Dining and food culture in Chicago

Pulp Nonfiction: Putting the Squeeze on Peeled, Chicago’s Juice Bar for the Uninitiated

Lincoln Park, Organics, Produce, Vegetarian No Comments »

Photo: Jenny Yoon

A longtime staple in image-conscious Los Angeles, Chicago has jumped on the juice trend, with new spots like Peeled, just south of Lincoln Park close to the river, popping up around town. A streamlined space with organic, locally sourced produce ripe for consumption, Peeled offers a cold-beverage option that isn’t a tall iced latte or a pint. And it moves away from Jamba Juice’s sugar-loaded “smoothies.” Given the Midwest’s penchant for food that aims to clog arteries (here’s looking at you, ridiculous poutine trend), Peeled also offers a refreshing option that actually incorporates vegetables.

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Local Feasting: Prep Your Holiday Meals with Green City Market Finds

Farmer's Markets, Organics, Produce No Comments »

Prairie Fruits Cheeses

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Fresher Than Ever: Green City Market gets a makeover and a new director

Lincoln Park, Organics, Produce No Comments »

Photo: Jessica Graves, Feeding the City

By Giovanni Wrobel

It’s hard to keep from smiling at the Green City Market, where every Wednesday and Saturday it feels as though the South Pond section of Lincoln Park is transformed into a French market on the dairy plains, as guitar strings and children’s laughter echo, and the fire-engine red backdrop of the Farm in the Zoo flashes through the trees. Shoppers and samplers exude energy and gush over the sweet and savory flavors of locally grown produce done right.

The yearlong farmers market in Lincoln Park is not a novel phenomenon, but with a newly landscaped location and Dana Benigno’s fresh face in the director’s chair, GCM presents much promise to grow within its community of committed shoppers and diligent farmers. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Easy Being Green

Organics, Produce, Wicker Park 1 Comment »

The idea of an organic, environmentally friendly, eco-footprintless lifestyle is no longer avant-garde. The actuality of people taking the steps to live this lifestyle, however, can be unimpressive. Lauren Yucan’s Real Naked Food, now open at 1909 West Division, makes green living a whole lot easier for Wicker Park.

Real Naked Food is a small grocery with fresh produce, bulk baking and cooking needs, frozen meals, baby food and cleaning supplies. All of the merchandise here is organic and “absolutely 100 percent local,” says Yucan. With the exception of a few frozen and pre-packaged items, this grocer is BYOC—Bring Your Own Container. While this technique reflects the European market approach the store is influenced by, it also allows patrons to decide how much or little of any product they take home. “Buying in bulk is an excellent way to save,” explains Yucan. “You can buy a pound of flour when you only need one cup, or you can get one cup of quality organic flour for cents.” The concept behind BYOC is pre-cycling—avoiding items that will become waste whether they are disposed of in the trash or a recycling bin. Taking the work out of recycling for lazy earth lovers, using your own containers at Real Naked Food is a time, money and effort saver. “The idea is so foreign to bring in your empty spray bottle to refill with our organic cleaner,” says Yucan, “but what are you going to do with it when it’s empty? Throw it away and buy a new one.” While you receive a 25-cent discount with every container you bring in, Real Naked Food has biodegradable containers to purchase for the unprepared shopper. Read the rest of this entry »

The Re-Produce Department: Unpeeling the mating habits of omnivores in Aisle 10

Produce, Trends & Essays 1 Comment »

By Patrick Roberts

“Yesterday there was an attractive man,” says my girlfriend as she wheels her cart into the produce section, “about fortyish, who was ahead of me in the checkout lane. He was buying a box of condoms, K-Y Jelly, artichokes and a bag of chocolate-chip cookies. Isn’t that interesting? Why those things together?”

“Perhaps he really likes artichokes,” I say.

“No. I think it was his first time having her over to his apartment.”

“Who?”

“His new girlfriend,” she says as she picks through the tomatoes. “In fact, last night was the first time he’d slept with a woman since his divorce.”

“His divorce? Did you know this guy?”

“Of course I didn’t know him. Never saw him before in my life.”

“Then how could you possibly have known that he was divorced?”

“First of all, he wasn’t wearing a ring, and he was too good looking never to have been married. Secondly, he wouldn’t have had to buy the condoms otherwise. His girlfriend is recently divorced too, hence the K-Y Jelly.”

“What? Why ‘hence’? How are any of those things possibly related?” Read the rest of this entry »

Really Slow Food: Wintertime, and the living’s easy at the Green City Market

Lincoln Park, Produce No Comments »

Lincoln Park is unruffled this Saturday morning as a gentle snowfall adds another layer of white to the city surface. A handful of weekend runners and dog walkers scamper in all directions, while a steady flow of locavores head toward the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum for the Green City Market (GCM). The only consistent year-round farmers’ market in Chicago, GCM has built up a community not only for its customers but also for its farmers.

GCM’s Outdoor Market, held spring through fall at the south end of Lincoln Park, can get pretty wild. Sixty vendors, thousands of patrons, limited produce and six hours of business twice a week make for a hectic day at the office for these farmers. “It’s awesome when it’s nice and we’re outside. It’s fun but it’s way more work,” says Adam Hausman of Seedling Farms. There are just over a dozen vendors alongside Seedling Farms on the second floor of the museum. If the farm representatives aren’t talking product to market goers, they’re casually perusing the scene themselves to see what the competition is offering. Read the rest of this entry »

411: This Dill Pickle ages nicely

Logan Square, Organics, Produce 1 Comment »

If Michael Pollan’s recent celebrity is any indication of the national mood, then one might expect a plethora of options from which to buy locally sourced and organic food. But while the corporate options like Whole Foods and Trader Joes are firmly established in Chicago, each with multiple locations throughout the city and suburbs, small, community markets are rare, and currently only Dill Pickle Food Cooperative can claim the title of local food co-op since the long-running Hyde Park Co-op closed several years ago due to financial strains.

Getting started was no easy task either. General manager Vinnie Hernandez mentions that it took five years to build a functioning organization from the time that DPFC founder Kath Duffy sent out her initial application to the community for support.

Nevertheless, the DPFC, which just celebrated the first anniversary of its opening, was entirely funded by individual member loans. Hernandez calls this circumstance “an aberration,” citing that with co-ops, “there’s always a bank issue.” The groundswell of financial support is especially remarkable when considering that it took place in the midst of a serious economic recession. Read the rest of this entry »

French Kiss: Savoring the Parisian pleasures of the West Loop’s new market

French, News etc., Produce, West Loop No Comments »

saigonmenuBy Michael Nagrant

I’m trying to imagine Mayor Daley making out with a supermodel. Thankfully I’m not really spending much time thinking about his sputtering sweating visage as much as imagining what kind of daddy issues a supermodel would really need to make that happen.

Though I’m sure he dreams of dripping Italian-beef gravy on Carla Bruni’s naked body, Daley is no Nicolas Sarkozy. However, he did finally realize a bit of the French dream when he allocated eight million of his secret-slush-fund, err, I mean tax-increment-financing dollars, to open Chicago’s burgeoning French Market in the west part of the Ogilvie Transportation Center on December 3.

Finally, clout we can believe in. Well, sort of. Though the market’s six weeks old, for most of the last month, many of the stands weren’t at full operation, and some had yet to open. You’d think Daley would be hoisting a glass of Old Style in celebration, but as of last week Frietkoten’s beer taps were still empty since they haven’t received their liquor license. (They must have donated too much to aldermanic thorns in Daley’s side like Bob Fioretti, Brendan Reilly and Scott Waguespack.)

On my first few visits the whole thing felt a little half-baked, like I imagine the whole idea of this thing went down in the first place: I see Mayor Daley on some European tour getting shuttled around in a private double-decker bus by the East End equivalent of the Chevy Chase character in “European Vacation” saying “Oy, ‘ere’s Big Ben, Parliament.” Eventually the whole trip ends up in Paris at the Marché d’Aligre with pan au chocolat dripping from Daley’s craw and him saying, “We gotta get us one of dem markets back in Chicawgo.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tickled Pickle: Logan Square’s Dill Pickle Co-op opens its doors

Events, Logan Square, News etc., Organics, Produce 1 Comment »

P1020694As Logan Square residents can attest, Chicago’s only community-owned and operated grocery store was well worth the nearly five-year wait. Even before the doors of the Dill Pickle Food Co-op opened at noon this day, soon-to-be-patrons clamored around the entrance, eagerly waiting to set foot inside.

The genuine affection that went into every element of the Co-op is one of the most striking things about the Dill Pickle. The store itself is charming—mint-green walls and exposed pipes, cozy lighting that melts away memories of a freezing Saturday afternoon wind—but it is the strong sense of community that really drives this home. Nearly every other person who enters the store knows someone involved in the Pickle’s success, and they offer their heartfelt congratulations, sometimes accompanied with an effusive bear hug. Read the rest of this entry »

This American Plant Life: Put a farm in your kitchen

Organics, Produce No Comments »

By Michael Nagrant

I’ve killed more plants than a Detroit auto executive. Everything, from finicky herbal seedlings to hearty tomatoes, has met the reaper that is my green, or maybe more appropriately, gangrenous, thumb. I once grew the tallest plant in a junior-high biology contest, but only after my father introduced me to Miracle Grow, and I juiced that bad boy like an agricultural Barry Bonds. That was a lifetime ago. Last month, despite their legend for weathering biblical droughts, two cacti in my living room recently developed a feathery mold.

In addition to my inherent gardening shortcomings, I happen to live in a landlocked condo, an old converted corrugated box factory in the West Loop, shadowed by a towering UIC office building. I’ve got no outdoor space or reasonable growing light and the constant brick dust from the walls chokes most things that grow. Were I just trying to spruce up my home or maintain carbon neutrality, I could probably just buy a ficus or take my cues from Al Gore and screw in a few compact fluorescent bulbs and move on. Read the rest of this entry »