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25th Anniversary

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25 Years of Bittersweet

Thank you so much to everyone who shared their stories for our #BittersweetMemories contest - we were blown away by all the incredible entries! Thank you for 25th years of memories and for sharing yours with us!


The Winner

Congratulations to Paul and Michael, the winners of our #BittersweetMemories contest!  Paul and Michael, shared a beautiful story about their Bittersweet wedding cake, full of love and joy! For their prize, the couple will receive a custom 12-inch celebration cake designed by Chef Mindy and her team. 

Paul & Michael
I grew up cheering on couples who wed, knowing that marriage wasn’t meant for me. At 53, both the country and I knew that was no longer the case. My manpanion and I married on Thanksgiving week-end that year, becoming Hubbands*. A beautiful and mouth-watering Bittersweet cake, topped with branches and sock monkeys (who resemble us in many ways) added immensely to the day. We celebrate our marriage daily, often ably assisted by a delicious Bittersweet pastry.

Happy Anniversary, Bittersweet.
— Paul & Michael * A unique relationship requires an apt descriptor. Hence, Hubbands (we're the only two)

Chicago Chefs & Foodies Share Their #BittersweetMemories

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Celebrating 30 years of Frontera Grill has seemingly been an endless celebration. And I have to say, seeing Chef Mindy’s showstopping cake get wheeled into our anniversary bash – and singing “Happy Birthday” surrounded by friends and restaurant regulars — has been a major highlight.
— Rick Bayless Chef, Emmy-winning TV host, Frontera, Topolobampo, Xoco

Bittersweet and Judy Contino paved the way for artisan pastries in Chicago! She is one of the classiest, most humble chefs I’ve ever met and I am so lucky to have trained under her!
— Mindy Segal, James Beard Award Winning Pastry Chef, Author, Hot Chocolate
Mindy Segal

I’ll never forget my daughter’s first, I don’t know, 10 or so birthdays, when we would insist that we get the cake from Bittersweet. Judy was usually there on the day of pickup, making sure everything looked just so, and that the decoration was exquisite. Every other kid’s birthday would have the same store-bought sheet cake; a mass of sugar and frosting and unremarkable cake.

Madeline soon realized that her birthdays were capped off with something more worthy of a Pierre Hermé photo spread. Not only did they look beautiful, of course, but those vanilla custard-layered, strawberry-jammed cakes were just so incredibly delicious too.

I’ll never forget the looks on both kid’s and parent’s faces as we all sat around the table, just before cleanup. Even my mother-in-law - who tends to have strong opinions - would have to agree that this birthday cake was one for the record books.
— Steve Dolinsky, James Beard Award-winning food reporter, ABC’s Hungry Hound, The Feed Podcast

I remember the beautiful Jungle themed cake that my family ordered for my July birthday because I had gone to see the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda followed by a safari in Tanzania and Kenya. The cake was stunning with marzipan animals and apes and jungle vines and flowers....

Then the beautiful cake with fondant and sugar pieces when I was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef Great Lakes...the cake was shaped exactly like the JBF Medal....I still have the medallion that has since dried and become a great souvenir.

Judy is a pioneer! From pastry chef extraordinaire to Bakery and Pastry shop owner to the community and industry! Everything has such style and finesse. Even a simple cake, isn’t simple when it comes from Bittersweet.
No gimmicks...if it’s on the cake, it was of the highest quality...completely edible and functional.

My favorite cake was just last summer for by birthday...I saved the whole pastillage disc with the beautiful ribbons and gum paste food, wine bottles and French accents. I placed this in a shallow glass bowl and it sits on my desk. A constant reminder of the integrity and professionalism of Judy and Bittersweet.

Congratulations on a stunning 25 years!!
— Carrie Nahabedian, James Beard Award-winning Chef, NAHA, Brindille
Carrie Nahabedian

Jean Joho
Chef Judy Contino has been a wonderful friend and colleague for many years.  Bittersweet delighted us with a special cake to celebrate Everest’s 30th anniversary in January.  I wish them many more happy and successful years ahead.
— Jean Joho, James Beard Award Winning Chef, Author Everest, Studio Paris

Chef Judy taught me taught me to work hard and learn more every day; and she taught me how to care about the details - she is one of the reasons I am a perfectionist today!
— Takashi Yagihashi James Beard Award Winning Chef, Author, Takashi, Slurping Turtle
Takashi

Sarah Levy
Congratulations on 25 years Bittersweet! What an incredible accomplishment!! I am forever grateful to Bittersweet and Judy for giving me the opportunity to get my first real professional pastry kitchen experience. 
Bittersweet taught me the importance of working through mistakes and how to multi-task.  I learned how to build and finish/frost cakes at Bittersweet, a skill that at one point was an integral part of my career. I learned how to work in a hot kitchen (It’s so important it is to get used to the heat!) 

I experienced my first wedding cake blooper at Bittersweet (of course, when I was 18 years old I wasn’t making wedding cakes, but rather I accidentally nicked one in the walk-in cooler). I learned the importance of treating employees well. I was always so impressed with how long people had been working at Bittersweet. And on my last day of my apprenticeship, when Judy gave me a cake turn table and cookbook (both of which I still use to this day), I realize that it is her thoughtfulness and ability to make people feel special and appreciated that makes people want to work hard for her and stay. 

Bittersweet pioneered the way for many other successful Chicago pastry businesses, and for that, Chicagoans should be grateful!   Bittersweet always has, and always will, set the bar high. Wishing you many more years of continued success!
— Sarah Levy Imberman, Chef, Jean Banchet Award nominee, Sarah’s Candies, S. Levy Foods

More Bittersweet Memories

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We have two traditions in our family of Bittersweet cakes.

Always a Bûche de Noel at Christmas and for each of our 4 birthdays always an almond cake with dark chocolate mouse and raspberry filling with  buttercream and a dark glaze. Nothing can compare to this combination of flavors!

- Susan


Dear Bittersweet,

You are our neighborhood gem, my meeting place with friends, the source for cookies, birthday cakes, holiday treats, our wedding cake and so much more. Happy anniversary and congratulations. 

Here are pictures from my children's first birthday.

- Anne

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I love Bittersweet! Some friends bought us a chocolate flourless cake from there when we bought our first home in the same neighborhood and I've been in love ever since.

Our son's first birthday cake was from bittersweet followed by our daughter's two years later.  Life is more hectic these days but when I can find some time alone I like to sit at the cafe and write in my journal while drinking coffee and eating delicious pastries!

Congratulations on your 25th anniversary!!!

 - Tran


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Bittersweet is, for me, a small quiet corner of not-quite-Europe. A lovely place to meet with friends, have coffee and talk. Or have breakfast with my husband. The cookie designs are always inventive and beautifully made and the pastry shelves are like a cathedral or museum exhibit on the art of temptation. Those cool, pale blue meringues, those lemon saboyan tarts!

We brought your triangular Holiday log to Wisconsin friends for a treat – what a knockout! And another time, the tiramisu bowl. I once needed a cake for a birthday party, and you happened to have your (in my opinion) best one on display: the lemon-raspberry yellow cake, decorated with little blue forget-me-nots. What luck! All that was needed was to squeeze ‘Bon Anniversaire’ across the top.

Thank you for being here.

- Chloris 


Bittersweet is always the go to place for a cake for all my special occasions.  But my last memory of Bittersweet cake truly is bittersweet because my ex husband bought my birthday cake there the last year we were together because he knew it was my favorite.  Even though we are going through divorce now, I'm still going to think of Bittersweet for all my special occasions.

- Grace


There are so many amazing memories with Bittersweet at the center. My brothers and I were lucky enough to grow up running around the kitchen, picking out wedding cakes, drinking hot chocolate and Orangina and fighting over chocolate soufflé cakes and macarons. My favorite childhood memory was my Elvis cookie making it into the Chicago Tribune.

My favorite adult memory is having our own Bittersweet wedding cake in October. Thank you (Mindy and Judy!) for making this happen. From literally picking out cakes from the displays at age 5, it meant the world for us to actually have one make it down to NC for the wedding. Bittersweet cake is the best! Honestly, if we didn't have a Bittersweet cake at the wedding, I wouldn't have eaten my wedding cake! 😘
 

- Julia


Celebrating Father's Day "together" with my dad for the first time ever! It was a memorable one! Thank you making it special for him with that lovely, lovely cake!! We absolutely enjoyed the cake, your service and our time!

- Wincy

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Congratulations on 25 years!

1. I had a pretty meh date shortly after I moved to Chicago, but it will always be remembered fondly by me because we had cake from Bittersweet. I remember being more concerned about confirming the name and location of the cake place than confirming another date. 

2. The best part of a cooler spring/summer day for me is that it is a perfect time to treat myself to some of the wonderful hot chocolate when I haven't been getting it as consistently. 

- Sandhya


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Although we will not be able to join you this Sunday for your 25th anniversary celebration, we will be celebrating with you in spirit.

Nearly sixteen years ago, Bittersweet made our wedding cake and in the year since then we have celebrated many occasions at Bittersweet and at home with Bittersweet cakes.

At the end of June, our family celebrates our annual Daughter-Daddy Birthday Festival. This year we celebrated at Bittersweet but in previous years we have gotten a Bittersweet cake to enjoy and celebrate at home. Bittersweet cakes are always yummy and make us so very happy.

Thank you for 25 Delicious Years! Bittersweet is truly the sweet spot for our family.

- Annie


One of my fondest memories about Bittersweet is that you made the cake for a baby shower we had for my son Matthew, my first child.  He was born in January 1995. (He will be 23 next year) We decided to have the shower post his birth since there were so many holidays in November and December. The shower was in February or March of 1995.   I can still remember Jimmy delivering the cake to our home.  Always makes me smile!

Congratulations on your 25th Anniversary.  I hope you’re around for another 25!!!  

- Denise

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Our holidays always end with the grand finale -- Bittersweet desserts! It is magical!  

- Heidi


My husband and I did your cake tasting when we were engaged and it was literally the best part of being engaged (save for being able to share my delight with my now husband). I remember being in pure joy during that cake tasting with all of the icings and fillings. We were actually joking that we should get remarried just to do your cake tasting.

In any case, in the end we had you do our wedding cake, which was pure perfection and everything we wanted. It was simple, delicious, moist and one of the best memories I know we had for our wedding. In fact our 1 year anniversary will be on the celebration of your 25th birthday too.  Our wedding cake will be a permanent memory and for us and our love. Thank you for being part of our wedding, engagement, and future anniversaries. 

 - Christina

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Almost 10 years ago you made our wedding cake and every 5 years we've re-ordered a small smash cake.  Which means I need to get my order in soon for our 9/8 Anniversary.  It was hazelnut with chocolate mousse and THE BEST buttercream ever made.  It was so great our friends ordered a cake to celebrate their 20th Anniversary.  I'm including some photos of the cake. My husband requested to add bees.  It was perfect and 10 years later our friends still talk about what a great cake that was.  

- Bea


I have so many memories of Bittersweet as we have been coming to the restaurant/bakery since we moved into the neighborhood 12 years ago.  My favorite memory and thank you to Bittersweet is your donation of gift cards and cakes to all the local schools such as Resurrection, Agassiz and Hawthorne for their annual school auctions/fundraisers.  My girls went to Resurrection for preschool.....and a few years at Agassiz.  Now they attend Hawthorne - and we are always bidding (and lots of times winning) your donation.  So I do thank Bittersweet for all their support to the community.  It does not go unnoticed and greatly appreciated.  We look forward to celebrating many more Birthdays/Communions/Graduations etc with Bittersweet!.

- Mary


I got my wife's 30th birthday cake from there. It was a surprise party that I threw her and keeping it from her required a close friend to get it and bring it secretly. My wife was surely surprised as I barely pulled it off. Thanks Bittersweet, for the Memory.

- Corey