We all scream for…

By Taylor Hartz | Staff Writer

Ice cream season has officially begun and we’ve set out to find the tastiest, most interesting flavors in the city.

Whether you’re chasing down your local ice cream man, looking for a treat while watching a ballgame or headed out for a date night centered around what’s atop your cone, we’ve got you covered.

If you’re looking for variety, Jeni’s Splen did Ice Creams, 1419 N. Wells St., takes the cake—and the cake-flavored ice cream. The team at Jeni’s focuses on the atmosphere and experience just as much as the flavors and quality of their creamy cups and cones.

The company describes their design as “really great ice cream served perfectly in a sparkling and beautiful space, with attentive and in-the-moment service,” and they
aren’t exaggerating.

Jeni’s is sold in a sleek, orange and white shop adorned with twinkling white lights, and a team of employees who are willing to let you sample as many flavors as your heart desires.

Despite the sampling, it’s hard to pick a flavor from their long list. But luckily, you don’t have to. Jeni’s offers ice cream “flights”—scoops of three flavors for $6. (Pro tip: an additional scoop is just $1, so spring for the $7 option to try four flavors. That’s what we did—twice.)

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams offer an array of delicious flavors, with four scoops served in a tray as part of their “ice cream flights” for $6. Photo by Taylor Hartz

With two four scoop flights, totaling $14, we enjoyed brambleberry crisp, goat cheese with cherries, honey pie, ricotta toast with jam, coffee with cream and sugar, wildberry lavender, salty caramel and blueberry lemon frozen yogurt. That’s right—cheese in ice cream. Isn’t that something we all want to try?

Goat cheese with cherries was a perfect mix of savory and sweet with chunks of perfectly flavored fruit, while strictly sweet flavors like honey pie were buttery and delicious.

Though the flavor options could be talked about all night, the texture of these scoops is a whole other topic to explore. Jeni’s ice cream is unbelievably smooth compared to most ice cream brands, it makes you wonder what you’ve been doing all your ice cream-loving life.

Each scoop offers “a uniquely smooth texture and buttercream body, with bright flavor and clean finish,” according to Jeni’s. The company doesn’t use any synthetic flavorings, dyes or pre-made mixes, but instead opts for stabilizers and emulsifiers that create a unique consistency and leave you with a clean palate after every bite.

If you’re looking for a romantic, inexpensive date idea this summer, you can’t beat the iconic Riverwalk. Strolling along the Chicago River is a must-do in the warmer months and there are plenty of fun destinations popping up along the path for drinks, dinner and dessert.

At Frost Gelato, 151 W. Riverwalk, you can check out a stunning display of whipped, swirled, colorful gelatos adorned with exotic flowers as you choose from their lengthy list of flavors to put the cherry on top of your night out by the water.

On their regular menu, gelato lovers can choose from more than 60 flavors, ranging from bubble gum and toasted marshmallow to marble black cherry and cinnamon apple pie.

The shop also features flavors of the month to keep things even more interesting. The specials for May included margarita, mango green chilli and spicy chocolate.

Margarita isn’t the only drink-inspired flavor they’ve got either, with flavors like root beer, pina colada, green and chai teas, Guinness, Bailey’s buttercream, eggnog and espresso offered daily.

As if the extensive list of gelato flavors didn’t make the decision hard enough— there’s more. The shop also has a few dozen sorbet flavors for those with a fruitier palate. In
addition to blackberry, kiwi and green apple, the shop offers some unexpected fruit flavors, like papaya, pear riesling and strawberry champagne.

Frost Gelato isn’t open yet for the season, as it is revamping its space for a new, bigger location on the Riverwalk—the “Water Plaza” section between Wells and LaSalle streets.

They expect to open their doors by mid-July.

Just a few blocks away in River North, stop by Firecakes Donuts at 68 W. Hubbard St. for a snack that’s even sweeter than ice cream. At Firecakes, you can still get your ice cream fix, wedged between two donuts. That’s right, the specialty here is a donut ice cream sandwich—a slab of vanilla, chocolate or coconut ice cream in between two glazed donuts covered in hot fudge.

Last but not least, we checked out Cone Gourmet Ice Cream at 1047 W.
Madison St. Flavors like the bright blue Cookie Monster are a perfect way to brighten up your summer day with a little color, while flavors like “snickering apples” (Snickers ice cream with apples) and “leprechaun tracks” are one of a kind.

We tried the super sweet “Netflix and Chill” and the tart orange “Zootopia” filled
with rainbow sprinkles. “Delicious.”

The shop also offers a variety of hand-scooped ice cream sandwiches and has non-dairy options, like watermelon sorbetto, available every day.

All ice creams at Cone can be served in a cup, on a cone, or on cookie cones or waffle cones and can be smothered in a variety of toppings, like gummy worms, graham crackers, Irish flake pieces or reeces, or be served “shamrock style,” covered in Lucky Charms.

Also, don’t miss their other cool treats like the frozen banana or frozen cheese- cake on a stick.

Published June 4

Local hotels freshen menus, decor for spring

By Gianna Annunzio | Staff Writer

Spring is a time of renewal and two local hotels are taking advantage of the season’s spirit by unveiling new food and interior decor initiatives. Loews Chicago Hotel, 455 N. Park Dr., has introduced a mouthwatering program, “Flavor by Loews Hotels,” a food and beverage experience providing guests with rich local fare. The initiative is built on partnerships with artisan food and beverage vendors.

One vendor is the agricultural cooperative, The Chicago Honey Co-op, whose honey is made in chemical-free beehives right here in the city.

“Chicago Co-op has three apiaries in different locations in Chicago, including in the Back of the Yards area,” said Kelly Kroyer, the marketing and social media manager for Loews Chicago Hotel, adding that the honey in your drinks may not have been made too far from home. Loews incorporates the honey in cocktails at their terrace bar and restaurant, Streeterville Social. An exclusive beer has also been crafted through a partnership with Revolution Brewing to produce, “Zephyr”—a low ABV golden ale with a mild and crisp taste.

The partnerships in Loews’ Flavor program are further reflected in the culinary style of Loews Executive Sous Chef, Matt Lange, of ETA Restaurant + Bar. With his focus on seasonal and refined cooking, the menu includes additions such as cold-pressed juices from locally-grown fruits and veggies provided by local food program, Here. Flavors include a beet, apple and ginger blend as well as pineapple, celery and apple juice that combines notes of turmeric and basil.

ETA Restaurant + Bar at Loews Chicago Hotel is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week and Streeterville Social will open for the season on May 25.

A mural of Chicago’s skyline at The Palm restaurant. Photo by Gianna Annunzio

While Loews has expanded their flavor palate, Swissotel’s The Palm Chicago restaurant, 323 E. Wacker Dr., has revamped their entire look from the inside out. The restaurant re-opened on April 16, after a $2.5 million renovation. When the restaurant’s remodeling began, manager Phil Jahnke said the priority was to clean up the space and provide more modern amenities. “This particular location has always had the feeling of a hotel restaurant,” he said. “We’re trying to revitalize it.”

The restaurant has also re-incorporated unique wall paintings into the space, including work by Marlene Goodman and Zach Byrd, who has created city murals at Palm locations across the country. “I paint with acrylic paints on the wall and work more from looking at photos and just doing my thing,” Goodman said. “Since we’ve been around for so long, people might forget about us,” said Nicole Boston, the Palm’s sales and events manager. “But with this renovation we’re making a statement that we’re really here to stay.” The Palm Chicago now serves breakfast as well as lunch and dinner seven days a week.

Published on May 3