Tag Archives: bakery

Dulce de Leche in Buenos Aires

Milk caramel needs a translation to Spanish to earn the sweet, sultry name it deserves, which here is dulce de leche. It is probably inaccurate to call dulce de leche an obsession in Argentina; it is so integrated into the everyday life, culture and food — especially sweets — of this place that it occupies a realm entirely different than obsession. It’s so present and normal it’s nearly negligible.

Dulce de leche comes to its sticky, sugary goodness through the slow heating of milk and sugar, which caramelizes. While the origins of dulce de leche are up for debate, it is a beloved treat throughout Latin America, where it also goes by names like manjar, arequipe and cajeta. It did, however, take Haagen-Dazs introducing dulce de leche as an ice cream flavor worldwide in the late ’90s to get many outside Latin America to taste it.

Still, Argentina holds its place as one of the world’s top producers of dulce de leche. Here in Buenos Aires, it seems dulce de leche is incorporated into everything sweet, even healthy breakfast cereal bars. If a food doesn’t come readymade with the sweetness, then supermarkets sell jars of dulce de leche to spread on anything an Argentine’s heart desires. Here are some of the best, most indulgent ways I have experienced dulce de leche so far in Buenos Aires.

Chocolate with almonds and dulce de leche Freddo gelato, by Karina for TKGO


Ice cream in Buenos Aires bears a close resemblance to Italian gelato, but what they have here that they don’t in Italy is a slew of dulce de leche flavors. Dulce de leche with brownie, or nuts, chocolate chips or “classic.” I’ve found dulce de leche to be the ideal accompaniment to any flavor of the chocolate persuasion.


Dulce de leche pastries

Dulce de leche-stuffed pastries at Suevia


Pastries a plenty come stuffed with dulce de leche here. My favorite so far was from Confiteria Suevia, the bakery around the corner from my apartment. It was a thick, sweet powdered roll about the size of a fist sliced in half and slathered with dulce de leche holding the two pieces together.


Havanna alfajores, courtesy of Havanna.com.ar


Argentine alfajores consist of two sweet biscuits stuck together with a filling of dulce de leche and then — as they’re often found here — coated in chocolate. They’re sold in cafes, bakeries and supermarkets, and they are just as epic and decadent as they sound. For more about the famous alfajores at Havanna, read Tara’s TKGO City Guide listing here.

Karina for TKGO

A Very Fat Tuesday

Fat Tuesday is also, appropriately, called Pączki Day wherever there are Poles or Polish immigrants — in this case, the greater Chicago area. The jelly donut-like pastry, which means “little package” in Polish, is deep-fried and stuffed with custard, fruit filling or cheese, and topped with sugar glaze or powdered sugar. Apparently, pączkis (pronounced “poonch-keys”) were first made to quickly and deliciously use up eggs and lard prior to Lent, which the Roman Catholic church prohibits during the pre-Easter period.

Bennison’s Bakery in our very own Evanston, Illinois hosted a pączki-eating contest to benefit Haitian relief efforts this past Saturday, where six teams of two had five minutes to consume as many of the pastries as possible.

It was a little much to watch the teams wolf down the gooey pastries, but it didn’t stop us from wanting to taste some for ourselves after the contest. Luckily, the bakery had extra trays of cheese, cream, apricot and raspberry pączkis, which they offered to spectators for free(!). The traditional flavor is prune, which Bennison’s refrained from including in the eating contest, probably with the contestants’ digestive systems in mind.

The pastries are delicious, with a rich filling encased in a fluffy dough exterior, and Bennison’s strikes the ideal proportion of filling to pastry. Prune, apricot, cheese, raspberry, custard and apple pączkis are $1.28; the special whipped cream and strawberry-filled pączkis are $1.96. Stop by Bennison’s to try one! (Tara likes the prune, Karina favors the cheese.)

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Chicago’s Viet Town Treats

Whether you’re trying to cure a hangover, add some green to your space, find some cheap groceries or test a new rice pudding flavor, Viet Town off the Argyle stop on the Red Line is packed with Vietnamese goodies.

My motivation, I admit, was a hangover cure. Nothing jump-starts the day after a long night like a banh mai sandwich, so I grabbed my roommate, Chenault, and made the trek.


Ba Le, 5018 N. Broadway St., Chicago

Ba Le, 5018 N. Broadway St., ChicagoThe wall of pudding selections at Ba Le, by Tara for TKGO.


Our first stop: Ba Le French Bakery (5018 N. Broadway St., 773-561-4424) for some banh mai sandwiches. Don’t be fooled by the name; it’s anything but French. I ordered the house special ($2.95), with ham, pork, cilantro, carrots and other assorted veggies, and maybe some headcheese. Though New York has thousands of better banh mai places in Chinatown alone (my fave is Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich’s house special, 369 Broome St.), but this one did the job! The bread isn’t great by French standards (according to Chenault, who spent five of the last nine months in Paris), but for a U.S. rendition, it’s top notch. The cilantro and veggies are fresh, and it’s not too heavy to finish in one sitting. Be sure to pick up some pudding! This was a definite highlight. We tried the mung bean and coconut milk, and the taro — both great, original flavors. The consistency is grainier than the creamy rice pudding we’re used to, but the effect is a dissolve-in-your-mouth sweetness.


Some of the tasties we brought home from Ba Le. Sandwiches, dumpling, and pudding are recommended. Skip the rest.

Sandwiches, dumplings, and pudding are recommended — skip the rest, by Tara for TKGO.


Next, we headed to Viet Hoa (1051 W. Argyle, 773-334-1028) for affordable Asian groceries. Chenault and I picked up kimchi, udon noodles, fresh loose tea, lychee sodas, miso soup mixes, gummy candies and Durian fruit, and heavily debated getting a live crab before deciding storage may be a problem. The vegetables, especially the mushrooms and bok choy, are cheap and fresh.


Chenault, in front of the pastries at Chiu Quon.

Chenault, in front of the pastries at Chiu Quon, by Tara for TKGO.


Heading back to the car, we spotted an irresistibly decadent bakery with a line nearly out the door. Chiu Quon (1127 W. Argyle St., 773-907-8888) had some of the tastiest BBQ pork buns and custard buns I’ve ever had! Chenault picked up a sesame ball, which was equally warm with a crispy shell.

With bellies full of banh mai and arms full of groceries and pastries, we attempted for the third time to leave Viet Town and walked toward the car. But, of course, we met one final obstacle: Q Ideas (5100 N. Broadway, 773-989-8283), a bamboo garden you can take home. With our last dollar, we took home a tiny bamboo plant.

Chenault and I will be back — but with emptier bellies and far more cash.

Tara for TKGO

Cannolis, Cassatines and Mille Foglie

Chicago Magazine (in the recent “Best of Chicago” rankings) voted one of my favorite bakeries, Pasticceria Natalina, as the producer of the best cannoli in Chicago. Though the cannolis are decadent and far from any other “cannoli” you may have eaten outside of Italy, this little Sicilian bakery beckons the adventurous taste buds — everything tastes as good as it looks. Two of my favorites are the mille foglie and the cassatine tea cakes.

Below is a TKGO original video on Pasticceria Natalina, where Natalina explains her methods as she goes about the daily grind in the kitchen. Enjoy!

Tara for TKGO