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  • Writer's pictureHead Baker

Bakeries & Beer - Episode 2

We’re continuing on to week two of bakery & brewery roundup – and this week’s feature is no other than a big favorite: Half Acre. I know, I know – That’s a singular statement, BUT, their Balmoral location is serving as a one stop shop café. I actually thought this would be my first post given the ease of picking up at one place, but I’m glad I waited.

The Takeaway Café at Balmoral is home to everything Half Acre Beer, Aya Pastry, Dark Matter Coffee and Butter Project (yum). Everything’s good to go on their webstore daily – but I suggest ordering early to make sure you can snag the best items in my opinion.

Aya Pastry’s home sits in West Town and is run by Pastry Chef Aya Fukai who has built a stacked resume over the past few years. The whole offering isn’t available at the café, but from what I did grab, the main store is worth a separate trip for me in the future. The Samoa cake (a cake form of the infamous girl scout cookie) is probably the best thing I’ve eaten all year. I had no words. I also snagged a loaf of sourdough (because when do you not need sourdough?) that was huge and delicious for a grilled cheese. Aside from the stats below, her food is warming and comforting and worth a try.

· Eater’s National Pastry Chef of the Year - 2016

· Nominee for James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef - 2017

· Chicago Tribune’s Pastry Chef of the Year – 2018

The other bakery holding residency in this pop-up is The Butter Project - a pastry delivery service based in Chicago. Chef Claire Smyth runs this joint and has a few treats for grab at Balmoral. I snagged the brioche bomb filled with a spinach and artichoke cream cheese mix (imagine the dip wrapped in a ball of dough). Microwave for 15 seconds and voila! You can follow them on Instagram and Facebook for news about where to find more on their offering.

Last but not least – the beer! I think Half Acre is one of the best well rounded breweries in Chicago. Everything from their wild series, IPAs and stouts are top notch. If I’m running low on IPAs in the fridge, I typically tend to just snag the newest four pack they put out that week. The latest I grabbed is an IPA that gives back in partnership to Grow Greater Englewood (mission is to create sustainable food economies and green businesses to create wellness and wealth). I also mentioned I’m glad I waited for this post and here’s why: Their highly sought after 2020 Catch Hell BA Stout (w/ vanilla and cinnamon) made an appearance in howlers! I was able to grab cans of this last year, and it’s a nice treat to warm you up during the cold months. They also released a lottery for the newest variation of that beer, Doom Stout, which is a double barrel aged version. Word on the FB streets is that these cans are worth ~$120 each – take that for whatever its worth (retail was $40/2pk).

Overall, a visit to the Balmoral Take Away Café should be in your future. My perfect visit includes a cup of Dark Matter coffee, some pastries for breakfast and a loaf of bread for the week, and a 4pk of beer (ALL IN ONE PLACE). This was an extremely creative pivot for them in 2020 and they’re highlighting some other great local businesses under one roof.

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