Gayety’s Ice Cream is open

Gayety’s Candy was located on the South side of Chicago at 9207 Commercial Ave. established in 1920, over 100 years ago, right next to the Gayety Theatre. Founder James Papageorge was an immigrant stowed away on a steemer from Greece at the age of  nine. He learned everything about candy and ice cream while opening a shop next to the Gayety Theatre with the same name. It wasn’t uncommon to share the names of other businesses.I remember Mom I visiting to buy their homemade candies when I was little but they had best ice cream sundaes and banana splits with fruit cocktail. Moved to Lansing, IL and Shereville, Indiana, was closed, but has re-opened in Lansing.

Located at 3306 Ridge Rd,  Laurene Lemanski bought Gayety’s through her new company, For the Love of Chocolates and Ice Cream. Her parents grew up on the South side and went to the shop there. She actually worked at the Torrence Avenue store in Lansing in the 1980’s while attending high school.

The fruit topped banana and vanilla ice cream sundae is buried under a liberal dollop of real whipped cream and crushed nuts. They also offer seasonal flavors of ice cream depending on the time of year. Their shakes are massive, and they serve you what’s left in the tumbler too. They have ice cream chairs that are also fun to sit in enjoying the atmosphere of a real ice cream parlot.

Image courtesy of A.C.C

Ice cream facts

By Caryl Clem:

Surviving Italian Florentine rebellions, at the tender age of 14, Catherine d’Medici was to wed the second eldest son of the King of France, Henry Orleans in 1533.  Her two loves, ice cream and high heels are still around today.  She had purchased a recipe for ice cream from a goat and chicken farmer who won a contest her family sponsored. This frozen dessert won instant popularity after it was served at her wedding.  As a short new bride, Catherine wanted to ensure her grand entrance before the Royal Court of France; a stunning pair of custom made high heels was a fashion first.   Catherine became Queen of France in 1536 bearing 10 children with her husband.

Since 1686, a café that entertained the greatest thinkers in Paris was Café Procope . Famous clientele included Voltaire famous French author against tyranny, Diderot, inventor of modern encyclopedia organization, Americans Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington discussed world issues over coffee and ice cream.

The first recipe for ice cream used by George Washington in America had 21 steps.  Rich mansion owners had underground ice houses for blocks of ice cut in the winter.  Only the wealthy could afford the necessary ingredients.

Before Chicago, Philadelphia was an ice cream “hot spot”. Quaker schoolteacher named Louis Dubois Bassett set out to make high-quality ice creams on his rural New Jersey farm.

Fast forward to the late 1800’s when Chicago enters the ice cream market limelight.  Early vendors hawked their half Penney and Penny licks ice cream from reused, rinsed, small hand held glass containers.  Italian vendors sounded like they were saying, Hockey Pokey’s.  Believed but not proven, the more sanitary ice cream wafer cone happened at a World’s Fair Exhibition in St. Louis.  An ice cream vendor ran out of glass containers so he paired business with his neighbor selling thin wafers, rolling them then placing a scoop on top.

Gone but not forgotten the Buffalo ice Cream Parlor in Chicago.  Elaborate décor of cherubs dancing murals on the walls, leaded glass windows, rich dark walnut wood and marble top counters, amid the whirl of 20 malt mixers concocting heavenly combinations.  The Buffalo offered a perfect place to escape reality and enjoy sumptuous ice cream desserts.  The original Buffalo in Chicago opened in 1902 moving to the Irving Park in 1918.  The new location had the Commodore Theatre across the street.  Now a Shell Gas Station stands has replaced the spot ice cream was enjoyed.

At the end of the civil war, a jobless William Breyer started hand-cranking ice cream in his kitchen in Kensington outside Philadelphia then selling it to neighbors.  He was the first using a wagon equipped with a loud dinner bell to announce his location.  Breyer’s reputation rests on simple good for you ingredients for over 150 years. The cream, cane sugar, fruits and nuts ingredient base became known as the Philadelphia American style ice cream.  During the 1960’s only ice cream parlors sold the number one rated Breyers.  In the 1970’s, Breyers joined the Kraft product line.  A suburb favorite, Homer’s Homemade Gourmet Ice Cream.

In Oak Park, Petersen’s Ice Cream has been in business over 80 years. Founded by a Greek immigrant, his son, Dean Poulos, reports that his grandfather’s secret ingredient was butterfat. With décor from the 1919 era complete with tin ceiling tiles is Petersen’s Ice Cream Shop. Exploring Chicago’s ice cream history is definitely a summer treat.

Buffalo Ice Cream photo Courtesy of Patrick Crane

Rainbow Ice Cream and Rileys Trick Shop

Living on the south side in the 1960’s, we would make a trip to Rainbow Ice Cream  at 92nd and Western eating the same five-flavored ice cream cone as today; chocolate, strawberry, Palmer House (New York vanilla with cherries and walnuts), pistachio and orange sherbet. Grandpa Joe Sapp established Rainbow in 1926. His first rainbow cones were sold out of a small ice cream shack on 92nd street across the street from the building that was built four years later and still exists today. Then we visited Riley’s Trick shop that was located at 9033 Western Ave, opened in 1965. I remember getting trick cards and funny eye glasses.

Riley’s opened in 1937 at 79th and Rhodes which mainly sold greeting cards and paper goods. Jim Riley and Eleanor married three weeks after opening their shop. They had a popcorn wagon that was hurting popcorn sales at the nearby Rhodes Theatre so the manager offered them $75 for it. They invested that $75 into a line of tricks, jokes and magic, and Riley’s Trick Shop was born. In 1945, Jim Riley co-founded Magic Masters of Chicago which is still thriving today. They moved into another rented storefront at 1057 W. 79th St. in 1956. In 1965, Jim and Eleanor Riley built their own building with living quarters above at 9033 Western Ave.

In 8 years, there the business outgrew two building additions and moved to its current 5,000 square-foot location at 6442 W. 111th in Worth, Illinois. Jim and Eleanor lived above the business they loved until they passed away 27 days apart in 2002. Jim’s son moved the Worth to Palos but had to close in 2014

Rainbow Round Cake consists of all five ice cream flavors of the Rainbow Cone on top of a cake layer. Rainbow Cake Rolls are offered in 6″ and 12″ rolls. They currently offer chocolate cake rolled with five flavors of the Rainbow Cone. Over 96 years, the Sapp family is still serving the same ice cream Joseph developed back in 1926.

 

 

Plush Horse

We lived on the south side of Chicago and it was a field trip with my family to the Plush Horse in Palos Park. It was like going to visit a relative at an old-fashioned, three-story shingled house and, of course, I always had to see if the horse was there as a child. With my adult daughter, we continue to visit and again, I have to see if the stuffed horse is there…it is. For over 80 years, the Plush Horse in Palos Park offers a nostalgic atmosphere with an overwhelming selection of homemade ice cream. Over 70 different flavors.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the original farmhouse was built in 1893. A Mrs. Gray moved there as a bride during the Spanish-American War. Her husband went off to war, and she had the store built so that he would have something to do when he came home. For a few years the storefront housed a general store. Later, the store went through reincarnations as a butcher shop and an antique shop until the Itzel family opened the ice cream parlor in 1937. It has been through several owners since but still the best ice cream.

Today, as an adult it offers some great, specialty, coffee moments so when the parlor is open, you can visit on a cold night. They are opened all year round and you can order online. Plush Horse offers a variety of ice cream with out sugar added. Cones,shakes,sodas,malts, sundaes, and banana splits are just a few of the delicious handmade sweets and treats they offer and they have some great ice cream cakes. Many a child have spent their birthday celebrating with a cake from the shop. They also have a Plush Horse in Tinley Park which has been opened since 2012 and have been named “The Best Ice Cream” in the South land!

Picture courtesy of Slywy.com.

 

The best candy shops began in Chicago

For me, my weakness has been a toss up between ice cream and homemade candy. Celebrating National Candy month, the following shops described in the article began in Chicago and still exist today. Another article will explore suburban favorites.

Margie’s Candies story begins in 1921 George Poulos opened an ice cream parlor on the North Side. The shop became known as Margie’s Candies in 1933, when Poulos’ son George Peter Poulos married Margie Michaels. Still family owned, Margie’s is known for their fudge and Kosher dark chocolate. Many love the variety of homemade ice cream as well. Margie’s original location is still open at Western Avenue.

Fannie May  continues to provide the best in new gourmet chocolate creations as well as traditional favorites.The first Fannie May retail store was opened by H. Teller Archibald in 1920 at 11 N. LaSalle St. in Chicago. Fannie May is also a great way to bring profits to your fundraiser and offer gifts to your business clients. Fannie May is available for pick up by calling any Fannie May store, which you can check out here to find a location near you!

Another charming shop decorated with original Tiffany lamps, an old-fashioned Coke machine and other memorabilia bought by the family is located on Montrose Avenue. Amy’s Candy Bar is located in Lincoln Square was opened in 2011 originally inspired by Amy’s grandmother,Geraldine. As a child, Amy spent hours watching and helping her grandmother bake but decided to forge a career with a degree in psychology and marketing. She worked in corporate America in later years. In 2006, she decided to leave her present position and enroll in the French Pastry School in Chicago. Amy’s shop offers some of the best hand-crafted confections that include her signature sea salt caramel. You can also order your favorites online.

Katherine Anne Confections promotes cocktail truffle” month in their kitchen, and they thought a banana daiquiri truffle would be a great choice for the month. Extra ripe bananas, white rum, and milk/semisweet chocolate with a touch of sea salt is part of the creation. At the age of 10, Katherine would use cream from her family’s Jersey cows to create soft, old-fashioned caramels on their farm in Wisconsin. “Katherine’s Karamels” were sold at her Dad’s office and quickly became a local favorite. In 2012, Katherine opened her cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood on Armitage and she also offers excellent coffee drinks.

Cunis Candies originally opened its doors in 1933 on 79th street by George Askounis. Now, Kathy Biesiada owns the store in South Holland which has been a south side favorite since 1971 and still family owned. Cunis is especially known for their ice cream as well. Some delights include the Turtle Sundae and Peach Ice Cream topped with fresh peaches, the latter available in June. They take pride in their homemade chocolates that include freshly dipped turtles, chocolate strawberry’s, chocolate covered orange peels and in the fall, the best caramel apples;  which are first dipped in caramel, rolled in pecans, then drizzled with around a quarter pound of milk or dark chocolate.

Cupid Candies,another family owned business was founded by Paul Stefanos in 1936 has been producing quality chocolate and serving Chicago land residents in their own retail stores for the past 68 years. The first store was at 79th and Ashland, where only fudge, toffee, and popcorn were sold. By 1940 Paul Stefanos, and his wife Pauline, opened another store at 3207 W. 63 rd Street, along with a small manufacturing facility, where the chocolate line really grew. They continue to manufacture chocolate for some of the finest candy shops in Chicago that include Crate and Barrel. Currently, three locations are available in Chicago, Oaklawn and Orland Park that offer a soda fountain service.

 

Forgotten malls: Evergreen Plaza

From the southeast side of Chicago, my best friend and I were allowed to ride the bus at the age of 12 in 1967 down 95th street west, passing Beverly, crossing Western into Evergreen Park where we exited at the CTA bus stop right in front of the Evergreen Plaza Shopping Mall  which is still there.  I can remember visiting Chandlers Shoes, Lyttons, one of my Mom’s favorite stores as well as Chas A Stevens. Before Montgomery Ward on the North end and, it was The Fair. Of course, Carson Pirie Scott which was located on the far south end from 95th street. My aunt worked there in jewelry for awhile. If we had money, we headed to Walgreens for candy after our lunch. There was a Wimpy’s where we had lunch.

The Evergreen Plaza operated from 1952 to 2013 and the first regional mall in the nation; the second indoor mall. It was originally designed as an open-air shopping center developed by Arthur Rubloff, one of, if not, the first of its magnitude in all of Chicago land. Actually the mall was enclosed in 1966. The center also contained a Jewel supermarket, which featured a conveyor belt that carried groceries from the store to a parking lot kiosk.The mall’s Walgreens was the second self-service Walgreen pharmacy in the chain; it was also the chain’s first location in a shopping center.

Two theaters were added in 1964; fairly new for us growing up, located on the south end by Carson’s and they were huge. I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid at one of them but those were closed in 1999.

Today, Evergreen Market Place is a contemporary outdoor mall replacing the former Evergreen Plaza anchoring the corner 95th Street and Western Avenue in Evergreen Park. It offers approximately 22 stores such as Planet Fitness, TJ Max, Whole Foods Starbucks and Petco.

African American cuisine, Chicago soul food suggestions

By Caryl Clem

Winter weather lingers during February while we look for ways to find comfort waiting for spring. I dig out the recipe books to look up  favorites. When it’s cold outside, I crave eating made from scratch macaroni and cheese bubbling under the bread crumb crust. If you think about Sunday dinner meatloaf or finger licking crusty fried chicken, warm cornbread smothered in butter followed by a tasty cobbler for dessert, all these originated from African American culinary ingenuity. Kentucky Fried Chicken won success with soul food staples as well as several other fast food chicken rivals. Getting the most for your money and taste buds has earned “soul food’ a place on our plates and in our hearts.

Several of our founding fathers all had Black African American chefs that were educated in Europe. In France, Parmesan cheese, butter and pasta was the new rage during the 1800’s. Thomas Jefferson sent his chef to France to learn how to prepare French delicacies. By February in 1862, Thomas Jefferson was hosting parties featuring this macaroni pie specialty. President, George Washington had a famous Black African American Chef Hercules whose clothing can be seen in an museum exhibit in Washington D.C. African Americans as chefs showcasing American food has been established for centuries. These chefs have shaped America’s palate:

Chef Hercules was an African American slave owned by the Washington family, serving as the family’s head chef for many years.

Chef Edna Lewis was a renowned African-American chef, teacher, and author of several cookbooks who helped refine the American view of Southern cooking.

Chef Joe Randall was a good friend of the late Edna Lewis, has been a veteran award-winning chef for over 50+ years.

Chef Leah Chase was an American chef based in New Orleans, Louisiana. An author and television personality, she was known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine. She passed away at 96 in 2019.

Chef Patrick Clark was an American chef. He won the 1994 James Beard Foundation award for “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic Region” during his tenure at the Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, D.C. and also competed.

The reputation of Southern wealthy families depended on offering superior feasts. The culinary feats were achieved by slave chefs from a variety of African regions. New to colonists dinner ‘s influenced by West Africa offered tomatoes, lima beans, onions, and chili peppers with peanuts, ginger and lemon grass. Natural sugar from dates, coconuts, sorghum and sweet potato lessen the need for granulated sugar. Garlic, cumin, and chili peppers for meat followed by allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Chili made with cinnamon was probably the result of African spice blends.  Africa has five regions that use the same spices and seasoning blends. Across America distinct African American influence is broken down into these categories: “Northern States, “ Agricultural South”, “ Creole Coast”, lastly, “ Western Range”.  Trivia fact, over 1/3 of cowboys in the west after the civil war were African Americans. Spices and flavors from a distant continent won new fans and changed the rather bland  fare forever.

Chicago offers several “soul food” restaurants, a phrase that started in the 1960’s and was common place by the 1970’s. Foursquare provides some great comments and pictures about several. Here are just a few with pictures above that describe their menus:

  1. Luella’s Southern Kitchen
  2. Wishbone Restaurant
  3. Big Jones
  4. Virtue
  5. Feed

My favorite fast food hamburgers

Since childhood, it was always a hamburger and chocolate shake that was my faovrite lunch away from home. It began with Henrys.  In 1956, Henry’s, or as some old timers called it, “O’Henry’s” was running 35 locations in and around the city and suburbs. By the ’60s, Henry’s expanded to over 200 restaurants nationwide,  surpassing McDonald’s, White Castle, Jack In the Box, and Wag ‘s. Occasionally, I would have a white castle hamburger at a birthday party. The first White castle opened at 79th and Essex in 1929…my old neighborhood and the oldest hamburger chain.

My next favorite was Wimpy Grills always a place to eat when we took the Illinois Central downtown in my pre-teens and went shopping with friends at Carson’s or Marshall Fields. Though I did love the olive burger at the Narcissus room at Fields. The Wimpy brand was established in 1934 by Edward Gold, when he opened his first location in Bloomington, Indiana under the name Wimpy Grills.The name was inspired by the character of J. Wellington Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons created by E. C. Segar. Gold did not open his first Chicago area location until two years later in 1936, after opening units in five other Midwestern cities. The one I remember the most was located on the northeast corner of Randolph Street and Wabash Avenue which originally opened in 1940 and is no longer there. By 2011, Famous Brands had 509 Wimpy restaurants in South Africa no longer apart of the US.

But in 1973, my still favorite fast food cheese burger was established and will still eat it today when I am looking for something close to home, fast and affordable. Though I do love their chocolate shakes too. The quarter pounder with cheese, just had one yesterday, of course a McDonald favorite. In 1979, the Happy Meal for children was created followed by Chicken McNuggets in 1983; the latter still a favorite of my 30+ children

The first McDonald’s restaurant was started in 1948 by brothers Maurice (“Mac”) and Richard McDonald in San Bernardino, California. They bought appliances for their small hamburger restaurant from salesman Ray Kroc,who was intrigued by their need for eight malt and shake mixers.Seeing great promise in their restaurant concept, Kroc offered to begin a franchise program for the McDonald brothers.

On April 15, 1955, he opened the first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, and in the same year launched the McDonald’s Corporation, eventually buying out the McDonald brothers in 1961. The clown,Ronald McDonald, was created in 1963.  The corporation is still located in Oakbrook and today McDonalds is considered the largest restaurant chain.

 

 

Popcorn gains from Chicago Connections

By Caryl Clem:

Popcorn’s early history dates back to worshiping the Maize with popcorn adorned headdresses and rain gods.  Today’s mass consumption of this snack is a combination of ingenuity, determination and old fashioned hustling.  January 19th is National Popcorn day.

Early popping corn was risky, often greasy, or partially burned and inedible until Charles Cretors invented a steam popcorn machine wagon. He moved his family to Chicago in 1885 to expand his business.  During the Columbia World Exposition in 1893, fresh popcorn vendor wagons were introduced. C Cretors and Company of Chicago featured popcorn flavors that won instant approval. Charles previously sold peanuts before the popcorn venture, his recipe combined molasses, peanuts and popcorn. The cheery red wagon that popped fresh popcorn could be pulled by a boy or pony was open for business anywhere a crowd gathered.

Two German immigrant brothers were determined to obtain financial success in Chicago. After their first business burned to the ground that was located South Clinton Street in 1885, they rebuilt and expanded their business using wagon vendors.  Again the combination of popcorn, peanuts and molasses from a recipe they construed in 1871 became a staple of their success.  A box decorated by a patriotic sailor with a slang term meaning the best, “Cracker Jack” originated their popcorn snack.  The Chicago Tribune on March 8, 1896 featured an article proclaiming that to taste the Rueckheim Brothers popcorn would lead to an obsession, “Do Not Taste It,” read the ridiculous headline. “If you do, you will part with your money easy.”   Expanding the popularity of the product, jobbers went to grocers, drug stores and retail merchants to obtain orders.  By 1908 a song embracing the joy of baseball, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” quoted, “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack” cemented the bond between games and snacking.

As America fought two wars, sugar shortages narrowed the choices for snack treats. The Great Depression brought poverty to the majority. A bag of popcorn was between 5 and 10 cents, a luxury most could afford.  Farmers and vendors were able to make a meager living off popcorn.  Cracker Jack started offering prizes inside their boxes to corner the market.

Movie theaters were against serving food to prevent littering the atmosphere of richness and prosperity that dominated the early movie houses.  After the Great Depression, movie theaters struggled to survive.  In the 1930’s from Glen Dickson  manager of a theater in the Midwest area, Julia Braden in Kansas City, Mo.,  and R. J. McKenna in the west: all  saved their businesses by selling popcorn inside the theater to increase profit margins.  Now a movie is associated with the smell of buttery popcorn. Children’s movies and suspense dramas sold the most popcorn.

Since the microwave introduced popcorn in 1981, popcorn starts to dominate the fix at home snack market. Orville Redenbacher in 1965 is selling his popcorn out of his car as he travels to supermarkets across the Midwest.  Family cooks can make snack foods . Options to make your own popping corn are at your fingertips. Range or stove Popcorn is easy to make and offers many flavorful seasonings.

If you want to buy, the top selling brand today is Chicago’s own Garrett Popcorn ShopsChicago, ILThe Cretors family has modernized its market to open Cornfields, Inc.  a healthy snack manufacturer and producer of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny brands.

No matter what your choice, Chicago offers the best popcorn!

Fannie May celebrates National Chocolate Day

In some form, I do eat chocolate everyday; truly my own passion that I will not give up. On October 28th, National Chocolate Day celebrates anything chocolate; which has been now recognized as one of Americans favorite flavors. Actually, the taste of chocolate has become a world favorite; the reason for a national holiday.  A wonderful treat; only a few days before Halloween!

And chocolate is good for your health since research has found that it may decrease blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and prevent memory decline. Chocolate is believed to contain high levels of antioxidants. Therefore, the best way to celebrate National Chocolate Day is to purchase a premier box of fine chocolates made by Fannie May! Almost 100 years old, Fannie May continues to be known as the finest in gourmet chocolate as well as a Chicago icon.

Their first retail store opened in 1920 on LaSalle street in Chicago. In fact, for decades, Fannie May has always been a Chicago favorite to celebrate any holiday. Now, some of their best sellers will be coming soon on Amazon but still available in retail stores along with other customer favorites.

To celebrate this most delicious holiday next week, Fannie May will be holding an event featuring a variety of discounts and sampling for all to enjoy. Discounts include:·

40% off 1 lb of Colonial Assortments (A collection of Fannie May favorites including fresh nut clusters, crunchy toffee, luscious butter creams, Pixies, Trinidads, & more…)

  • 15% off Entire Purchase
  • BOGO– Hot Chocolate
  • MORE….

Fanny May is truly a premium chocolate expert, crafting superb chocolates with love and the very best ingredients. They make over 100 different confections and continue to develop delectable flavors for customers.