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Antiques and tea parties

February 20, 2018 GMT

Four — count them — four weeks until spring!

I’m really in the mood for green grass and flowering trees. Although, a few weeks ago, I did get a little taste of what’s coming.

Fellow gardener and my buddy Mary Thomson, of Kankakee, and I attended the Porter County Master Gardeners Show in Valparaiso. We’re both ready to dig in the dirt. After a day of exploring the newest gadgets for the garden, attending a seminar and walking around the fairgrounds, we were ready for some nourishment.

We stopped at one of my favorite little bistros, Gold Star Cafe in Lowell, Ind. It’s right across the state line from Grant Park, and Lowell has some fantastic antique and resale shops in the downtown area.

The cafe is warm, friendly and inviting. Owner and chef Charlene Hall’s grandmother’s antiques line the cupboard shelves. Not only are Grandma’s prize possessions a part of the business but her recipes as well.

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Near the front door stands an antique chalkboard listing the day’s specials, including the turkey carver, homemade chicken salad on croissant and a variety of sandwiches and flatbreads. Guests can lounge in an antique love seat while sipping one of her homemade lattes.

Hall is an energetic, creative genius who has a bubbly personality that would cheer up any old grump. She brings her best game into the cafe every day, serving some dynamite food.

Mary and I ordered the chicken salad croissant, which is one of their best-sellers. The sandwich is made with shredded chicken breasts, grapes and pecans served on a buttery, flaky croissant. Both the chicken salad and croissants are made daily.

Two other sandwiches to try: the chicken bacon Swiss pretzel roll with grilled chicken breast, bacon, Swiss cheese and honey mustard on a pretzel roll; or the open-faced steakhouse meatloaf sandwich with sauteed red onions on a grilled garlic roll.

If you can stop in for breakfast, try one of their scrumptious homemade quiches or biscuits and gravy. Really hungry? Have an order of stuffed French toast; this will keep you satisfied all day.

Chef Charlene makes the most unique cakes for any occasion, pastries that are rich and decadent, plus beautiful chocolate-covered strawberries.

The cafe is set up to serve at least 35 guests for private parties, including teas. One of the parties is an etiquette tea for young children; another, her princess tea.

Gold Star Cafe and Catering is at 1336 E. Commercial Ave., Lowell. Call 219-690-3487 to order food or request catering. Follow them on Facebook or visit goldstarcafeandcatering.com.

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Since it was Mardi Gras last week, Gwen Hopkins, of Bourbonnais, and I spent some time at 3 Winds Eatery in Kankakee, where we enjoyed some down-home Louisiana cooking.

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Gwen ordered the sausage and shrimp jambalaya — a spicy French and Spanish dish made with andouille sausage, shrimp, green and red peppers, onions and tomatoes over rice. Gwen said it had a little kick to it but was very delicious.

I tried the chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, the official stew of Louisiana, created by Choctaw Indians. It had chicken, sausage, red, green and yellow peppers, onion and celery, served with rice. It was terrific and an excellent way to finish out Mardi Gras.

If you haven’t been to 3 Winds for lunch — go. They have the most fantastic truffle mac and cheese I’ve ever had. The bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich is excellent as well.

The prices are reasonable, the food is good and the staff is very accommodating. Our server, Nathan, was so helpful and knowledgeable about the menu.

Co-owners Bill Belluso and his fiancee, Nicoele Arseneau, are settling in; they are really “getting into their groove” now. The staff seems more relaxed and polished; the menu is changing to fit the needs of their guests; and their wine and spirits selection is growing. I am going back to try two drinks: the raspberry chocolate truffle made with Chambord, amaretto, cream, creme de cacao and fresh raspberries; and the Sazerac rye whiskey, with Herbsaint, simple syrup, a dash of bitters and a lemon peel.

3 Winds Eatery is at 1230 S. East Ave., Kankakee. Call 815-474-5094 for reservations.

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Fish fry Friday: Bakers Square Restaurant has an all-you-can-eat fish dinner from 5 to 9 p.m.: battered cod served with creamy tartar sauce, french fries and your choice of coleslaw or fresh fruit. I’ve tried it; it’s so good!

Bakers Square is at 1315 E. Armour Road, Bourbonnais.