Punk Rock Pastry

I once heard that you can never have breakfast too many times in a day...and I would extend that to pastries. I can never, ever turn down a proper pastry, whether 6am or 6pm. That said, those little devils in disguise aren't the healthiest morsels in the marketplace, so the thought of a relatively conscious pastry is simply the best.

And so I would like to introduce my first pick for neighborhood- and farmer's market- gem. My attraction to Bleeding Heart Bakery perhaps began with my fascination with the people behind the business. Valentin and Michelle Garcia, and a large part of their staff, are not afraid to dig in, work hard and roll up their sleeves- revealing colorful tattoos and piercings. Amidst the preppy Green City Market, their tent used to remind me of a foodie infused indie rock show, and their Belmont and Damen home base is thumping alternative rhythms that underscore the fantastic individuality of this couple and their sweet vision.

While they call it punk rock, I have to call it progressive. The bakery is all organic and has a tremendous amount of vegan offerings. This naturally translates to some of the coolest, most unique wedding cake selections I've seen in Chicago. I can't help but linger a little too long, admiring the bakery like the kid that rushes to the front at a rock show, only to nose dive back onto the crowd's waiting arms. The atmosphere, served up with a side of skull and crossbones, is so screamingly comfortable in its identity- the Ramones meets Paula Deen.
While my better half prefers their savory items like the stuffed cheese and spinach croissants and mini-quiches, I cannot resist gazing longingly at the fantastical flavors of cupcakes. This month, salted caramel is the designated 'charity' cupcake, a gesture that shows both community influence and social awareness at this favorite shop. But this month, my heart has to go out to the Tandoori cupcake- a tropical East-meets-West combination of curry cake, cayenne, mustard seed, cardamon soaked green raisins, fresh mango, pineapple, curry frosting and topped with a cardamon pod and a strip of cayenne. If that's not a flavor trip, I don't know how to help you.
Since the folks have moved on from my backyard market this summer, I still bike down to the headquarters of "punk rock pastry" occasionally to stock up on my anytime staple- the infamous Take a Hike Scone. I like my scones on the dry side, happy fruit-flecked biscuits that provide a substantial partner to my latte. This one is a veritable trail mix of flavors packed into one brick (perhaps named for its staying power in your belly on long journeys? or for me to stop hovering in front of the pastry case and order already?!) Well, picture whole wheat flour and oats, peppered with a hearty handful of flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, apricots and apple pieces. My devotion is bordering on the need for Birkenstocks soon.
And every time I lock my bike and walk through the flyer-strewn doorway to stand next to a neon orange table, I know exactly what I'll order. But just like the pink hair dye and tattoo sleeves of the visionary owners, hanging out in a bakery feels a little naughty and a little indulgent. So I smile and buy a little bit more than I came for.
Bleeding Heart Bakery is located on 1955 West Belmont Ave. in Chicago.
Starting this Saturday, I'll be stalking them at the SouthPort Farmers Market!

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