Some folks love booze; some folks crave a salty bag of chips; and some folks jones for a long drag off a dirty cigarette. I'm the girl who can't say no to sweets. It doesn't matter how many Bikram yoga classes I sweat through, how many city blocks I traipse, or how many miles I pump away on my bike, I'm always gonna say yes to dessert.
Bridging the gap between my raging sweet tooth and my love for all things Mexican hasn't been the easiest. There are little pockets of Mexico splattered across town every which way you turn, but not many have the sort of sugar fix I crave. I'm not into the dry-as-sand buns that usually turn up in south-of-the-border bakeries. I'm into the soaking wet wonder known as tres leche cake and that genuinely perfect coffee dunker, the freshly baked, fruit-filled pastry.
I'm especially joyous if they cost under a buck, as the always-overlooked rum pound cake does. To my sheer delight, I recently discovered that the tiny Mexican bakery El Trigal has all of my favorites in spades. Bring on the milk (well soy milk for me).
El Trigal Bakery, 3107 W. Montrose Ave., is the sort of place you fly can right past. There are hundreds of bakeries around the city hawking the same goods (pastries, cakes and breads), so why stop here? For me, it was the sign that made me stop. It looks new, and with new signage always comes an owner who cares. After I parked illegally I front, I strolled into the bakery and was immediately hit by the smells.
The air was perfumed with the magical scent of sugar, eggs and butter, but it was the rolling rack full of just-out-of-the-oven goodies that caught my eye. Everywhere I turned there was a soft pasty or a warm cookie cooling off. I grabbed a couple of jam-filled dough balls, tossed them on my tray and made my way to the cold case.
Loaded into the middle shelf were the most enticing slices of tres leche cake that I've come across since my sojourn to Kristoffer's Cafe and Bakery in Pilsen. Every little chunk of sugary bliss was literally swimming in a wondrous three-milk concoction, slathered with a thin layer of whipped cream and topped off with a bright red cherry.
Next up was a huge slab of rum cake. This hunk of pound cake had been soaked in a bath of rum, so by the time it was ready for the cold case, it was easily triple its original weight. In total, I spent less than $3 and quickly ran out into the rain back to my truck. My friend, Geo, who was helping me feed my sweet tooth, was stunned when I wanted to plow right in and eat everything in the truck. There's no time for hauling home, when the tres leches is cold as ice and the rum cake is dripping into the bag. Duh!
We had a small tussle over the lone fork and, after sharing utensils for a split second, I got a little more creative and started using my fingers. I mean, come on. Who cares, I'm in the safety of my truck, right? As I've always contended, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do, especially when it comes to sugar addictions.
The Final Rave: Many Mexican restaurants tout "homemade" tres leches cake on their menu, most are really made off site in small family-run bakeries like El Trigal. Save yourself the high mark-up and grab your goodies straight from the source.
Keep It Going:
Read it: 101cookbooks.com
One die-hard foodie living on the West Coast has made it her mission to cook her way through all 101 of her favorite cookbooks. Read about all her fascinating culinary adventures on her very well-designed site (recipes included).
Eat it: BomBon
Though the cost is jacked up a bit, the sweets at this Mexican bakery in Pilsen are well worth the trek south. Even the mouthwatering whipped cream is a standout.
Drink it: Argo
One of the best little gems on the Northside is this Georgian bakery. Coupled with a hyper-strong coffee, the lobiani (think baklava) is a sugar-lovers dream.
Get crazy with it: Sweet Mandy B's
I know I wax poetic about this kid-friendly hot spot more than I should, but nothing (and I mean nothing) compares to a six-pack of its chocolate-frosted cupcakes.