Local Pantry

February 18, 2009 at 9:44 am

Rob Gardner

Bourdain Fixer, Spy in the House of Bulli, Diary of a Foodie Diarist, Our Woman in Paris, Louisa Chu asked me yesterday what was in the pantry.  That is surely a question to prompt a post.  Of course, before I get into the pantry, I have to position a few caveats.  For one thing, the pantry is where you will find it hardest to stock local (as you will see below).  For another thing, like most of my breed, my pantry far exceeds my pantry.  From containers of chocolate in the basement to bags of grains in the attic, we have no shortage of food in the Bungalow.  I would finally add, that in the same vein, the pantry is an ever evolving enterprise.  We cannot resist new products or new versions.

The list below could be huge, so I’m gonna try to keep it to the basics.  If I missed a pantry item that you are curious about, ask away.

DAIRY AND EGGS: Milk, Except when it’s not, it’s IA’s Farmer’s All Natural Creamery or WI’s Blue MarbleCream is often from MI’s Country Dairy (available at Whole Foods)…the Sour Cream and Buttermilk from Farmer’s All Natural are outstanding…Yogurt is almost always WI’s Sugar River or IN’s Trader’s Point Creamery…Trader’s Point supplies us with Cottage Cheese too…Kefir and related can be dueling IL L companies, Ludwig or LifewayEggs mostly come from IL’s Genesis Growers…I can’t list all the cheeses we buy but Grating Cheese often American GranaButter is something from WI unless it’s Amish like the stuff from Calma Optimal or the soft Clarendon Hills; see also.

SWEETENERS: We invariably pick up Maple Syrups, Sorgum, Jams and Jellies at various farmer’s markets around the Midwest; I could not point you to one favorite…Likewise, there are many a-Honey to be found around here, including a few made in Chicago…Sugar, to our delight, my wife recently discovered MI Beet Sugar at Costco (MI Sugar Co.).

SPICES/CONDIMENTS: We got them all from around the world.  We are fortunate to have a Penzey’s in Oak Park.  We do dry our own Hot Peppers and Herbs though…So many condiments, it’s possible to find several WI produced Mustards here…as with sweeteners, we are constantly picking up Relishes, Chutneys, Salsas, etc. in our travels and market shopping.

VINEGAR AND OIL: A farmer at the Fed Plaza market sells Apple Cider Vinegar in season; Jim the Vinegar Guy makes us a special bottle of Red Wine Vinegar; we also buy other varieties from him…We mostly cook with Olive Oil, right now Academia Barilla, but we are partial to Sicilian ones.

GRAINS: Ackerman Flours, Ted’s Grain’s Cornmeals, MI’s Westwind Mills, Bonneyville Mill, Weisenberger, etc…Cereals include Milk and Honey and Madison’s Back to Nature.

OTHER: Peanutnut butter is either Eastwind or Cream-Nut…I love all things local at Cassie’s Green Grocer, but also found she’s got the cheapest Organic Lemons, which I much use.

What am I missing?



  1. Rob Gardner says:

    Beans, that makes me realize how brain-dead I am. It was not that long ago that I made a pantry post: http://www.thelocalbeet.com/?p=983 We have both Carlson-Arbogast Farm and 3 Sisters in the Bungalow. Local beans should be easier to find than they are.

  2. Louisa Chu says:

    Thank you so much Rob! This is such a terrific resource. How about green onions, napa cabbage, and chicken? Or chicken skin really.

  3. Rob Gardner says:

    I guess onions are a pantry item, no? In the bungalow now, are many pounds of red and yellow onions from last year’s harvest. They should hold up fine. Green onions will arrive first in late April, in our Spring Genesis Growers CSA. In the spring, we very much use green onions as *the* allium for cooking. NB: green onions (or scallions) refer both to immature onions as well as onion varieties that never develop a large bulb. In the summer, there will be a period of fresh or sweet (e.g., Vidalia type) and other varieties like Tropea. Then back to the dry stuff.

    There was a small amount of Napa cabbage in the winter markets that I’ve seen–it’s a crop that can be grown in cool weather, but otherwise I’d call it out of season. The good(er) news is that Napa will be one of the first things available at farmer’s markets and CSAs.

    Chicken: we had a chicken CSA subscription from Genesis Grower’s last year. Otherwise, we are always on the look out for good local poultry. There are several vendors selling chickens at the winter markets and at Green City. I mentioned Calma Optima upthread, we are also apt to buy their chickens at Polish markets. The Whole Foods at Peterson/Cicero had, last week, “air cooled chicken from Indiana”. I cannot vouch specifically for it, but I would be more than willing to buy it.

    We have a live chicken place not too far from us, Austin and Fullerton. I like their stuff, but the chickens tend to be old/large, so not good for roasting. That said, you will get, as you know, much, much better skinnage from a freshly slaughtered chicken.

  4. Louisa Chu says:

    Yep, definitely onions. And green onions are a fridge pantry staple for me too – I vote that one as a year-round item with the Napa.

    Will check out the Indiana chicken at Whole Foods.

    Yes, we used to use that live poultry market all the time. Do you know anything about how their chickens are raised now?

    Thanks again Rob!

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