Believe it or not, there was once a time where one couldn't just go to the grocery store and pick up a steak and a cake at the same time. Brandy often yearns for a time when she used to visit her green grocer for the finest fruit and veg, her butcher for the tenderest loins and roasts, her baker for the softest loaves of bread, and of course her haberdasher to buy the finest hat to wear to brunch on Sunday. Gone are the days of milk and eggs from a local farm delivered to your door step and Brandy feels there really is something sad about that. But now a days it seems convenience has won out over artistry.
It might be that this is why Brandy feels so strongly about this week's destination, a beautiful European style pastry shop and baker in lovely Lakeview called Bittersweet. From the enticing cakes in the windows, to the titillating tarts found inside, everything about Bittersweet screams "lovingly crafted." Along with the dazzling array of treats on display, Bittersweet houses a modest cafe (about ten small tables, which are first come, first serve) that serves a different selection of sandwiches, salads, soups, and quiches each day. In truth, Bittersweet has been a favorite of Brandy's for many years, mostly because she says it reminds her of all her favorite things from Paris, but she has been hesitant to share this little spot for fear she may never get a table!
Brandy started off with Bittersweet's house Hot Chocolate, a frothy and cinnamon spiked version of the cold weather classic. Served on a dainty tea tray, one is presented with a pot of rich, dark hot chocolate and a generous dollop of nutmeg scented whipped cream. The beverage on its own is spiced and warming beyond belief, and the whipped cream only serves to guild the lily. Brandy absolutely adored the experience of pouring her own portion of chocolate and watching the thick cream slowly disappear within it.
Next, Brandy moved on to a cup of Thyme Mushroom Soup which came served with a healthy chunk of artisan bread. The soup had nice mushroom flavor matched with a creamy richness, and the croutons on the top lent a wonderful bit of crunch to the dish. The bread was thick and hearty and perfect for dipping.
Following that was a modified BLT, coming served with a little bit of avocado and some chipotle mayo. The bread was soft and scrumptious, reminding Brandy of the kind of thing she used to make cucumber sandwiches with during tea time. Crisp, smokey bacon combined with the thinly sliced, juicy tomato, creamy avocado,and crisp lettuce to form a perfect combination of textures, and the little hint of spice from the mayo really brought out all of the best flavors from the simple ingredients. A lovely selection of fruit was also provided as a side.
Finally, Brandy finished the meal with a beautiful Pumpkin Creme Brulee, which came with a sweet little gingerbread cookie. The top of the dessert had that excellent crack one looks for in a creme brulee, and the custard inside was cold, light, and delicate. Combined with the crunchy cookie, the pumpkin custard brought out all the best flavors of fall.
Brandy could have spent all day hogging up one of Bittersweet's bigger tables, which she might have since the lovely girls that roam the room serving tables also man the pastry counter, occasionally causing long waits for food or a check. Of course, one's day is not complete without purchasing a few tarts, cupcakes, cookies, or breads to take home; Brandy highly recommends checking out the homemade granola, the slices of flavored angel food cake, or for a great deal there's the "broken cookie" bags and the previous day's cupcakes are always 2 for the price of 1.*
*Editor's note: We suspect that Brandy requested the bakery deals be pushed so that more people might satisfy themselves with those goodies and leave a table free in the cafe for her.