Brunch at Birchwood Kitchen in Wicker Park

My first quarter of grad school is officially over! It’s crazy to say, and even crazier to think about…I can’t believe how fast it went by, especially towards the end. I thought that the moment I finished my work, turned in my last story and completed my tests, I would feel an overwhelming sense of relief.

But instead, the end of the quarter feels somewhat bittersweet. On one hand, I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished. I know I’ve progressed as a journalist, and I’ve learned more in the last three months than I ever thought was possible. I feel more comfortable navigating around the city of Chicago, and going into neighborhoods I’ve never seen or heard of before.

However, I’m also going to miss having class with the same fifteen people. After winter break, my class is going to be separated into three different reporting groups, and I probably won’t see everyone as often. Throughout all the stress of adapting to new technology, learning journalism law, and (attempting) to learn journalism editing techniques, at least I had a strong support group. Everyone encouraged one another, and oftentimes I felt lucky; I never felt like I was alone.

But I know change can also bring opportunity. I’m looking forward to meeting new people during my classes next quarter, and gaining experience in fields that I haven’t yet explored. It’s weird, because I almost feel as nervous or apprehensive as I did before I started the program…I guess it’s because in both cases, I really don’t have any idea what to expect.

But today, I decided to live in the moment and celebrate my (temporary) freedom from classes, reporting, and work. My friends and I had brunch at Birchwood Kitchen, a small community café in Wicker Park that serves food crafted from local, seasonal ingredients. The kitchen is tiny, and we had to wait awhile for a seat…But the food made it worth it.

My one friend and I couldn’t decide between sweet and savory, so we split the French toast special and the “Croque Vert” sandwich.

French toast is my go-to brunch dish, and usually when I order it in Chicago, the slices of Brioche are enormous, custard-soaked giants filled with cream and berries (and sprinkled with powdered sugar). The plate always looks appealing because, well, it’s French toast.

But the French toast at Birchwood Kitchen was truly a work of art. The slices of bread were cubed, and cooked to bread pudding-like consistency; they were spongy, light and moist, with just the right amount of sugar. They were topped with a honey-sweetened ricotta cream, fresh, juicy pomegranate seeds, and dates. It was almost to pretty to eat, but we had no problem polishing off the whole plate.

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The Croque Vert (a vegetarian take on the French “Croque Madame” grilled ham and cheese sandwich) layered winter squash, Gruyere cheese and Dijon mustard between two pieces of toasted sourdough bread. The sandwich was topped with two sunny-side up eggs, lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper. There was also a side salad that, while fresh and appealing, seemed more like an afterthought.

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We also ate a slice of chocolate chip banana bread as an appetizer, but that didn’t make it to the photo-taking stage. I was worried after I ordered it, because it wasn’t as yellowish-brown as other banana breads I’ve tried…But I was quickly proven wrong. The bread was moist, with the perfect hint of banana and chocolate chips. It semi-satisfied my banana bread craving…I’m sure I’ll be making more soon.

I enjoyed my first official day of break, and I’m excited to bring you more food (or non food-related) updates over the next few weeks.

About Emily Wasserman

Hi! My name is Emily and I'm a writer based in St. Louis. If I was stranded on an island and could request three items of food, they would be avocados, Halloumi and chocolate croissants.
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