Floriole

breads at Floriole

Lest anyone think I spent the entire week in Chicago wolfing down nothing but Mexican food, gobbling up hamburgers, and chugging hot chocolate, one day I actually took a breather and headed up to Lincoln Park to Floriole.

passion fruit tart & banana caramel pie swirl cookies

The minute I walked in, I knew I’d found somewhere special.

Floriole is one of those owner-run places that have been springing up all over America, where you can tell how much the people who run the place care about everything, from the quality of the breads, pastries, and coffee, to how happy the customers are. They could probably tell from the smile on my face – and the audible rumblings in my stomach – that I was excited to be there.

I met up with Tim of Lottie + Doof in this sunny café and bakery (which he described as his “second home”), and stepping inside, the beautiful showcases that confronted us were a nice contrast to the frosty grey chill that we left behind when we entered. (I thought I was escaping icy-cold Paris, but I guess my timing was off by a few months…) Aside from being happy to have lunch with him – and removing our scarves, gloves, hats, sweaters, and wool overcoats – we were excited about exploring using our new cameras. I am still trying to figure mine out, but it was nice to be with someone who was equally perplexed by all those strange dials and buttons.

tim

What started as a farm stand has turned into a full-fledged bakery, producing some of the loveliest breads and pastries I’ve seen in America. They certainly rival anything I’ve seen in France – and trust me, I’ve seen a lot of bread. Baker and owner Sandra Holl did a lengthy stint at Tartine in San Francisco and spent some time working in Paris, doing “research.” (ie: The same research that I seem to be doing here, namely eating our way through France.)

But it was the all-American corned beef sandwich made with house-brined beef presented on their rustic levain bread that was the first thing on the chalkboard that caught my eye. The second were the puffy individual pizzas, glistening with melted cheese, so we did what most reasonable guys do when faced with a double dilemma: we ordered both.

crusts

We were saving room for dessert, but when we took a walk through the kitchen where Sandra was hovering over a big pot of jam, (…does any café in Paris still make their own jam?) I noticed empty golden-brown quiche shells that were so beautiful, they looked like toasted, buttery sculptures all piled up on top of each other.

And the breads that were coming out of the oven were stellar-looking as well. The gorgeous rounds of country rounds that welcomed us at the entrance as well as the slender, graceful baguettes on display made me feel like I never left France. I’ve been told by several people that “Chicago isn’t a good bakery city”, which may be true. But if Floriole is any indication, folks probably won’t be able to say that for much longer.

bread cooling

Other French treats on offer were canelés and macarons, which aren’t in short-supply in Paris, so I didn’t try them, and let Tim guide the dessert choices.

canelles Floriole

He picked out the Passion Fruit Tartlet, a lovely, slightly dense filling made of passion fruit curd smoothed over pâte sucré with a blanket of softly whipped cream and a few wisps of lime zest resting on top. He saw my nose glued to the showcase where the jam-filled Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies were and decided it was probably best for business if we ordered one of those as well, so I would step away and head back to the table. If they’re reading this, sorry for all the noseprints.

hazelnut tarts

Both were nice, but when Sandra brought us over a heaping wedge of Banana-Caramel Cream Pie as a gift – the benefits of being good customers, no doubt – we dove right in. But it was impossible to finish it all, even for two generous eaters, and a few hour later after a short hop back downtown on the “L”, I regretted being too polite to polish it all off.

passion fruit tart making jam

And for not grabbing a handful of the darkly cooked Sea Salt Caramels in the big glass jar on the counter. But at least I know when I come back what I’ll be making a nosedive for.



Floriole
1220 W. Webster
Chicago, Illinois
Tel: (773) 883- 1313



Related Links and Recipes

Tarte au Citron

Canelés (Chez Pim)

Home-Cured Corned Beef (Simply Recipes)

Corned Beef (Steamy Kitchen)

Floriole (Facebook)

Salted Butter Caramels

49 comments

  • How did I miss this place when I lived in Chicago – is it very new? I hope you get a chance to stop by Pasticceria Natalina in Andersonville while you’re in town, its one of the things I miss most about the Windy City. Your posts make me yearn to return!

  • This place looks fantastic and absolutely charming! I think I feel the need to hit up Chicago as soon as possible now!

  • That place looks amazing! I would love to go to a bakery like that. It almost has a comforting quality to it!

  • I’ll be back there for Passover, can’t wait to try Floriole! Thanks David.
    LL

  • You convinced me. I need to go there. I plan on eating my way through Chicago in May. Must get “underweight” so that I need to gain weight during my visit.

  • Ooh la la. Heading to Chicago for my sister-in-law’s 40th in a couple weeks. Will definitely check this out and make sure I don’t eat for at least a day before I head through the door.

  • Oh my goodness, you started with a photo of an absolutely stunning loaf of bread, and the goodies just kept on coming. I’ve read that Chicago is one of the best food cities in the country. By the looks of these blog posts, they weren’t kidding.

  • I leave for Chicago on the 10th and have made a note of every place you’ve visited. We used to live in the area and are always looking for new foods/experiences. Thanks and keep them coming.

  • Floriole is indeed a lovely, lovely bakery. I’ve eaten at their stand at the Green City Market for years and was ecstatic when they finally opened a permanent location. Sorry about our lousy weather–it’s been a freakishly cold spring. I would say come back in a month but with Chicago weather, you really never know! Then again my husband and I were in Paris in May a couple years ago and experienced a similar cold snap, so maybe we’re even. :)

  • I read about this place several times on Tim’s blog, and yet again some rave reviews from you. If only I could get a bite of that passion fruit or hazelnut tart. Aaah.

    Hanging out with fellow bloggers is always fun.

  • Glad you’re enjoying Chicago, a city that I think most people overlook as a “food destination.” If you’re still there and still have a sweet tooth, Hoosier Mama Pies on Chicago Ave (at Ashland) – about an $8-$10 cab ride from downtown – has some of the best pies you’ll ever sample. Yes, a place that is dedicated to only pie – and it’s wonderful and totally American. For those of you coming to Chicago in search of great places to eat, one of the best food forums I’ve found is the LTHforum. Chicago focused, the info there will not steer you wrong. Cheers.

  • So glad you made a stop in Chicago on your book tour. I was one of those
    adoring fans at the Hotel Allegro last Thursday and found you to be as charming
    in person as in print. (thanks for the cinnamon and vanilla samples). Chicago
    offers some world-class cuisine (like Floriole) and we’re glad you had such a good
    experience.

  • Banana Caramel? Heaven.

  • I’m really enjoying your Chicago escapades. I live in the suburbs, and this is giving me the needed nudge to grab a train up to the city and eat!

  • I had my sugar rush under control this morning. Then these pictures came in. Please, David, will you tell us about your new camera? My two favorite bloggers (both of you in France) take exquisite pictures. I’m interested in the equipment you use.

  • My brother visits Chicago quite often. I will definitely forward this delectable little place to him. Floriole is definitely on my list of places to visit when I go there.

    Sometimes I envy the people in Chicago – not for their cold weather (I’ll keep the California weather, thank you!) – but that it is a mecca for foodies.

  • Looks yummy! Will have to search that place out next time we’re there.

  • Glad you had a chance to visit Floriole. It’s certainly one of the best pastry shops in Chicago — rustic, unpretentious, solidly good.

    Their signature sourdough croissants are simply amazing. Just recently Sandra (who is such a sweetheart) showed me how to make them and, really, that’s pretty much all that’s been on my mind these past few weeks.

  • What strikes me most about places like these is the passion and the pride with which these obviously dedicated and gifted people put into everything they create. And it’s not enough for them to be gifted artisans, they have to be pretty savvy business people as well to make a go of it. I can only imagine that many such people put everything they have on the line so they can bring what they love and are passionate about to the people they love and the city they’re passionate about. Given a choice, and when are we not?, I’d go to an owner-run place that’s a couple miles out of my way than the flashy ‘let’s put all our money into the decor instead of the food’ chain monstrosity any day of the week..and twice on Sundays. (We all deserve an extra treat on Sunday)

  • Oh my, this looks wonderful. Good reason to travel to Chicago! Thank you, David. The empty quiche shells alone are enough to tempt me.

    If you are ever in Nova Scotia, may I suggest two of my favourites in my former hometown: Mary’s Bread Basket (best oatcakes in town) at the Brewery Market in Halifax, and Two If By Sea Cafe in downtown Dartmouth (best filled croissants – they have a weekly special that makes my mouth water from several thousand kms away).

  • David,

    Thanks for the pictures. Now I know why it’s fun to take pictures of the food one makes or about to eat. I also would like to know about that interesting camera. That probably has a story too. Now, when I take a stroll around my old neighborhood in LP I will have to try this one. Europe is another planet away for food.

    Thanks!!

  • My mouth is watering! But I had to chuckle at the Weight Watchers ad displayed right above the comments. Well played, Google Ads.

  • Betty: It’s funny because the day I returned to Paris, I wanted something decent for lunch. We went to a neighborhood café and after we sat down, I saw everyone eating these salads with orange-tinted (not red) tomatoes, which I’m sure were rock-hard (and awful), loading with bottle dressing. And everyone was drinking Coca Lite – which made that a €20 meal.

    I didn’t want that so we left and went to a small restaurant with organic food just nearby and had a great arugula salad with goat cheese and roasted zucchini, split a vegetable sandwich, and had a smoothie and it came to €10 per person. Plus everyone was really nice (and not smoking..) – I’d much rather pay a little more to go somewhere where the food is good. And often it’s less than people think.

    Cyndy: It’s a Canon G12. There’s people that get great shots from them, but I’m having a hard time getting nice pictures indoors. I can’t get the depth of field and nice light as I do with my DSLR and I seem to miss it whenever I take the smaller camera along with me.

    You can read more at my post My Food Photography Gear.

    Susan: Thanks for coming! It was lovely to meet everyone and especially nice to raise money for the Midwest Foodways Alliance and they said afterward that the proceeds allowed them to take on another project. Hope you like the cinnamon & vanilla : )

    To others: Floriole is a few blocks walk from the “L” station so give yourself a little extra time if coming from downtown. It’s not far and a lovely walk, plus the neighborhood is interesting. But map it out before you go.

  • Paris is a beautiful city filled with culinary delights and I often wish that I live there myself. But your past few posts on Chicago reminds me of just how much my own city has to offer, and that I should be just as proud of where I am now. Thank you for sharing your experience and for this little reminder.

  • An honorable mention to a bakery about 2 doors down:
    Sweet Mandy B’s.

    Have you been?

  • Beautiful pictures of delicious looking food. Definitely a trip to Chicago in my future. Thanks.

  • One photo after the other has me wishing I was there…beautiful, creative and quite obviously tasty foods…we need more places like this. I’m with Betty…a simple or homey decor speaks volumes to me; flash is too often just that. I prefer substance and boy does Floriole ooze that.

  • “the Passion Fruit Tartlet, a lovely, slightly dense filling made of passion fruit curd smoothed over pâte sucré with a blanket of softly whipped cream and a few wisps of lime zest resting on top”……ahh the poetry of food, stimulates all the senses. Thanks David.

  • David, I don’t have a G12 but a G11. One setting I really like on mine is the low-light setting, which might help your indoor situation. On the wheel where you choose M, AV, TV, etc, there’s a candle option. It will take over your ISO and make shutter speed adjustments as well. On my DSLR, I stay in Manual, but with the G11, I don’t know…I kinda like the low-light setting.

    Also, once I set the custom white balance to a very white white, my pictures also started coming out better.

    Hope that helps!

  • You are right – those look utterly amazing, even by Parisian standards!

  • Is this heaven?!!

  • You’re killing me. Those tarts with the caramel (maybe?) and hazelnuts? OMG. Must go console myself with a thin mint brownie.

  • Bread…… looks good in Chicago, but if you go as far west as LA take a look at http://www.wellbreadinla.com/WellBreadinLA.com/welcome.html and get in touch with Bob… not a bakery or restaurant, just a guy baking bread ——- and it is not only beautiful, but fabulous tasting.It is really exciting to see what people are doing everywhere….

  • David (or anyone who can offer some insight), I was incredibly excited to see the 7th photo! I had something as a child that looked EXACTLY like that (is the inside yellow? porous in appearance, almost sponge-like but firmer, yet moist like cake?) and loved it, but haven’t the slightest idea what it was called and when I describe it (which, as may be evident, isn’t especially articulate) I get blank stares. I was about 7 or 8 when I had it, and it was from a bakery in NYC that is now closed, so I was not able to go back in search of it when I was last in town. I may just be rambling and the delight that I enjoyed as a child may not, in fact, be the same treat featured in the photo, but does it have a name?? Thank you!

  • *swoon* I just want to dive into that caramel forever and ever and ever.

  • Natalie, Those are canele de Bordeaux. They are a specialty of, you guessed it, Bordeaux. I fell in love with them at first bite and had to recreate them for our bakery. They are actually pretty easy to make at home.

  • Floriole is a true gem, as is Sandra. The food, decor and atmosphere have all been attended with loving detail, but in a way that appears almost effortless so that a trip there is enjoyment and relaxation. Her dedication to using locally and responsibly farmed ingredients is the icing on the cake.

    Thanks for highlighting a very worthy spot!

  • In my dreams, I own a place like this, make this kind of food, and have these kinds of customers. It is just lovely to see all of the pieces come together in a small space filled with equal parts sugar and love!

    As always, David, thank you for giving this old (no, really…mid-30s career changer here) culinary student something to aim for!

    Plus: I would SO make my own jam! ha ha!

    Lovely!

    Jill

  • I absolutely ADORE your blog, I just purchased ‘the sweet life in Paris’ and am patiently waiting for it to arrive in my mailbox … any day now!

    I bought The Perfect Scoop for my mother for Christmas this year, she has a very trustworthy ice cream maker from the 70s which has churned out the most dilectible vanilla ice-cream time and time again to accompany my mother’s dessert offerings but it’s not getting any younger so I felt that the time was right for it to finally let loose and get creative with the help of your book …. the book and you recent culinary meanderings through Chicago got me thinking – have you ever heard of Gelato Messina in Sydmey, Australia ?? they make the most incredible ice cream and sorbet, just like homemade, melts just like homemade and have the most delicious and creative flavours with perfect names to match – like ‘steve mcqueen – licorice and dark chocolate chip, ‘Elvis the fat years’ – peanut butter ice-cream with banana and vanilla soaked brioche and other incredible flavours like dulce de leche with lemon meringue, goats milk yoghurt gelato with fig and walnut, pavlova, orange poppy seed, smoked almond, peach and roast almond … oh my goodness gracious me I die ! – you should totally follow them on Twitter once in a while

    Last year I moved house and am now just a 5 minute walk away … luckily I live on the 5th floor and my elevator is often out of order also

  • If it’s going to continue to be winter in Vermont I might as well escape and return to Chicago. This has been a great group of posts showing off the best eats of Chicago.

  • This place looks amazing. I visit Chicago a couple times a year. I’m going to have to check it out the next time.

  • winneke: I’ve not heard of that gelato place but I’ve been dying to go to Australia for the longest time. Unfortunately the lengthy plane ride has kept me away – after sitting for 10 minutes on a plane, I start getting antsy. And after a few hours, they have to strap me in my seat because I’m so cramped & bored. I think I need a private jet! : )

    Krista: Thanks for the tip. I’ve tried that and the photos are still grainy. Folks tell me that I shouldn’t expect the pictures to be the same quality as a DSLR but I’ve seen others get good shots. I had a Lumix LX3 and sold that because I didn’t like the photos. I think I need to take a class or something..

  • Thanks for featuring this, David! Don’t know how I missed it when I lived in Chicago. Will definitely go when I next visit the city. And please, please try the pizza at “Great Lake.” I promise you it’s good.

  • Ok. I live in Chicago, and loved Tartine in SF…and how did I not know about this? BAD ME. Thanks for exposing the obvious David. Thumbs up on hitting Kuma’s and Xoco. Must have been a blast making it out here, weather aside. Not sure if you have a list of all your stops in Chi-town, if you don’t – do you mind sharing it…lest I discover another unknown spot?

  • david, what are the brown and white swirly cookies???

  • Live in the city and LOVE it. For those asking, yes this place is newer – a year old perhaps?

    Second the Sweet Mandy B cupcakes recommendation! Still my favorite cupcake. Cheaper than the fancy cupcake places and the store is utterly charming.

    Pasticceria Natalina in Andersonville – great recommendation. I live in Andersonville and they turn out beautiful pastries. They treat it like art. But they close for good in September so be sure to try it before then! Andersonville in general has great restaurants and stores – worth stopping by! Love Anteprima and Vincents as well as Hopleaf.

  • Wow… I may need to get on I-94 and take a drive to Chicago!

  • David, meet your chocolate idiot! I just made your idiot cake and I am wondering if it really was supposed to shrink to a mere 1 inch high as it cooled? I had no idea how long I was to whisk the eggs & sugar so…help!! Other than that I must admit I have fallen for your recipes and blog. The French tomato tart you posted a while back is to die for. Keep busy in the kitchen and on-line and we will all stay happy. Thanks.

  • David,

    The photos get grainy because the camera defaults (in auto or P mode) defaults to increasing the ISO rather than having a slow shutter speed in low light situations.

    To reduce grain in low light you might want to try:
    1. Make sure you’re at the widest zoom setting of the lens; this is where the largest aperture is on the G12’s lens to collect the most light, and also makes hand movement less noticable
    2. Set the camera to Tv (shutter speed priority) mode, and set the shutter speed to 1/15, 1/10, 1/4 or whatever you can bear holding still for
    3. Set the camera to continuous shot mode; this makes it easy to hold down the shutter and get multiple shots in which helps in coming up with one good one when the shutter speed is slow

    Good luck, and thank you for all of your Paris tips! Your food photography is already excellent!