pączki for the mardi gras win

Mardi Gras is serious fun in the South–especially New Orleans and Mobile–where the Krewe fêtes are plentiful, the parades are noisy and joyful, and King Cake comes in all different flavors and varieties. In the North where you can find Polish bakeries, Mardi Gras means pączki (pronounced ponch-key). And these calorie-busting, jelly-filled doughnuts at local bakeries draw long lines.

Paczki Mardi Gras Chicago Illinois

Source: Melissa Wang via Flickr

Pączki are also enjoyed on Fat Thursday (Tłusty Czwartek), and the reason for making pączki is to use up all of the ingredients (lard, sugar, eggs, fruit) before Lent kicks in. Bridgeport Bakery on S. Archer in the South Side of Chicago has an unassuming storefront, but you’d never guess they sell tens of thousands (yes, tens of thousands) of pączki on Fat Tuesday, also known as Pączki Day. If you didn’t make it to Bridgeport Bakery this week, don’t fret. They sell four different varieties of pączki all year round.

colectivo coffee on n. milwaukee ave. in chicago

It’s not often that two of my friends simultaneously rhapsodize about the new coffee player in town (#Chicago), but they were this past Sunday. And I was all ears.

The new player is Colectivo Coffee from Milwaukee so it was fitting to find a Colectivo on N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago. I pulled my rental car over pretty immediately.

Colectivo Coffee Logan Square Milwaukee Avenue Chicago Illinois

The coffee shop space is wonderfully conceived and designed. And the coffee itself is distinctive–sharp, acidic, strong. Really strong. Not for the weak willed.

Curious to try some yourself? You can check out all of their locations here.

sentimental

I’m not one to get too attached to stuff/things, but every now and then I do. And that now and then was yesterday when I asked my handyman to haul away two lovely chairs I bought years ago when I was in Chicago. Two chairs and a bulky console table that I never loved and won’t miss. But those chairs? Seeing them hauled away made me wistful, sentimental, and kind of teary sad. I suppose they remind me of the life I once had and that I currently lack. The days should get brighter soon, I’m thinking/hoping. And in the meantime I’ll focus on being positive and grateful for everything I do have, which is a lot and which includes two brand new chairs. (Not as wonderful as the older ones but they’ll do/I’ll do just fine.)

how not to sound like you’re not from here

“You don’t sound like you’re from here.” I get this a lot. I open my mouth, and my squarish accent betrays my Midwestern upbringing. I’d try to speak more Southern, but the fact is I can’t/won’t. The dialect is far too pretty and wonderfully varied throughout Mississippi, and I’d hate to do it an injustice.

The above stated, there are ways to lessen your squarishness, if you’re like me. Let’s begin with basic courtesies. Ma’am is square one. If I’m running errands and a woman helps me, I always say, “Thank you, ma’am.” Always. In Chicago, to address a woman as ma’am means she’s old, and I always wince when I’m called ma’am. In the South, it’s a sign of respect.

In Mississippi, there are correct pronunciations for city/county/street names, so follow me on this:

  • Biloxi is buh-luck-see.
  • Lafayette is luh-fye-yet.
  • Starkville is stark-vull. Any city that ends with “ville” is pronounced “vull.”
  • Amite is am-mitt.

In the Midwest, any summer backyard gathering that involves grilling meat is called a BBQ, but that isn’t the case here. Barbecue is a food science and practiced differently, depending on what part of the South you’re in.

This next difference I really love. If someone does something really nice for you in the South, you say, “I appreciate you.” It’s a wonderfully personal way to express one’s gratitude. And with this biscuit/post, I should say I appreciate you, blog readers of mine.

the pulse quickens

Chicago. I lived there for 25 years and still call it home. For the time I’ve lived in Mississippi, I have made a point to visit home several times a year to spend time with friends and to check on my brother. And there’s just something about Chicago, or perhaps big cities, that makes my heart beat faster. The pulse quickens.

I visited last month and saw beautiful lights at O’Hare:

Holiday lights O'Hare Airport Chicago Illinois

Escaped the chill of December a couple times to get hot cider and coffee with friends. This is the Avondale Coffee Club (excellent cider), a newish coffee shop on Elston near Belmont:

Avondale Coffee Club Chicago Illinois

And Buzz Café in the Arts District of Oak Park:

Buzz Cafe Oak Park Illinois

To get my fix for flowers and plants and to appreciate all things green, I headed to the Garfield Park Conservatory where the theme of the Holiday Flower Show is Tickled Pink:

Garfield Park Conservatory Chicago Illinois

Heart.

sam and the goat

When I commuted by bicycle in #Chicago, my favorite part of my commute was wheeling into the loading dock area that sits directly behind one of Chicago’s most famous taverns–The Billy Goat. (I call it The Goat.) The Billy Goat of Cheezborger, Cheezborger fame.

The Goat was founded in 1934 by William Sianis, a Greek immigrant. This guy was a true publicity hound. In 1944, the Republican Convention came to Chicago so he posted a sign saying “No Republicans allowed.” The place was packed with Republicans, of course. What a crafty marketer.

The current owner is William’s nephew–Sam Sianis. I call him Sam. I would see him every Tuesday morning when I trekked in and out of the Goat to go to a yoga studio on Hubbard. Sam would see me and give me a wink. I would nod in return.

Sam

One time he was in the back parking deck where I was locking up my bike. In a very thick accent, he asked me, “What are you DOING?” I couldn’t help but laugh. I explained that I was locking up my bike and scooted on my way to work.

pilsen: a prelude

My last seven years as a Chicagoan were spent in the Near West and #Pilsen neighborhoods–at roughly 15th and Blue Island and 16th and Halsted. I loved living there so much. Prior to moving to Pilsen, a neighborhood called Logan Square was home for nine years, and it was quickly gentrifying to the point where I didn’t recognize Logan for Logan. I knew I had to leave. When I was looking for a place to buy in 2009, I remembered going to an arts district event at 18th and Halsted and really liking my experience. I didn’t know anyone who lived in Pilsen and all of my friends were North Siders, but I thought, Why not move to Pilsen. It was something new. And in the process I fell in love with Chicago again, which kind of shocked me. I had been out of love with Chicago for quite awhile.

La vida Pilsen was great. It had its fair share of challenges (crime, some neglected buildings, and so on). But the benefits far outweighed the challenges. There were restaurants and coffee shops (really miss the family-run coffee shop, Kristoffer’s on Halsted, sniff). There was the Mexican Museum of Art. There were the sweet abuelas, tias, and tios who swept the sidewalks outside their homes.

There was the annual Slow & Low Lowrider Festival (I absolutely loved this):

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And then there were murals, created by artists from all over the world:

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I guess Pilsen was a prelude to moving to Jackson, Mississippi. I like living in places that are kind of foreign to me because it forces me to learn and adapt. Here’s to preludes and living in places unfamiliar.