What fun! Last week my daughter and I flew away to the Windy City for a little adventure. We headed to a part of Chicago we had never explored, Old Town. We had such a relaxing, fun day that you may just want to follow in our steps. The day was absolutely gorgeous; an 81 degree high, flower boxes in full glory, nice breeze. Old Town is an easy ride from O’hare. The Blue Line, which runs from airport, connects to the Brown Line at Clark/Lake, then you just head North a few stops, and there you are ($2.25 per person each way). When you are full of deep-dish pizza, or finished shopping for spices or cooking oils, then you can also head to The Chicago History Museum or, perhaps, the Lincoln Park Zoo, which are both in the vicinity.
We made a few new friends in Old Town. Wells Street is full of shops, and many of them are food related, so we were in exploring heaven. We sampled hot toffee, smelled about 100 spices, walked among the flowers, tried on vintage clothing, and were so relaxed and full of deep dish Chicago-style pizza, that we were probably the happiest passengers on the flight back home.
One of our absolute favorites: The Spice House. If you get close enough to the door the aroma of spices will just pull you in.
We could not have been more welcomed. Loni, an ambassador of all things spice, led the way through the rustic store, which is reminiscent of Penzey’s in Maplewood, MO. Their similarity is not a surprise, as the owner of, The Spice House, is in the same family as the creators of Penzeys.
Loni is so knowledgeable about everything in the shop, but it also turns out that she is a baker extraordinaire. After we smelled and discussed tons of spices, we headed to the area that is dearest to us, the baking area: cinnamons (yes, plural), bark as well as multiple ground cinnamons. I purchased a packet of Saigon Cassia cinnamon, a variety from Vietnam containing 6-7 % volatile oil, pungent dried zest of orange and lime, lavender flowers to top a favorite cookie recipe, cassia buds (I am munching on one now). We also examined all the vanillas, but sadly had to avoid purchasing those due to the 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids in carry-on luggage.
Loni gave us the whole rundown of the shop, as we shared stories of green tea ice cream, cinnamon ice cream (the main reason I wanted some of that Saigon cinnamon), farmers’ markets, special vegan frosting recipes. She could not have been more lovely. Go see her at The Spice House at 1512 North Wells Street. Thanks Loni, and thanks to Bridget, the manager for supplying information and for making us so welcome.
Next, James and David, at The Fudge Pot, right down the street from Loni. Yum!
As you walk by the Fudge Pot, you can look down into the shop and cooking area from street level. When we were peeping through the window, hands around eyes to see through the glass, there was David, smiling and waving us in.
We were so welcomed, and the shop was full of everything chocolate, from their best seller, chocolate covered toffee, to Corvettes of chocolate, chocolate-covered strawberries, turtles….
James introduced us to, David. David has been a chocolatier at the shop for years. His picture is part of the mural painted on the exterior brick. David was gracious enough to let us hang around and watch him make toffee.
Our Old Town stroll was an absolute delight.
We left with smiles, little white bags of goodies, and memories of our new Old Town friends.
North Wells Street in Old Town is made for exploring. It is meant to be enjoyed at a relaxed pace. Don’t miss its little bakeries, restaurants, culinary shops, like Old Town Oil, a shop full of olive oils and flavored oils, and another favorite, Old Town Music, a shop for music classes and a place to pick out a ukulele.
Oh, and don’t forget to fuel up with some great Chicago-style pizza at Bacino’s.
3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.
As you are at security, running late for your flight, can you imagine a TSA agent holding your newly purchased bottle of Madagascar Vanilla between their thumb and forefinger, hovering over the open trash can, waiting for your response to the question, “do you want to leave this, or do you want to go back upstairs and check this?”