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In This Issue...
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Confection Perfection
From Rails to Trails
Beat the Blues With Us!


Confection Perfection
Every artist has their preferred creative medium – an otherwise ordinary material they can take and transform into something quite extraordinary. For Katherine Duncan, owner of Katherine Anne Confections at 2745 W. Armitage, that medium-of-choice is chocolate. And the exquisite hand-dipped truffles she crafts from it are nothing short of sweet little masterpieces. 

An artist in every sense of the word, the self-taught chocolatier is a master at using her medium to the maximum. If you were to describe Duncan’s truffles in typical “art speak,” it might go something like this:
 
"Her confections bring the viewer face to face with their own assumptions of artistic worth, with each serving as a mirror to propel tasters forward into the seemingly infinite progression of possible reproductions, whilst simultaneously pulling them backwards in a quest for the 'original' source that underlines her craft."
 
Or...you could simply say that Duncan has a real knack for unlikely flavor combinations.
 
IMAGE: TrufflesFrom mainstay favorites like cherry amaretto, toasted coconut rum, crème de menthe, and hazelnut, to seasonal concoctions like cranberry blood orange, goat cheese walnut, and chai tea, all of Duncan’s sweets are made free of artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. She sources local and organic ingredients whenever possible, and even grows her own herbs for use in fragrant summertime pairings, such as apricot-basil and fresh mint truffles. To keep things fun, she offers a new featured flavor every week – so expect the unexpected!
 
“People come into the confiserie looking for truffles, but they tend to linger over our uniquely flavored caramels, as well,” notes Duncan. And thanks to her knowledgeable and friendly staff members who are quick to help customers navigate the myriad of flavors available at the counter, it’s the overall experience that keeps folks coming back again. 
 
“Well, that and the hot chocolate,” she says with a sly smile.
 
IMAGE: Katherine Duncan, OwnerAn art form in its own right, Duncan’s insanely rich “drinking chocolate” is a treat to be sipped slowly and savored. “It can be tough for a lot people to finish,” she admits, though it’s clear she takes this not as a personal affront, but rather the ultimate compliment for her decadent drink. Several varieties are available, including milk chocolate, semi-sweet, bittersweet, and salted caramel – but if you have trouble making up your mind, just order a flight of three! Paired with your choice of her homemade flavor-infused marshmallows or velvety whipped cream, this drink is a true indulgence and a must-try for any serious chocolate lover.

A former Potbelly’s manager who knows a thing or two about launching new stores, Duncan opened her retail boutique just two years ago, but has been supplying area vendors and farmers markets with truffles, caramels, and marshmallows since 2006. She chose West Bucktown for her confiserie because of its close proximity to home (she and her husband live in Logan Square), as well as the warm welcome she received from other businesses in the area. 
 
“We’ve been thrilled with the positive response we’ve had, both from residents and other shops in the neighborhood,” says Duncan, whose commitment to “keeping it local” is evident in everything from her java truffles infused with Ipsento coffee (brewed just a few blocks away) to collaborating with Chicago chefs to create custom truffle flavors benefitting a charity of their choice. “We love having regulars who frequently stop in for coffee or lunch.”
 
IMAGE: Katherine Anne ConfectionsWait...lunch? At a confectionery store? That’s right! Turns out Duncan is just as good at the savory stuff as she is with the sweets.
 
“We work long hours here making our candies, and there was nowhere nearby to grab a quick salad or a healthy snack,” she explains. “So it got me thinking – why not expand the confiserie to include fresh pastries and lunch items? I wanted to create a comfortable atmosphere that not only enticed people to come into the store, but also gave them a reason to stick around for a bit.”
 
IMAGE: Vintage couchesIndeed, with its exposed brick walls, vintage couches, reclaimed wood tables, and local artist’ work on display, the cozy café area at Katherine Anne Confections is perfect for hunkering down with a good book or lunch with a friend. The menu features simple sandwiches and salads, as well as assorted pastries from Beurrage, freshly brewed French press Ipsento coffee, and a selection of SenTeaMental Teas.
 
If you haven’t had a chance to visit Katherine Anne Confections yet, take advantage of the season’s frigid temps and stop in soon for a cup of steaming hot chocolate that’s sure to warm your soul. And while you’re at it, just think of all the holiday shopping you could check off your list – from hostess gifts and stocking stuffers to special take-home treats for the family!

IMAGE: Katherine Anne Confections Logo

Shopping for a hard-core chocolate lover this year? Consider a gift certificate to one of Duncan’s monthly truffle-making classes, where participants are given a basic recipe, a kitchen full of ingredients, and some gentle guidance before being turned loose to create a little truffle magic of their own. Perfect for date night or Girls Night Out!
 
And here’s a little something to help sweeten the deal even further for West Bucktown residents -- mention this article, and you’ll receive a free caramel, compliments of the house! 

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From Rails to Trails
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last few months, you’ve undoubtedly seen, heard about, or otherwise experienced the Bloomingdale Trail renovation project that’s going on around us here in West Bucktown. Officially named The 606 for the zip code prefix all Chicagoans share, the project promises to create an elevated urban oasis for the more than 80,000 residents – including some 20,000+ children – who live within a 10-minute walk of the old industrial rail line.
 
IMAGE: Bloomingdale TrailSo when the WBNA was invited to participate in a private tour of the Trail last month, naturally we jumped at the chance. The tour was led by a representative from the Trust for Public Land, the national non-profit organization that’s partnering with the city and the Chicago Park District to spearhead the project. And it gave us a wonderful “peek under the skirt” at this incredible transformation that promises to bring another 20 acres of open green space to the city.
 
Sporting hard hats, safety glasses, and the very latest in fashion-forward neon orange construction vests, we made our way up to the Trail at Whipple Street, then walked due east, stopping just short of Western. First impressions? It’s a whole lot wider up there than you might have thought! Also, the 360-degree views of the city are pretty amazing. 
 
IMAGE: Bloomingdale TrailAs we approached Fairfield, we were treated to a birds-eye view of work crews sandblasting the walls at street level below us. This prompted a question about plans to repair the crumbling concrete and exposed rebar visible under many of the viaducts along the Trail. The short answer was that yes, structural and aesthetic repairs will definitely be made. But the longer answer included an interesting discussion about trying to preserve the historical integrity and industrial look of the viaducts (you wouldn’t completely renovate the Roman Colosseum, would you?) as well as the weight load they were originally built to withstand (freight trains vs. foot traffic). In other words, even if half of those viaduct columns were to collapse today, there would still be more than enough support for the Trail above.
 
But of course, the project team is not about to let that happen! When The 606 opens to the public in the Fall of 2014, the walls and viaducts that line the Bloomingdale Trail will simply look like cleaned-up versions of their former selves. 
 
It will be a very different story up top, though. 
 
IMAGE: Bloomingdale TrailOld railroad ties and invasive brush, trees and plants have already been removed from the Trail to make way for a series of new running, cycling, and strolling paths. Some 150,000 cubic yards of soil and ballast are being dug up and taken offsite to be amended or crushed before being returned to the Trail for use in planting areas and pathway materials. (Just imagine the kinds of interesting artifacts that might be unearthed during this massive excavation process!) And more than 1,400 trees will eventually be planted – that’s triple the number that had to be removed during construction. When all is said and done, the elevated Trail will be linked to five ground-level neighborhood parks, connecting residents in four separate Chicago communities with nearly 3 miles of world-class public park space.
 
In a word – it’s going to be cool. Really, really cool.
 
IMAGE: Milwaukee Access PointAnd let’s not forget that our very own Maplewood Park and soon-to-be-renovated Lucy Flower Park will be just steps away from a planned access point at Rockwell – something the WBNA lobbied hard to see included in the design plans. Access points will also be available at our Western and California borders. Just think of the increased foot traffic and recognition The 606 will help bring to the West Bucktown community!
 
Not surprisingly, all of this wonderful progress comes with a fairly substantial pricetag. A public-private partnership is funding The 606, with nearly $70 million in federal, private, and local government funds already committed to the project. Private and corporate donors are needed to help make up the rest of the estimated $95 million the initial construction and landscaping phases are expected to cost.  
 
And here’s where we can help. 
 
This year, we’re making the Bloomingdale Trail the beneficiary of our annual WBNA holiday charity drive. We’ll be collecting cash donations at our Post-Holiday Blues Party (see below for details), but if you really want to maximize your contribution, time is of the essence! That's because every dollar that you donate to The 606 between now and December 31 will be matched (up to $50,000) by two generous benefactors. So whether you can donate $10 or $10,000, your contribution will have TRIPLE the impact in helping to make the Bloomingdale Trail a true hallmark of our community. Monies collected during this holiday “Mix and Match” campaign will go toward landscaping, benches, the arts, and other amenities along the Trail. 
 
‘Tis the season of giving, West Bucktown, and charity begins at home, right here in our own backyard! Please click here to make your tax-deductible contribution to The 606 today! 

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Beat the Blues With Us!

IMAGE: Grumpy CatIf you’re like a lot of us, January can be a really rough, tough month. The holiday parties are over, the company is long gone, and what started out as a hearty "ho ho ho" has turned into a sad little puddle of "ho hum."  

So now what?  

Many thanks to Joe Sabath and West On North for hosting the third annual WBNA “Post-Holiday Blues” party on Saturday, January 18 from 5:00 to 8:00 pm. The celebration is open to all West Bucktown residents, young and old alike. We hope you and your family will join us in raising a glass (or juicebox!) to all that we’ve accomplished together as we look ahead to a promising new year full of friendship and fun.
 
IMAGE: 1st Ward AwardWest On North will get the party started with complimentary appetizers, and if you pay your 2014 WBNA membership dues, your first drink is on us! (Click here to pre-pay via the WBNA website, or you can join/renew at the party.)  The evening will also feature drink specials (Blue Line Derailer, anyone?), a kid's craft table, and the wildly popular “Re-Gift Raffle” (even though it will be tough to top last year's Sponge Bob Chia Pet).  And new this year, we're giving everyone a chance to have their photo taken up close and personal with our 1st Ward Award for "Best Neighborhood Group"! It's like our very own version of the Stanley Cup! The Oscars of West Bucktown!

On a more serious note, we've decided to make The 606/Bloomingdale Trail our beneficiary for the annual WBNA holiday charity drive. We’ll be collecting cash donations at the party, but we’re also encouraging folks to make a contribution before December 31 to take advantage of a special holiday matching program (see above for details).  

Your RSVP to the Post-Holiday Blues Party isn’t necessary, but is greatly appreciated for planning purposes. Please email info@westbucktown.org to let us know if we should expect you!

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The next issue of the WindowBox is tentatively scheduled for distribution in February. 
If you have a story idea or would like to contribute an article, please email us at communications@westbucktown.org.


 
 


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