Easter, a religious holiday for many, also signifies the beginning of the end of a seemingly infinite Chicago winter with buds endeavoring to thrust through their hardened cold weather shells. We just want to peel off the parkas and eat us some chocolate bunny ears and marshmallow eggs. Feel the seasonal rebirth with Easter basket options at any of these unmistakably great Chicago businesses.
Mariano’s Fresh Market
1615 S. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60616
Chicago’s own Mariano’s is the independent grocery store paragon for the 21st century, modeling each based upon what that particular neighborhood wants. A wine bar? You got it. A sit-down sushi counter? Sure, and while you’re at it how about a wood-burning pizza oven? Shopping at Mariano’s can almost take the place of a date; it’s that fun. So when it comes to Easter, bypass the conventional places and stop in Mariano’s fragrant floral department for “Blooming Baskets” filled with cut flowers, plants and bulbs. Mariano’s shops are located in Bucktown, Bridgeport, Jefferson Park, Ravenswood. Edgewater, South Loop, West Loop, Roscoe Village, Lakeshore East and Ukrainian Village in the city, plus more in the ‘burbs.
2108 N. Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60614
It’s all about French pastry at Vanille Patisserie and the artistic team turns out the classic as well as the cute for the spring holiday. Both locations, Lincoln Park and in the Chicago French Market, have rows upon rows of Easter basket essentials like chocolate bunnies brimming with jelly beans; luscious nougat bars and pate de fruit; buttery caramels; and large decorated sugar cookies. Bring out the Easter Celebration Cake for the crowd that comes in sizes for 10 or 18 people in an array of flavor combos – how about carrot cake with cream cheese filling or vanilla pound cake with passion fruit curd and coconut cream?
2384 Dehne Road
Northbrook, IL, 60062
Female owned, operated and in business for nearly 20 years, Basketworks builds gift baskets with no extra charge for customization. The bows are hand-tied and there’s a human being dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s on each gift card. Lise Schleicher and her staff are hip to all of the latest gluten free, kosher, heart healthy, trendy and tasty items that can be wrapped up for Easter or any special day. Where else can you get an assorted Royal Baklava gift basket made with all natural ingredients or a distinctive assortment of strictly European sweets?
2211 West N. Ave.
Chicago, IL 60647
Not only does the small, counter service eatery in Wicker Park offer wonderful comfort food that’s a flight above mother’s, but Chef Jesse Williams also prepares a variety of items that you can gently place into a basket for Easter giving. While everyone else is unwrapping hollow bunnies, your gift elicits “oohs” and “aahs” for jarred pickles, asparagus spears, yummy beets, carrots and onions for $5; assorted jarred jams for $6.50; jarred Pimento Cheese for $7; and a fine Birchwood Blend, Whole Bean Coffee from Metropolis for $15. The Easter Bunny will be in the back yard opening his jar of pickled carrots.
All Chocolate Kitchen
33 S. Third St.
Geneva, IL, 60134
Chef Alain Roby, named the 2013 Pastry Chef of the Year by the Chicago Culinary Museum, will no doubt wow this Easter. Choose among jaw dropping creations such as two and a half foot tall, hand-made chocolate bunnies made with rich Grand-cru chocolate; handmade sugar-blown robin’s nests with a chocolate truffle egg nestled inside; and handmade chocolate eggs adorned with sugar-blown bows ($18; an additional $2 for customization); as well as smaller Grand-cru chocolate bunnies for an easy $9.95. The Certified Master Chef of Pastry and Sugar Artistry holds three Guinness World Records for the World’s Tallest Cooked Sugar Building, the World’s Longest Candy Cane and, especially appropriate for Easter, the World’s Tallest Chocolate Sculpture.
Jacky Runice has been a columnist with the Daily Herald Chicago since grunge music and flannel was the new black. Her fingers and gray matter have been busy as travel editor of Reunions Magazine; penning a column that was syndicated around the nation via Tribune Media Services. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.