Make It a Local Taste of Chicago
You know, I’m not really a Taste of Chicago snob. I’ve gone many, many times, and I’ve generally enjoyed myself. Regardless of all the boneless ribs and out of season corn, I still find stuff I enjoy. As my daughter argued this year when I said we did not need to go, “but I want Ricobene’s fries then a Billy Goat cheeseburger.” Damn, they can do a 1,ooo times better picking the vendors, but things like Rainbow cone, BJ’s mustard fried catfish, and Harold’s wings are just not in my usual eating zone, so I like a chance to sample. And the rest of the year, I’m never going to get Harry Carey to make me up a spiral cut fresh-fried potato doused in Louisiana hot sauce. I do feel that I have sampled those charms enough, and I have no need to go this year. Besides, I want my Taste of Chicago to be a Local Taste of Chicago. You should too. Instead of stuffing yourself with turkey legs, stuff yourself with local food.
Find a farmer’s market near you using the Local Beet’s Market Locator. Then, need ideas on what to do with the kohlrabi and other things you find. Search the Local Beet’s archives for ideas and inspirations. Prepare your own Local Taste of Chicago.
In season now: the first of the summer squashes. They are especially good tiny and young, and that’s just the way some of the vendors sell them. Nichol’s farm was even selling summer squash with the flowers still attached. This is a true bargain as they were also selling the flowers separately, but at like $1 a pop. Young zucchini can be used raw. Try a classic summer pasta: add chopped raw baby zukes, the earliest cherry tomatoes just coming to market, some rocket leaves and a good dose of Sarvechio cheese to a bowl of cooked pasta; use a bit of pasta water to thin slightly, serve.
Need something different: currants are showing up in the market about now. Quite tart, they are hard to eat out of hand. Unless you do like they use to do when I lived in Cardiff. Add a dose of shakey-shakey or condensed milk. If you are Chef Paul Virant at Vie, you might have some goat milk jam around to achieve the same effect.
Vie is one of my top choices for a Local Taste of Chicago. This week, those just in season local summer squashes, Vie was marinating them and serving them with onions, herbs and burrata.
Another place to get the real Local Taste of Chicago is Mado. Chef Rob Levitt will have you liking all the things you’d never thought you’d like. More? He has re-invented our local smelts into our local anchovies. You can taste the hard work of my wife with this unique and special Taste of Chicago.
Goose Island Brewery allows you drink the Local Taste of Chicago as well as eat the Local Taste of Chicago. Do like my wife likes to do, get the flight of Belgium style beers (and if they do not have four Belgium style beers on tap, do what she did the other day, get the Maibock). With your beer eat something that will make you want more beer: the sticky, sweet, salty, spicy “Burmese” style ribs made with Swan Creek pork.
I’m for sure on the love side of hate it/love it when it comes to the cheeseburger cheeseburger at Billy Goat Tavern, available at that taste of Chicago, but when I want a Local Taste of Chicago burger, I get Hot Chocolate’s local burger and house made pickles.
Taste of Chicago is about sampling the diversity of ethnic restaurants in our city. The Local Taste of Chicago would include the dumplings made by Green City Market shopper Bill Kim at Urban Belly. The Local Taste of Chicago has tacos from Frontera Grill garnished with crema made from Farmer’s All Natural Creamery cream [ed. the black & white tasting menu at Topolobampo looks pretty good too.] My Local Taste of Chicago Puerto Rican pernil comes from Carnivale. I’ll spend the rest of the time wishing for a Local Taste of Chicago Chinese restaurant.
I’ll tell you this. Any good Taste of Chicago should end with cheesecake from Eli’s.