“Warm Up With a Hot Sahlab” said the sign at La Farine Bakery on Chicago Ave. Talk about intriguing……. It was quite cold outside. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I ordered one. I didn’t know what to expect, but when they set the steaming yellow bowl in front of me all I could smell was flowers. Flowers! I don’t even know where to start; I am getting all excited just thinking about my hot sahleb! Forget oatmeal. Sahlab is where it’s at. Traditionally, sahlab is a Middle Eastern hot milky drink thickened with the dried roots of a mountain orchid. I don’t think this powder is available outside the Middle East, as the orchid is very rare. La Farine’s sahlab is like a winterized version of yogurt & granola, made to be eaten, not drunk. The deliciousness in that bright yellow bowl was milk thickened with a little cornstarch and sweetened with a touch of sugar. The source of that fragrant steam was orange blossom water. This floral milky mixture was topped with coconut, raisins, cinnamon and pistachios, a sort of granola. Why would I ever want to eat oatmeal again, when I can have a big yellow bowl of steaming flowery pudding for breakfast?
LaFarine also puts those same yellow bowls to great use on Saturday mornings at 11:00. That, my friend, is when bread pudding comes hot out of the oven. You will want to create a reoccurring event on your Blackberry for that. Last Saturday it was apple bread pudding with hot caramel sauce ladled right out of a mini crock-pot. This is the good, juicy, hot, sort of milky, scoop-able bread pudding. The kind that is perfect for cold winter mornings in Chicago. Forget French Toast, hot-out-of-the-oven bread pudding is where it’s at.
These yellow bowls of happiness will make Chicago winters a little bit more bearable….I promise.
La Farine, 1461 N. Chicago Ave., 312-850-4019, Closed Sundays