.

Honorary shout out to Ylang Ylang & Fennel – who didn’t entirely match the fruity study flavor profile, but was like running through a spicy, flowery, golden summer meadow all the same.



Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

For Mary See’s Bday, I’ll celebrate with a box of Fannie May


On this day, Mary See (of See’s Candies)’s 161st birthday, I thought it only appropriate to celebrate with a box of chocolate (and my Mary mask – downloadable for yourself here):


However, I am in Illinois today – east of the Mississippi and therefore far from a See’s outlet, but smack dab in the middle of Fannie May country. (in my chocolately daydreams, Fannie and Mary are cousins….and in real life, a quick Google search says they’re not related, but Fannie May started in 1920 and See’s started in 1921…. interesting….very close and quite cousinly, if you ask me). Both use fresh ingredients and have kept their old-timey recipes intact. Even during WWII, when ingredients were scarce, Fannie May just made what they could and closed shop once they were sold out. They never “sold out” themselves (until maybe 2004, but that’s another story….)


So I think Mary would be pleased to know I’m supporting her “cousin” during her birthday celebration. Free-standing Fannie May shops maintain a pastel wonderland in their cases, but offer dark chocolate classics to fill my box. Here is what I get:

  • a few Trinidads
  • a couple pastel Meltaways (pro tip: keep these separate from the others – you don’t want a hint of mint to infiltrate everything)
  • some dark lemon creams
  • a dark raspberry cream
  • dark honey almond nougat (not to be confused with the French nougat)
  • a milk chocolate Pixie for good measure
  • maybe a nut cluster of some sort, or a buttercrisp toffee, or the cleverly named carmarsh (made of caramel and fluffy marshmallow)

Today I was also won over by their September special: a dark chocolate toasted coconut Dixie, which tasted just like a Girl Scout Samoa cookie. (Don’t mind if I do!) So I will be keeping my sticky fingers crossed and blowing out Mary bday candles with the wish that it makes the permanent menu….


Mario’s Italian Lemonade


September really snuck up on me. Kids are back in school, leaves are starting to fall off the trees…. I’m not fooled into corduroy and pumpkin lattes just yet though – it’s still hot AF outside. It’s still Mario’s weather.


A tiny little glorified lemonade stand in the heart of Chicago’s Taylor Street Little Italy, it’s only open Memorial Day – Labor Day, and I’ve waited for those Memorial Day – Labor Days for as long as I can remember. No fakey, sugary sweet colors or flavors – just cold, refreshing frozen lemonade complete with chunks of fruit. No plastic, corporate signs – just the same hand-drawn pictures dangling from the ceiling. The sidewalk is littered with watermelon seeds and lemon rinds, and the street is often parked with cars 3 deep (and sometimes those cars include sympathizing cop cars).


Suggested flavors:
watermelon (chunks of watermelon!)
cantaloupe (chunks of cantaloupe!)
coconut (shreds of coconut!)
lemon (they all have lemon added, but still…)
peach (when it’s in season (look for the sign) and just get it!)

But truth be told, they’re all amazing! I even had a friend once order grape (not my fave of flaves), and even that was good! Plus if you can’t decide, you can get 1/2 and 1/2 (you know, half cantaloupe/half coconut, for instance).

Suggested pairings:
lupini beans (if you’re really feeling authentico)
a combo from Al’s across the street
a dry sausage with provolone from Al’s (my go-to. it is not photogenic.)

Mario’s is one of the best things the best thing about summers in Chicago. I promise if you go there even once, it will continue to taunt you in your December dreams for a lifetime.


Mario's Italian Lemonade Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

All the donut people

This weekend I made the rounds and visited all the donut people: The Donut Man – the old “Pride of the Foothills,” Donut Friend – I might get a DBFF (donut best friend forever) necklace shaped like a donut and give them the other half, and Donut Snob – who should really be called “Donut Tease” since they make you search for them and then leave you wanting more.

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Donut Friend: like any true friend, they just want you to be happy and never disappointed. They have a fresh case full of their signature combinations ready for take-away, or they will make you any combo you want to create your perfect donut. Add goat cheese with peanut butter or fresh mint with Oreos – anything goes! I had:

Nutellavision: chocolate hazelnut with a dash of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt
Husker Blu: a blueberry cake donut with blueberry glaze
Polar Berry Club: lemon glaze piled with fresh berries
Lemon Weapon (my all-time fave): fresh lemon cream and blueberry compote in a traditional raised donut with lemon glaze and fresh mint! (they even tear tiny bits of mint and hide them in the donut too!)

(below: ready to go, and Lemon Weapon in the works)

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Donut Snob: No janky-looking donuts here. And nothing sitting around for hours gathering flies. Just pretty and fresh and limited quantities (quite the ‘leave ’em wanting more’ attitude). You can place your own delivery order, or you can consult their site to view their daily stockist schedule and then hope to catch a donut or two before they fly off the shelf! I was lucky/early-out-of-bed enough to get to FoodLab and snag:

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Pistachio Orange: fluffy donut topped with orange zest glaze and chopped organic pistachios (it’s good for me!)
The Berry Best: like a donut-based berry tart with a mixed berry coulis center, cinnamon glaze and fresh whole berries on top

I’m keeping my eye out and my alarm set to find/eat their Blueberry Earl Grey and Campfire donuts next!

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The Donut Man: this guy has been in Glendora for over 40 years, so I doubt he’s moving closer, though I wish he would….. Good thing is that he’s open 24/7, so whenever you motivate yourself to drive on over, donuts will be there waiting for you! Here’s what to get:

fresh strawberry: as seen on many TV shows and as seen in my mouth, this is what they are known for. A big, soft, golden glazed donut stuffed beyond capacity with fresh, whole strawberries
Tiger Tail: extraextra long (like over a foot and a half) twisted glazed donut with chocolate swirled into the twist
chocolate frosted cruller: it is what it is, and it is one of the best I’ve ever had!
maple glazed: truth be told, this one was for my assistant/driver, but I ate some too (obvi) and it was delicious – perfect, freshly poured maple

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FYI: the strawberry donuts are only available during strawberry season, and in about 1.5 weeks the peaches will be ready!!! Be sure to call ahead for the peach-stuffed donuts as they are only around for a couple of weeks and apparently this year’s harvest will be smaller than before. F’ing drought ruining everything….

time to eat the donuts!

“Hi, I’d like some donuts.”
“One donut?”
“Um, no, more.”
(starts putting donuts in a bag)
“In a box please.”
“A box for four?”
“No, a box of six.”
“In a bag to go?”
“No, for here. With a fork.”

Donut judge my decisions thankyouverymuch.

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Do-Rite Donuts: no judging here! Just simple twists on old-school classics. Please note the heavenly, eggy candied maple bacon crullers above. Were they so good I needed two? Well, yes, but I actually only ordered 5 donuts here and the guy added an extra for photogenic purposes. Now there is someone who gets me.

candied maple bacon cruller (so good – like a bite of the perfect breakfast), vanilla bean glazed (with juuust the right amount of glaze soaking through), pistachio meyer lemon (tastes Italian!), double chocolate old fashioned (duh), bourbon butterscotch (weekly special).

Returning for the carrot cake donut and some fried chicken!

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Glazed & Infused: after a discussion on box size, we were gifted with free coffees to wash down our well-rounded selection. Hooray! Glazed & Infused has the classics as well as the trends: donuts customized with whichever Chicago sports team has a game that day, a special hops donuts to celebrate Craft Beer week….

maple bacon long john (perfect bacon and just right maple), red velvet (dare I say it? moist), blackberry cheesecake bismark (hello marriage of cheesecake and donut and seasonal fruit, I’m delighted to make your acquaintance), vanilla bean glazed, india pale doughnut (a slightly salty version of the vanilla bean glazed with hops powder on top – would be even better with a pint instead of my coffee!)

New tattoo inspiration?

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Firecakes Donutsthis place has been judged – by Steve Harvey – who deemed it the best doughnut in Chicago. Ha ha, yessss. The award is display proudly on the wall behind the table of donuts, which is behind the case of donuts. It can be slightly difficult to still get excited when you’re on donut number 15, but the flavors here really stood out. So many fresh and interesting choices, it was hard to choose just one, so we didn’t.

coconut cream (toasted fresh coconut on top of a creamy crown – I’ll call this the queen of donuts), meyer lemon (bright and fresh), honey glaze, valrhona chocolate with espresso cream (who needs coffee when it’s inserted INTO the donut?!), apple fritter, PB&J (oh man! with whipped peanut butter and raspberry/blood orange jam that are magically not mixed together), malted milk ball (small and cute like a little malted milk ball with extra chocolate ganache added to attach a fresh malted meringue upon order)

Below – up close and personal with the fantastic PB&J donut:

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Sunday Sundae!

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#1: please keep in mind that Grand Central Market closes at 6pm on Sundays, so don’t go there post-dinner like I did last Sunday, ahem.

#2: that being said, DO go there in the afternoon and eat whatever you want (pupusas) and then go to McConnell’s for ice cream. You can digest whilst you wait in line.

Today’s sundae of choice: the Lemonberry Pound Cake. I swapped in their Eureka Lemon & Marionberries ice cream instead of the Sweet Cream ice cream, and it was topped with blueberry lemon compote, lemon pound cake bites, candied meyer lemon, and fresh whipped cream. Zesty and creamy and juuust right with the pound cake bites, because truthfully a slab of pound cake sounded a bit daunting after dos pupusas.

Noted: they do not have vanilla ice cream as an option here…… an ice cream shop after my own heart!

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