Happy (Belated) New Year! I hope you enjoyed a few days off work, time away from school, or found time to relax and unwind.
I’ve had a great winter break, and unfortunately, I’m coming close to the final countdown…only three days left. I’m anxious to start the new academic quarter, and to be honest, I want to forget I’m a student for the next 72 hours.
So I thought I’d reflect a little about my winter break…which inevitably involved massive amounts of eating, sweets, and pastries.
I spent my first week of break in Chicago, and made an “After Finals Freedom List.” It consisted of everything I’ve wanted to do during the regular academic year, but never had time. My first stop was Floriole, my favorite bakery in Chicago and perhaps one of my favorite bakeries ever.
I discovered Floriole from Lottie and Doof food blog. The blog’s author lives in Chicago, and always has good recommendations for restaurants, bakeries and food venues. When I first moved to the city in September, I couldn’t wait to try Floriole. The menu consisted of French pastries, sandwiches, and salads, as well as an extensive list of beverages. If I sound like a sales ad for Floriole, it’s probably because I am…I think everyone should go there, as soon as possible.
Per the cashier’s recommendation, I ordered a Kouign Aman. No, I can’t really pronounce it. And yes, I might have called it a Kofi Annan (to the puzzlement of my boyfriend). A Kouign Aman is a traditional Breton pastry from the Brittany region of France (northwest, close to the English Channel). It consists of buttery, flaky layers of croissant-like dough, but is even better than a croissant; while the outside is flaky and flecked with sugar, the inside is so buttery and rich, it practically melts in your mouth.
This Kouign Aman came with a dollop of apple butter, but would have been just as delicious without.
I also ordered an old favorite: a slice of the lemon-lavender pound cake. The cake is buttery and moist, and real sprigs of lavender line the crust. The citrusy lemon taste is perfectly subtle, and pairs well with the flowery, sweeter taste of the lavender.
In the corner, I spied a petit homage to Julia Child:
My next stop was the Art Institute of Chicago. I’ve always wanted to spend an afternoon in the museum, but never had the time. After spending a few hours there, I realized that I could have easily spent the whole day looking around, and taking in all the paintings, photographs, and sculptures.
One of my favorite parts of the museum was the wing with all the Impressionist paintings. I love Monet, Gaugin and other French Impressionist painters, and managed to snag a few photos of the paintings (which felt illegal, but I saw other people doing it…?).
I also loved the stained glass art and light fixtures from the early 1900s.
But by far my favorite part of the museum was the stained glass painting created by Marc Chagall. I visited the Chagall museum in Nice, France, when I was studying abroad, and immediately fell in love with his work. I love how you can spend minutes staring at one part of the painting, and discover different images and layers depending on where you look.
I went back to St. Louis before New Year’s, but returned to Chicago on the 29th to celebrate the New Year with my boyfriend. We visited Waffles, a new restaurant chain in Chicago that serves…well, you can figure out the rest.
I ordered the Liege waffles with bananas, and my boyfriend ordered the “Healthy” Brussels waffles with strawberry yogurt, fruit, and powdered sugar. Both were delicious, but my waffles were more dense and sugary.
My Liege waffles didn’t exactly compare to the ones I tried in Brussels, and I was disappointed at the lack of pearl sugar on the outside of the waffle. However, my boyfriend’s waffles were light, airy, and delicious, so maybe the Brussels-style waffles are a better choice. And in the end, maybe my expectations were just a tad too high…after all, it’s Chicago, not Belgium.
I’m sad that break is coming to an end, and I’m not looking forward to having less free time on my hands. But I’m glad I had a chance to explore the city during the holidays, and enjoy such much-needed freedom from classes, work, and responsibility.