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Foodie for Thought: Katherine Duncan

Katherine Duncan | PHOTO BY Steve Ewert/Greenhouse Loft

Katherine Duncan | PHOTO BY Steve Ewert/Greenhouse Loft

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Updated: August 27, 2013 8:50PM

Katherine Duncan does not like or drink coffee.

“Weird,” she says, “because I feel like chocolate and coffee go so well together.”

Duncan gets her share of caffeine, though. As owner and self-described “confectionista” at Katherine Anne Confections in Logan Square, she tastes chocolate every day, in solid and liquid form. And while coffee suits chocolate just fine, she has found that apricot-basil, blackberry-fennel and cherry-bourbon do as well.

Duncan, who recently turned 29, has been in the sweets business since elementary school. She grew up on a 200-acre Wisconsin farm, where she learned to make her mom’s caramels using cream from the family cows and honey from the neighbor’s beehives. She sold the caramels for a quarter each at her dad’s office.

Duncan made her business official in 2006, while working days at a Potbelly sandwich shop (more on her sandwich love below). Last September, she opened the Logan Square storefront at 2745 W. Armitage selling her caramels, truffles, marshmallows and sipping chocolate, plus pastries from Beurrage, a small Pilsen pastry maker.

Duncan also sells her goods at specialty shops and farmers markets around town. Still very much the farm girl, she relies on some of those farmers for ingredients. She has a savory side, too. Last week, she started serving lunch at the shop, a small roster of salads and sandwiches featuring her own butter and mustard.

A Logan Square resident, Duncan likes to shop and eat at the like-minded small businesses in her neighborhood — even the coffee shops. “I just get something other than coffee,” she said.

Indie food makers, unite: “Our neighbors at Bang Bang Pie Shop (2051 N. California) are fabulous. They’re staying true to their ideals, using lard in their pie crust in what is a pretty vegetarian, even vegan community. Their pastry crust is just amazing.

I love Lucila’s Alfajores ( We’re next to them at the farmers markets. We trade truffles for alfajores. Bobby [Chang] of Seasons Soda ( makes sodas with no added sugar at all, just the sugar that comes naturally in fruit. I’ve had his stuff at the Daley Plaza market and it’s unbelievably delicious.

And Karl’s Craft Soup (, I’ve been loving his soups. Man, they’re delicious. Growing up on a farm, it was very meat and potatoes, so I’ve been trying to appreciate more vegetables. He does some inspired flavors.”

Her sandwich obsession: “My background is not exactly artisan sandwiches, but it is sandwiches. I’ve always loved sandwiches.

The Half Italian Grocer (2643 N. Milwaukee) does a classic Italian with prosciutto and mozzarella, and they have four or five different olive oils you can drizzle on it. And I love going to J.P. Graziano (901 W. Randolph) for the ‘Mr. G’ — the one that has everything on it.

I still remember going to the Purple Pig (500 N. Michigan) and having a fairly simple Nutella banana panini. I really had to stop myself from ordering a second one.

And I love the Brown Sack (3581 W. Belden). I don’t recommend their mac ‘n’ cheese, but their sandwiches are killer. I never order BLTs because I feel like it’s kind of a cop-out sandwich, but theirs has thick-cut bacon, like a quarter-inch of bacon. I get it with avocado. And they do really great milkshakes. My vegan friends get their oatmeal smoothie.”

Farmers market favorite: “I love the Glenwood Sunday Market up in Rogers Park. The Logan Square one is awesome but man, it can get overwhelming. Glenwood is a little smaller, but it has a lovely mix of prepared foods. As a vendor, I also love it. They really highly vet their artisans.”

Date night with her computer programmer husband, Frank (also her IT guy): “We’ll do more casual stuff. We love Edzo’s (2218 N. Lincoln; 1571 Sherman, Evanston). I’ve never really liked thick burgers, so I always get his griddled burger with raw onion and mustard. And the garlic fries. Because they’re served in garlic butter.

I also love Table, Donkey and Stick (2728 W. Armitage) right across the street from us. Their burgers are awesome and they do these mini-tater tots as a side. They’re like little fried latkes.

We love going to Watershed (601 N. State) downtown. It’s beneath Pops for Champagne. Pops is a little too glam for me, but Watershed is like a little dive bar with awesome craft cocktails.”

Coffee shops, hold the coffee: “The Coffee Studio (5628 N. Clark) in Andersonville has a killer hot chocolate. And New Wave (2557 N. Milwaukee) in my neighborhood has some great sandwiches. They’re smaller, like $5, so they’re a reasonable lunch without being huge. The Blackheart is a vegetarian sandwich with black beans that’s super tasty.”

Janet Rausa Fuller is a local free-lance writer.

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