Very Tiny Voyage: Blommer’s Chocolate Factory, a Tasty Chicago Institution

For the better part of the last decade, I have passed by the Blommer’s chocolate factory on my daily commute into Chicago on the Union Pacific West line. On good days, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, the entire Loop smells like a giant brownie. It’s downright dreamy.

“Public Welcome,” beckons the sign on the side of the building. And lucky me! The location of my new office has now put me within a walking distance of the factory. So yesterday I set out on a mission to finally, after all these years, see what the Blommer factory is about.

Outside the chocolate factory, a semi loaded with sugar piped its contents directly into the factory through a tube. I’d like to own one of these someday.

If you go to Blommer, don’t count on a Willy Wonka experience; the public aren’t welcome in the actual factory. (Is it because the Oompa Loompas are camera shy? That’s my guess.) We are allowed only in the retail store, which is all that really matters when it comes to chocolate, anyway. I arrived during lunch to find workers in hair nets (just go ahead and picture Lucille Ball, except replace the cute redhead with some rough-looking tattoed men) hanging out in the reception area and covered in light dusting of cocoa powder.

The adjacent retail shop is stocked floor to ceiling with products made by the companies that buy Blommer’s chocolate, such as Long Grove Chocolates in Buffalo Grove. Blommer itself is mainly a business-to-business venture, but I did manage to find a chocolate bar with their name on the label.

I would love to say that the chocolate was amazing, but the taste was more like that cheap, nameless chocolate you find in gold coins, only fresh. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but my taste for chocolate has been spoiled by such finery as Theo Chocolate in Seattle. But Blommer is pure, old-school Chicago, and this is the chocolate every Polish grandmother in Chicago, including my own, likely grew up eating. And so for that reason alone, it’s worth a visit.

 

Brooke

About Brooke Pudar

Brooke is a writer and editor living in Wheaton, Illinois, where she alternately tends and neglects her garden. She’d like to move to Bend, Oregon, even though she’s never been there, because it just has to be awesome.

Best Places to Ski This Spring

[Readers, please welcome guest blogger, Duane Allen! A winter sport enthusiast, Duane is passionate about skiing and snowboarding all year round. He has worked in the ski and snowboard industry since 1974 and prides himself on his ski knowledge and ability. You can find Duane at The Ski Bum, most likely gearing up for another ski adventure.]

Spring is approaching, and with it comes longer, brighter days and warmer weather. Not many people consider the notion of skiing in the spring, but spring is one of the best times to enjoy winter sports! It’s often cheaper than skiing in peak season, there are less crowds, and the sun is out a lot longer. If you’re not ready to let go of the snow just yet, read on to discover some of the best places to ski this spring.

Mammoth Mountain, CA
Located within the Inyo National Forest stretched across Madera and Mono Counties, Mammoth Mountain boasts 300 sunny days a year. The mountain was closed briefly in 2006 due to hazardous volcanic gases being emitted, as the mountain range was formed from a series of volcanic eruptions. Today, Mammoth Mountain is a safe place for skiers and open to the general public until mid-June. When you’re done skiing, be sure to check out some of the other sightseeing California has to offer.

Snowbird, UT
500 inches of snowfall each year takes a while to melt, which explains Snowbird’s prolonged ski season. Located in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains in Salt Lake County, Snowbird is projected to close Memorial Day this season. Opened in December of 1971, this multi-facility winter and summer sports resort offers fun for the whole family all year round. Snowbird is also home to the famous “tunnel,” which is quite literally a tunnel that allows skiers to transport up the mountain when high winds close the aerial tram of the resort. Come mid-May, the resort is only open weekends, so if you’re looking to book a weekday trip, do so soon!

Mount Bachelor, OR
Located near the artsy town of Bend, Oregon, Mount Bachelor is one of the best mountains to ski during the spring. Unlike a majority of the winter months, the entire mountain is open the most during the spring, providing ski enthusiasts with the opportunity to experience a number of skiing thrills. The various exposures the mountain has creates the perfect surface for skiers to glide down, unlike mountains with less exposure who’s snow can quickly turn into slush. An added trill bonus is that this ski destination is an active volcano!

Breckenridge, CO
A popular destination among avid skiers, Breckenridge is a great spring ski destination. Breckenridge is a town is rich in mining history, and also offers a number of nightlife, shopping, and dining activities to enjoy after a day on the slopes. The mountains at Breckenridge are so large that they create their own weather patterns. This allows the mountains the ability to create some of the best skiing conditions anywhere in the United States. The area totes a 50% chance of perfect ski weather, not something you’ll find every day at a ski resort.

If you’re seeking some serious ski thrills this spring, check out any one of these U.S. slopes.

Brooke

About Brooke Pudar

Brooke is a writer and editor living in Wheaton, Illinois, where she alternately tends and neglects her garden. She’d like to move to Bend, Oregon, even though she’s never been there, because it just has to be awesome.

Very Tiny Voyage: Gerritsen Beach

[Guest blogger Leslie Griffin is an editor doing her third tour of duty in New York City. This time around, she is determined to visit places that are off the beaten path. Today she brings us to one of New York's lesser-known neighborhoods.]

Throngs of people, incessant noise, the stench of garbage, hustle and bustle—if these are the things that come to mind when you think of New York, you’re not wrong. In many parts of the city, these annoyances are ubiquitous, especially the closer to Manhattan you are. That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise when my boyfriend and I discovered Gerritsen Beach last weekend—a charming waterfront community from a bygone era that is very far from the madding crowd (two trains and a bus, to be exact). Where is this unique place, you ask? Brooklyn.

Gerritsen Beach is in the far reaches of the borough on a peninsula bordered by Marine Park to the east and Plumb Beach Channel to the south and west. It was named for Wolfert Gerritsen, a mill owner who lived there in the early seventeenth century. The area remained sparsely populated until around 1920 when a firm called Realty Associates started constructing a summer resort. Modest bungalows sprang up over the next decade, and the neighborhood soon became suitable for year-round residents, most of whom were of Italian, Irish, and German descent. Most of the people who live here now have a long lineage in the neighborhood.

As soon as we hopped off the bus and walked into the neighborhood, we could tell we had left behind the Brooklyn we knew and had entered a different world—a fishing village, perhaps. Most of the original bungalows are still intact, though some are being rebuilt due to damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Many of the houses, which range from kitschy to charming depending on your feelings about lawn flair and Easter decorations, are on the water and have docks and boats out back. We passed by people sitting on their porches chatting with neighbors as kids played in the small front yards. A few cars drove by lazily; gridlock is clearly unknown here, and parking is ample.

It was apparent that we weren’t locals, but no one seemed to mind. In fact, it was as if we had been transported to a small town where being neighborly is the norm. We walked by a man who was giving detailed fishing advice to some other newcomers. And later, another guy went out of his way to help us with directions and explain the alphabetical layout of the streets. Cold and unfriendly New Yorkers? Not here! These folks give southern hospitality a run for its money—but with heavy Brooklyn accents.

After walking by someone’s pigeon coop and a house with several honking geese, we headed to Tamaqua Marina, which has been owned and run by the same family for decades. We were taking some pictures of the tuna fishing boats outside the restaurant there, when a local inquired, “National Geographic?” We laughed and explained that we were on a mission to explore different neighborhoods in the city. He seemed eager to chat, so we asked him about the area.

“We’re still recovering from Sandy,” he said. “You only see a storm like that once in a lifetime. The water rushed in like a river and out like a river.” At its peak, the water rose about six feet above street level. It only stayed that high for fifteen minutes, but by then the damage was done. “At that point, any of these boats—even these commercial fishing boats—could have sailed down the street,” he added. He gestured to the road on the other side of the channel. “A lot of these boats ended up on top of that street over there.”

As a veteran fisherman (40 years and counting), he’s seen it all, but the most memorable event he witnessed happened last year when he was fishing off the coast of New Jersey early one morning with a friend. In the distance, they saw a huge black cloud of birds that looked about a mile wide. “As we got closer, we saw the birds diving into the water, and we realized what was happening. It was a giant school of sardines! Every predator around was congregating right there to feed: birds, sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, everything.” He said it was amazing, and they’d never seen anything like it. “I asked my buddy if we should take pictures, and he said, ‘Nah. Fuck ’em; they’re not here to enjoy it, but we are.’”

Fortunately for us, our newfound friend wasn’t as unwilling as his buddy to share his experiences. As we headed on our way, he said, “There should be more people like you who come here.” So, if you find yourself in Brooklyn one day and want to venture off the beaten path, consider a stop in Gerritsen Beach, where you’ll leave the stereotypical side of the city behind.

 

Brooke

About Brooke Pudar

Brooke is a writer and editor living in Wheaton, Illinois, where she alternately tends and neglects her garden. She’d like to move to Bend, Oregon, even though she’s never been there, because it just has to be awesome.

Everyday Photo: Planting

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Laura

About Laura Bolesta

Laura is a recovering artist and a production manager at a small press. She lives in Horner Park West, Chicago, in a falling-down house with her husband, 2 cats, and dog.

Everyday Photo: Sun

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Laura

About Laura Bolesta

Laura is a recovering artist and a production manager at a small press. She lives in Horner Park West, Chicago, in a falling-down house with her husband, 2 cats, and dog.

Hey, where’d you go go go?

Somehow the world managed to keep spinning despite Go Go Go’s sudden and unannounced flat line. But we know you missed us. So never fear, we are back and ready to give you something to look at instead of whatever you should be doing right now.

I’d like to take a minute to thank Claire Podulka, our fearless and awesome editor-in-chief, without whom there would be no Go Go Go. I’m sure she’ll pop back in now and then to share her adventures, but for now, she’s off to pursue other very awesome things.

Laura and I will soldier on, and, with the help of guest posts (Send us your pitches and pictures!), we hope that Go Go Go will continue to inspire you to find adventures in your life, be they big or small.

Stay tuned!

Brooke

About Brooke Pudar

Brooke is a writer and editor living in Wheaton, Illinois, where she alternately tends and neglects her garden. She’d like to move to Bend, Oregon, even though she’s never been there, because it just has to be awesome.