Go Find Local Food

June 4, 2010 at 10:30 am

Rob Gardner

When our days were shorter, we still needed local food.  We put together a list of Midwestern markets open during the fall and winter.  As our days lengthen to its fullest, we can find our local food a lot closer.  Still, it’s often worthwhile to get out and find your local food a little more away.  As we noted last time, we travel for  more food than found in our Chicago area markets, and we travel for foods not found in our markets at all.  

Look especially for products not prevalent in Chicago markets:

  • Dried beans
  • Grains
  • Nuts – If you head north you may find butternuts and hickory nuts; south it may be walnuts including English walnuts if you go far enough south
  • Booze – Just think New Glarus and many other Wisconsin beers whose distribution ends at the state line
  • Cheese – Think Fantome Farm goat cheese and other artisnal cheeses found at the Dane County Farmer’s Market
  • Sorghum
  • Sausages including summer sausage and bratwurst

We always enjoy getting out and about anyways.  Why not make it a roadtrip for local food.  You owe to your pantry.

Here are some places within driving distance where you find outstanding markets or shops focused on local foods, listed roughly in order of distance from downtown Chicago:

Elburn, IL – Depending where you live in the Chicago area, the Heritage Prairie Market in Elburn is hardly a roadtrip.  Still, for me, once you cross Randall Road, you’re in the country, and that makes an outing here a road trip.  Farm market open daily.  You would think that the all the best brats come from Wisconsin, but there’s some pretty good ones in Elburn too at Ream’s.

Milwaukee, WI – There’s some keen farmer’s markets in Milwaukee.  You can find the nifty Asian vegetables grown by Hmong farmers that you don’t see in Chicago area markets.  One of our favorite neighborhoods in Milwaukee is Bay View on the South side, and one of the things we love best about this part of town is the South Shore Farmer’s Market right up against Lake Michigan.  Another source for local foods in that part of town is Natural Outpost.  They well-label their locavore ready stuff including these products.

South Bend, IN – In the stack of Local Beet articles never posted, is our compare and contrast between the South Bend Farmer’s Market and the American Countryside Market nearby in Elkhart, Indiana.  For now, we’ll tell you that one of these is roadtrip worthy and the other one is in Elkhart.  When you visit the South Bend market, make sure to save tummy room for the in-market diner. 

Madison, WI – The Dane County Farmer’s Market  is arguably the best farmer’s market in the USA, and is worth the trip for many reasons like cheese, cheese, and cheese, although there is so much more to the market.  A lot of people, Local Family included love the spicy cheese bread.   Wait, that’s more cheese…

Urbana, IL – We like our home state’s college town, although not quite as much as we love Wisconsin’s Madison, and we like the market at Urbana a lot, although not quite as much as we love Madison’s.  If that’s seems like not a fully fair comparison, know that the Urbana market is pretty expansive.  Since it’s in central Illinois, you’ll find produce from climates much warmer than Chicago (or Madison).  Yes, you can have local English walnuts.  The peaches are here a lot sooner.

New Glarus, WI – We never tire of the Brewery tour and tasting, but we also try to make time for the Swiss inspired sausages from Hoesly’s Meats.

Monroe, WI – We are willing to maintain local “ownership” of Roth Kase cheese even if the money these days now flows all the way to the Emmi Group in Lucerne.  After all, we can still spy on the operations from the windows at the Alp and Dell Cheese shop.  We find bargain prices for Roth Kase cheeses there too, but we also find bargain prices for many of area cheeses.  Look especially to the freezer case for the best deals.

Paoli, WI – It does not take a long drive from downtown Madison to be in the sticks, and Paoli seems a lot further away from Madison than it really is.  You’d also be surprised that this small town supports a shop dedicated to local foods.  It is especially deep on local meats and fermented items.

Sheboygan, WI – Go for award winning brats.

Kalamazoo, MI – Roadfooders go to Kalamazoo for donuts and beer

Detroit, MI – The whole Local Family finds Detroit surprisingly attractive to visit.  There is the time machine quality to the place, and there is the entire Eastern Market complex.   Added bonuses include low cost hotels (try Priceline) and some of the best Arabian food in the US.  There’s even casinos.  Saturday – 7 AM – 4 PM

Ann Arbor, MI – When we think foodie roadtrip, we think Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor.  Do the Tour de Zing–visit the Roadhouse, Bakery, Creamery and Deli over the course of a day and you also get a T shirt.  If you cannot bring home thousands of dollars worth of local goodies, you are not trying.  Go also for Michigan grown dried beans.   A good selection can be found at the Sparrow Market just around the bend from Zingermans.  The Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market runs Saturdays 8 AM – 3 PM.

Two Rivers, WI – Local locavores should head here to see first hand, the operations filmed by MikeG’s SkyFullofBacon productions and get themselves some lake fish. 

Toledo, OH – Stretching the definition of roadtrip, Toledo has Tony Packo’s dogs and pickles and a year round Saturday market. 9 – 1 PM