This past Saturday morning I made a startling discovery. I took a walk to the Green City Market, which, happily, does not close up shop with summer. Jack Frost may be putting a chill in the air, but I can still load up on farmer’s market staples like arugula, funky black kale, broccoli sprouts and “Angel Food” goat cheese to satisfy the restless Anthony Bourdain within.
And the spread, I must say, is pretty jaw dropping. Vendors display their wares (many with samples) outside near the south entrance, and inside the South Gallery on the second floor. I tasted enough crisp apple butters, creamy cheese spreads and sweet honey to make my head spin with recipe ideas. I discussed the joys of cheese-making with farmhands and contemplated gift ideas amongst the jam jars.
Once you go local, I realized, you never want to go back. Forget buying the lettuce unattached to a specific location. And forget organic-shmanic just for one tiny second. “Knowing the names of your animals is as organic as you can get,” explains David Buchanan of Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery (located near Champaign). Prairie Fruits sells “Angel Food” goat cheese and the “Roxanne,” a sheep’s milk cheese named after a goat with the same name—so popular it was sold out at the time of my visit. And Prairie Fruits isn’t the only vendor with followers. At TJ’s Free Range Poultry Stand (located in Piper City), customers are lined up and anxious about purchasing the few remaining turkeys. According to owner Tim Ifft, not only does a pasture-raised bird (which means the animal has more room to roam) have more texture than the factory-farm version, there is comfort in knowing where your food comes from. “At Whole Foods, they can’t answer you on that question half the time,” notes Ifft.
And there’s no wax on the apples. The folks at Hillside Orchard farms (from Berrien Springs, Michigan) proudly sell wax-free apples, cherries, peaches and chestnuts. “Local food is fresh, and we don’t have to use the wax they use in groceries to extend the food’s shelf life,” explains Zach Harris, a Hillside farmhand. If you want to make a stuffing with a little extra kick this year, those chestnuts are an excellent accompaniment. And an apple pie made with wax-free apples? I’m sold.
What about a host’s gift for that all-important appetizer session, when everyone is trying to break the ice? Bring a tub of Brunkow raw milk jalapeno cheddar from Wisconsin to keep the tongues from wagging. Or pick up some arugula and Italian black kale from Green Acres Farm (from North Judson) to make a salad with bite. That’ll keep the zingers from flying over the Thanksgiving table! (Marla Seidell)
In addition to Saturdays, the Indoor Green City Market is also open on Wednesday, November 23 and Wednesday, December 21. Through the winter, the market is held at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 North Cannon in Lincoln Park.