Thursday, February 17, 2011

The best coffee house: Macys in Flagstaff, Arizona

Last night we returned from a winter get-away to Arizona. While it was luxurious to escape the three feet of snow blanketing our back yard, it was 43 degrees at the Grand Canyon and 45 degrees when we arrived home to Chicago. Luckily the snow was nearly gone after a week away. And fortunately, while in the desert state we were able to visit Macys European Coffee House & Bakery in Flagstaff; my vote for the very best coffee house bakery in America.

Blueberry Danish, Sticky Bun, Coffeecake
Macys may not be the most traditional European bakery; case in point, the macadamia nut sticky bun made with buttery whole wheat sweet dough and saturated, not sprinkled with macadamia nuts. The unconventional Blueberry Danish was topped with rich, sweet tofu “cream” cheese that tasted nutty and rich in the way that only a very good baker can magically make tofu taste. The Danish dough was not cloying and white-flour; instead, it too was made from whole wheat flour and was somewhat hearty – though not too thick to disqualify itself from being a delicate Danish. We also tasted a super moist Blackberry Peach Coffeecake that was heady with almond and sprinkled with the darkest and most molasses-y brown sugar-butter crumbles. Somehow, the fruit in all the baked goods was rich and flavorful, despite the winter weather outside. And that is why this place is the best: Quality ingredients and deliciously creative recipes.  

Oh, and then there was the coffee. My husband thought it was the best he’s ever tasted. They don’t do Americano drip. Only espresso. And they make beautiful latte art in the top of your steamed milk foam.

Macadamia Nut Sticky Bun

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Oatmeal Pancakes on Snow Day 2011

These pancakes are hands-down the best pancakes I’ve tasted: Nutty from the whole wheat flour, hearty oatmeal, yet with the deliciously tart flavor of buttermilk. Thus, I had to get them posted immediately so you might have the opportunity to serve them for lunch or dinner on this Snow Day 2011. Isn’t it rather incredible that all of America is snowed in on the same day?

This Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes recipe is from Epicurious and I followed it exactly. If you have it, use fresh nutmeg and grate it straight into the dry ingredients. The fresh nutmeg makes the pancakes ultimately rich. And when you serve them, pull out the real maple syrup. (Those Vermont or Wisconsin maple farmers work very hard to produce it – that’s why it costs a good $7.00-8.00 a bottle.)

In fact, these were so good, we might have them again for dinner with some sunny-side-up eggs and a salad of fresh apples, frozen blueberries and bananas.

And now, since this is the most severe snowstorm we’ve experienced since living in Chicago, here’s a snapshot from the Chicago Tribune.

As of 6 a.m. the National Weather Service reported 17.3 inches of snow at O'Hare International Airport, 17 inches at Midway Airport… “Just about every main road through here is impassable,” said Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Curt Gregory. “People were getting stuck and requiring rescue all night, he said, but some people are still trying to drive. “You’re not going to stop that,” he said around 8 a.m.. “For the most part we’ve got the majority of it cleaned up. Now it’s just sporadic. When people leave home and think they can get through in a Honda Civic, we’ve got to go rescue them.”

-- The inbound Stevenson Expressway remains closed at Martin Luther King Drive due to the shutdown of Lake Shore Drive.
-- As of 3:45 a.m., state officials were telling motorists to stay off I-290 from St. Charles Road to I- 90 and I-57 south of I-80.