Shortly after the grand opening of Calla Lily Cafe, Natalie Stevens of the Oswego Patch sat down with Pedro and Dee Lopez—the husband-and-wife team behind Oswego’s newest eatery—to find out what made their business tick. The pair mused about their family’s string of restaurants and bars out in California, citing how they’ve always dreamed of doing the same. However, Calla Lily—named after the Lopez’s favorite flower—isn’t a bar; it’s a cozy and comfortable breakfast spot. Platefuls of multigrain pancakes, thick-cut french toast, and belgian waffles share menu space with hearty egg skillets, omelets, and biscuits and gravy. Customers not in the mood for breakfast can opt for lunch items such as triple-decker club sandwiches, half a dozen kinds of burgers, and fresh salads, before thinking long and hard about why they weren’t in the mood for breakfast.
In the kitchens of Blueberry Hill's five suburban outposts, cooks forgo lazy morning lounging to pull together homey assortments of timeless brunch fare. Pancakes infused with fruit or sweets are made from scratch, much like hand-knitted socks or hand-painted report cards. French-toast slices get stuffed with apple and cream cheese, smothered in fruit, or rolled in Cap'n Crunch. Fresh meats and veggies take cover under eggs in savory skillets, and a selection of sandwiches quells cravings in handheld form.
Yogen Früz serves up a menu of frigid fare with an especially healthy twist—yogurts come in probiotic low fat, probiotic non fat, probiotic low-fat chocolate, and non-fat/no-sugar blends. Sink a spoon or miniature backhoe into a small Mix It signature frozen yogurt ($3.25), topped with your choice of fruit, or delve into a medium Mix It medley ($4.75) with a heaping of additional toppings or extra fruit ($0.50 each). Toppings and fruits include granola, shredded coconut, chocolate shavings, kiwis, strawberries, and mangos.
With more than 700 locations, Jamba Juice proves to the masses that nutrition can be speedy and delicious. Since the beginning, the company?s product philosophy has revolved around choosing whole fruits and other natural ingredients over artificial flavorings, sweeteners, and preservatives. The menu is completely free of high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, and it offers additional accommodations for vegan and gluten-free diets.
This naturalistic approach is fully realized in Jamba Juice's selection of smoothies. Made with 100% fruit juice, sherbet, and frozen yogurt, the frosty delights range from all-fruit smoothies such as peach perfection and strawberry whirl to more indulgent creamy treats, including peanut butter moo'd, an enticing blend of peanut butter, bananas, nonfat vanilla frozen yogurt, and milk chocolate.
For those with heartier appetites, steel-cut oats steep in soymilk before being enhanced with toppings such as apples, cinnamon, and brown-sugar crumble. The lunch hour presents protein-packed mini wraps, toasted bistro sandwiches and California Flatbreads that pack only about 320?420 calories each.
Inside the historic, 145-year-old building, dozens of teapots and accessories collected by current owner Mary Ann Waldorf line curtain-swathed shelves. Whether joining friends for a luncheon, purchasing some specialty foods and gift baskets, or savoring high tea in the Angel Room, visitors of the tin-ceilinged teahouse find themselves transported to what seems like another time and place. Teapots, purchasable jewelry, and seasonal tea blends may not be the only Gourmet Junction dwellers; local mediums say the ghosts of Plainfield's first inhabitants tread the hardwood floors.
There's a place in Naperville where the train station resides just down the street from a medieval castle, inhabited by a society of young pirates and princesses. In a nearby oasis, a council of giants confers over bitter potions and sweet nectars until, at their leisure, they scoop up their diminutive wards and carry them off to their home kingdoms. This haven, Cafe N Play, maintains the balance between playtime and parenthood with a vast tract filled with toys and play structures, all adjacent to a WiFi-equipped lounge serving fair-trade coffee, organic drinks, and foodstuffs friendly to any diet. Kids hone their imaginations on wooden trains and a town of intricately detailed buildings, and a separate toddler area keeps little ones safe from tumbles and potentially scarring rumors about Santa Claus. The kid-friendly staff also hosts birthday parties, furnishing private rooms and necessities such as pizza, invites, and utensils.
When Carrie Staub was laid off from her 20-year career as a corporate travel agent, she tried her hand at baking as a way to stay productive while staying at home with her kids. Her first attempts at truffles weren't fancy, but as friends and family steadily devoured her creations, she gradually refined their look and taste until they were ready to go public.
Today, she hand-rolls, hand-dips, and hand-details cake pops for a growing fan base. "You'll never find any two that are exactly the same," she says, turning out a steady stream of intricate specialty designs and an assortment of classic flavors.
Carrie says the pops are especially popular as favors, and she's gotten orders for birthday parties, holidays, baby showers, and even a wedding. She carries a sketchbook to jot down ideas, though inspiration can strike with each individual order—such as her beer mug and cheeseburger pops, which are available at The Garage Bar & Sandwiches on Chicago's North Side.
The busier Cake Pop Charm gets, the more passionate Carrie is about her business. And her freedom from the traditional workday brings another benefit: She gets to see a lot more of her 4-year-old twins.
"I feel like I can have my cake pop and eat it, too," she says.