I was recently in Chicago for a two-day training and while I know that I should feel super lucky to live so close to this city, I don’t always go and I because…well…I don’t always like to go. I know, I know! But it’s true! Now that that confession is out there, let me get on my with story. For this two-day training, I was lucky enough to not even have to leave the train station! The training center was right upstairs from the Ogilvie Transportation Center but what I didn’t know was that a gem was waiting for me under the train tracks.
Once you enter the train platform and walk between the tracks you’ll find a stairwell that leads you to the bottom level of the station. Once you get to the bottom you’ll find the most amazing sight…The French Market filled with vendors selling all kinds of different fresh foods. From French to Asian to Barbecue. The first day I settled at a stall that sold French sandwiches, Le Cafe De Marche. The classic Croque Monsieur was my choice, although I could have had a Croque Madame or any other of the delicious menu items, but the Croque Monsier is my favorite; it’s simple and delicious. And this vendor did not disappoint. The bread was soft and fresh and filled with thinly sliced smoked ham and grainy mustard. And in the classic fashion, the top of the sandwich was covered bechamel and gruyere and then warmed until the cheese was brown and bubbly. My meal was complete with a fresh Honey Crisp apple and bottled iced tea from City Fresh Market. My sandwich was delicious and filling and fresh. Nothing to complain about there!
On day two I wanted to try a different vendor so I ended up walking around until I found just what my tummy grumbled for. A grilled cheese sandwich. Oh yes. There is a grilled cheese sandwich vendor and this, my friends, is where my mind was blown. The vendor, Loop Soup, makes all different kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. There was a tempting turkey bacon, a mouth watering BBQ pulled chicken, and a classic American style grilled cheese. But eyes landed on the stunning Apple Pie Grilled Cheese. Yes, you read correctly. Apple Pie grilled cheese sandwich. Soft white bread, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples, cheddar cheese, bacon, and brown sugar. Oh-ah-my-ah-gosh. I could not wait to get my hands on this treat! The flavors in this sandwich are absolute perfection. Tart apples + salty bacon + creamy cheddar + rich, sweet brown sugar = Heaven. One taste and you’ll understand why I could barely contain myself while eating lunch. It’s a large sandwich so I was only able to eat half. Which was fine, because I had the other half at break that afternoon. I honestly cannot wait to go back and get another one. Even if I just take the train in, grab a sandwich and get on the train back home. Worth it!
I couldn’t possibly end this blog without telling you about the dessert portion of my trip. As you enter the French Market you are promptly greeted on your right by a lovey patisserie called Vanille. Row upon row of lovely little macarons are the first thing you see. Too many flavors to possibly name here; but I took home a coconut and a raspberry. Both were outstanding. Soft and pliable with just a touch of crunch on the outer layer with a lovely buttercream filling. I also brought home one of their HUGE cupcakes. There were four flavors to choose from that day: Chocolate on Chocolate, Vanilla, Red Velvet, and Chocolate with Vanilla Frosting. I decided on the Vanilla, that I think was called “Chad” (white cake with vanilla Italian buttercream) mainly because it had rainbow sprinkles on it. Now, I have to add that each of the cupcakes were beautifully and simply decorated with Italian buttercream, a chocolate button that said “Vanille” and a full sized macaron who’s flavor complimented the cupcake. You read correctly. A FULL SIZED MACARON. I digress. I didn’t eat this cupcake until two days later in the comfort of my own home with mug of tea. And it was still fantastic. Utter perfection. I could try to compare it to Sprinkles, but that would simply make Sprinkles feel bad. The Italian buttercream was so creamy and smooth and full of flavor but not overly sweet. The cake itself was dense and moist with a perfect crumb. I wouldn’t change anything about this cupcake. It was, as I’ve said, utter perfection.
In a whirlwind two days of training and commuting I was able to have a mini foodie adventure. I am already planning my next trip to the market and this time I’m bringing the hubs so that he can experience it with me. Food is great on it own, but when you can share the experience with someone you love, it’s even better. If you are in Chicago, please, please, please stop by and see these vendors who are not only serving wonderful food, but incredible customer service. And try some other vendors while you’re there. My fellow classmate Susan said that da lobsta was outstanding, too (and she is from New Hampshire and lives in St. Petersburg, FL so she knows seafood!) I know I plan to try as many as I can…but it will be hard to walk past Loop Soup and not get an apple pie grilled cheese.
Until next time…
The Blushing Baker