2014 Best Bite #7: Blue Cubby Crunch ice cream, Bobtail Ice Cream Company

For the third year in a row, I’m using each day in December to celebrate the rest of the best bites (and sips) that I didn’t get to blog about in 2014, posted in chronological order. Browse all of this year’s Best Bites, or look back at year-end Best Bites from 2012 and 2013.

Blue Cubby Crunch ice cream, Bobtail Ice Cream Company
Blue Cubby Crunch with vanilla ice cream, sprinkles, Oreo, chocolate chips, and toffee

Why it’s another 2014 Best Bite: Bobtail makes some of the best ice cream in the city, so I’m always excited to see what special flavors are in the case when I stop in. Cubby Crunch is a common offering, but this brilliant shade of blue was only available for a week or so. With a vanilla base that tasted almost like cake batter, the ice cream’s Smurfy hue belied all the other ingredients packed inside: Oreo, sprinkles, toffee, and chocolate chips.

The details: Bobtail Ice Cream Company, 2951 N. Broadway, Chicago.

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This week’s Best Bite: Waffle cone with brambleberry crisp & Bangkok peanut, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Brambleberry crisp and Bangkok peanut ice cream, Jeni's
Waffle cone with brambleberry crisp ice cream, Bangkok peanut ice cream, and salty graham gravel

Why it’s this week’s Best Bite: Based in Columbus, Ohio, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is one of the most highly regarded artisanal ice cream brands in the country. Although the Chicago scoop shop has been open on Southport since last fall, I hadn’t visited until this past weekend – but what better day than the Fourth of July to partake in the rich American tradition of ice-cream eating? It was pretty thrilling to see all the creative, seasonal varieties I’d long admired in pints to instead be available for sampling, with an employee eager to describe the nuances of each flavor in nearly the same kind of detail that a sommelier would use in describing a wine. I was very pleased with the two flavors I chose for my waffle cone: the brambleberry crisp was laced with juicy blackberry jam and oat streusel, while the Bangkok peanut mimicked savory pad Thai and curry via accents of toasted coconut and cayenne. Together, they formed a complex, frozen version of a peanut butter and jelly, topped off with salty graham gravel for even more crunch. Jeni’s has officially joined Black Dog Gelato atop of my list of favorite creamy treats.

The details: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, 3404 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

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Travel Eats: Portland coffee, donuts, and other indulgences

This is part of a series of posts about my vacation to Portland, Oregon, in late February 2013.

Latte at Sterling Coffee Roasters
Latte at Sterling Coffee Roasters

As is probably evident, my roommate/travel partner and I did a lot of research on the Portland food and drinks scene in preparation for our trip. Among the themes that quickly emerged: coffee and donuts, plus other artisanal sweets and breakfast items. With a little planning, we managed to hit most of the major places on our list. I knew we’d cover the classics – I’d heard about Voodoo Doughnut for years, and Stumptown is a well-known roaster whose brews I love when I can get them here in Chicago. But I didn’t expect another donut shop (Blue Star) to win me over with its brioche-like dough and bold-flavored glazes, or to taste such an outstanding bagel-and-cream-cheese combination at Bowery Bagels that I thought it could only exist in Sriracha-spiked dreams, or to have the best French macarons either of us had ever tasted at Ken’s. And as someone who loves spending time in coffee shops, I was thrilled by Stumptown’s wall of magazines to go with its impeccable cups (I paged through Barista and Imbibe) and the vastly different but equally enjoyable atmospheres at Extracto and Sterling. I could go on, but just see for yourself in the photos below.

Oreo-peanut butter doughnut and apple fritter, Voodoo Doughnut
Oreo-peanut butter “ODB” doughnut and apple fritter, Voodoo Doughnut
Blueberry-bourbon-basil donut (and dulce de leche-hazelnut donut, not pictured), Blue Star Donuts
Blueberry-bourbon-basil donut (and dulce de leche-hazelnut donut, not pictured), Blue Star Donuts
Thai chili peanut bagel with lemongrass cream cheese, Bowery Bagels
Thai chili peanut bagel with lemongrass cream cheese, Bowery Bagels
Biscuit with pimento cheese, Pine State Biscuts
Biscuit with pimento cheese, Pine State Biscuts
Almond brittle with salted ganache and Happy Birthday Elvis with malted banana, peanut butter, and marionberry jam, Salt & Straw
Almond brittle with salted ganache and Happy Birthday Elvis with malted banana, peanut butter, and marionberry jam, Salt & Straw
Macarons in chocolate-mint, orange-ginger-chevre, and salted caramel-coffee, Ken's Artisan Bakery
Macarons in chocolate-mint, orange-ginger-chevre, and salted caramel-coffee, Ken’s Artisan Bakery
Chai latte, Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery
Chai latte, Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery
Cappuccino, Stumptown Coffee
Cappuccino, Stumptown Coffee

The details: Voodoo Doughnut, 22 SW 3rd Ave.; Blue Star Donuts, 1237 SW Washington St.; Bowery Bagels, 310 NW Broadway; Pine State Biscuits, 2204 NE Alberta St.; Salt & Straw, 2035 NE Alberta St.; Ken’s Artisan Bakery, 338 NW 21st Ave.; Stumptown Coffee, 128 SW 3rd Ave. and 1026 SW Stark St.; Extracto Coffeehouse & Roastery, 2921 NE Killingsworth St.; Sterling Coffee Roasters, 417 NW 21st Ave.

2012 Best Bite #21: Ice cream sandwich, Owen & Engine

Each day in December, I’m celebrating my best bites (and sips) in 2012, posted in chronological order.

Ice cream sandwich
Ice cream sandwich

Why it’s a Best Bite: When our group stopped in one weeknight for drinks and dessert, we decided on this ice cream sandwich for its light, summery flavors. The blondie was an ideal vehicle for the citrusy semifreddo and jammy peaches, with an added crunch of almond in each bite. This dessert was even better washed down with an O&E Pimm’s Cup, one of my favorite drinks in the city.

The details: Owen & Engine, 2700 N Western Ave., Chicago.