Move 200 Miles West and Take a Little of Chicago with You…

Posted: April 29, 2013 at 3:08 pm

A pack of cucumber seeds, which had an ad for a local insurance agent as part of the label, and summers spent on several cousins’ Wisconsin dairy farms sprouted an interest in growing food that has not diminished. The seeds were sent to my Dad as junk mail. He gave them to me and showed me how to plant them. I was about 10 at the time and was growing up in Franklin Park, out near O’Hare. The garden that I started that year, 1975, grew in size over the years to encompass most of our back yard. My interest in growing food was bolstered by the many gardening and back-to-the-land books that were popular back then and by TV shows like Crockett’s Victory Garden.

Photos courtesy of

I wasn’t alone in Franklin Park in my gardening interests. Many of the homes in town were owned by Italians, Mexicans and members of other immigrant groups who also had huge gardens and each of whom had their own tastes and varieties of vegetables they liked to grow. Grown in the dark rich soil of Franklin Park were many varieties of peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, chard, cultivated types of dandelion, and believe it or not, figs that were certainly not available at the local Kmart garden department.  As my gardening experience grew I got to know many of these gardeners and they shared both their expertise and, more importantly, seeds for these vegetables that helped expand my world view.

I later started a career, met my wife Julie, moved to Northbrook, and still gardened growing the varieties and the knowledge gleaned from all of the like-minded people that I met in Franklin Park. Later my wife and I moved to a 22-acre farm in Dahinda, Illinois near Galesburg. The current local food movement was ramping up and wanting to be involved, we started farming and selling our produce locally. Although we love living in Dahinda, I felt a connection to the Chicago Area and wanted a way to bring a part of it out here with me. What better way than to grow the old vegetable varieties that I grew way back in the day Franklin Park!

Among these old varieties that I still grow is the Italian cucumber/melon. Extremely popular among the Italian gardeners of Franklin Park the cucumber/melon is commonly known as an “Italian cucumber.” It comes in many shapes from round to long but the most popular seems to be one that is about 4 inches long. It is covered with downy fuzz that comes off when washed. It has a mild cucumber taste and can be used in salads or can be pickled. Plant the seeds as you would any other cucumber, but I wouldn’t plant them until the soil has warmed and the temperature has been above 80 for several days. The people I knew who grew this carried the seeds over from Italy and saved them from year-to-year, however, they are available from several seed companies including Seeds from Italy.

Italian Cucumber/Melon

Photo courtesy of

Another hometown gardening memory is tomatillos. There are many varieties and this is a commonly found item in many gardens these days. A variety highly touted by many Mexican friends in Franklin Park, is a type known as the “Mexican Strain.” This larger, heavy yielding variety is not as tart as others and makes a great salsa verde. It can also be used in other dishes like authentic chili con carne. The seed should be started indoors, 8 or so weeks before the last frost. The plants are grown similar to tomatoes but are more delicate than tomato plants. Again, my friend’s seeds were brought from Mexico and saved from year-to-year, but they are also available from Territorial Seed Company.

I would be remiss in my boyhood gardening memories if I did not mention two, very Chicago, varieties of pepper. These are the Melrose and the Chicago Sport pepper.  Before the O’Hare area was built up it was one of the greatest vegetable growing regions in the country. Around the turn of the 20th century, many Italian immigrants were buying farms in the Near Western Suburbs of Chicago from the German families that had originally settled the land.

These new farmers began many of the truck farms that supplied South Water Market back in the day and include people like Tom Naples, whose farm stand for many years was a fixture on North Avenue, west of Chicago. One of the peppers grown in the area was the Melrose, named after Melrose Park. It is an Italian thin-skinned type frying pepper that is great on sandwiches, in stir fries, and stuffed. I grow this variety in Dahinda from seed received from a man from Melrose Park. His grandfather bred a larger- than-normal strain and his family has saved the seed ever since. The seeds for the Melrose are available from many seed companies such as Baker Creek and the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and the plants can be found in many Chicago area garden centers. They should be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost and set out when the danger of frost is past.


Melrose Pepper                                                                                             Chicago Sport Pepper

Photo courtesy of Southern Exposure                                                     Photo courtesy of Reimer Seeds

The Chicago Sport pepper is famous as the pepper used on Chicago style hot dogs. They are easily grown from plants started 6 to 8 weeks, indoors, before the last frost. The raw peppers are somewhat hot and great used in any dish where one would like to pump up the heat. Left to ripen, they can be dried and used that way for their heat-enhancing properties. Dried sport peppers can also be ground to make pepper flakes. These can be used on pizzas and other dishes that call for dried pepper flakes. But to use them on Chicago style hot dogs they should be pickled. Once I gave some sport peppers to a neighbor who promptly put them on a hot dog, not realizing that they are much hotter when raw. She was not pleased with the results! The seeds for the sport pepper can be found through many seed companies and the plants can be found at many Chicago area garden centers.

Although the seeds and plants for the vegetable varieties I mentioned above are available from many commercial sources, the best source of course, is to find a person who grows a variety handed down and saved from year-to-year. They will create a connection to the past, the community, and to the world.

Seeds from Italy:

Territorial Seed Company:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seed:

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange:

Cochon 555: the Disney World of Heritage Pork

Posted: April 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

Victory to Cosmo Goss from Publican Quality Meats and his team of Blackbird Restaurant Group alums, but no losers in the showcase of pork

Cochon is the Epcot of pork events. I have a habit of comparing pretty much everything to Disney World in one way or another, but in the case of Cochon, the roving heritage pig tour, the comparison is apt. In lieu of Epcot’s around-the-world dining program, Cochon is the epicenter of snout-to-tail dining, featuring multiple chef-driven pork stations showcasing different breeds of locally sourced heritage pork. And instead of Walt Disney, there’s Brady Lowe, founder of Cochon. Yesterday’s Cochon 555 event held at the Four Seasons was a grandiose affair, a massive and gluttonous celebration of pork, displaying the versatility of these animals and how each breed offers unique flavors and textures. The sheer mass of the operation, with hundreds of guests and hundreds of plates of pork to feed them, definitely makes Cochon a veritable pork theme park.

Tavernita’s jovial pig mascot, a little too excited that people are eating his brethren.

Each of the five chefs vying for the “Prince of Porc” title were given a different breed of heritage hog, to be made into up to six dishes. And chefs sure got crafty. Kevin Hickey, with home turf advantage as chef of the Four Seasons, worked with a Tamworth hog from Triple S Farm in Illinois. Known for its succulent belly, the Tamworth is called the best bacon hog, with a trim jowl and muscular hams. Hickey created an impressive cafeteria-style line for his dishes, complete with cafeteria trays. Going through the line was a bit of a nostalgia trip, bringing me right back to my awkward high school days. I’m just glad I didn’t get pantsed. His station represented the various incarnations of Chicago street food, from hot dogs and tamales to empanadas. There were also little porky snacks, such as pork jerky and fortune cookie-like tuiles dipped in chocolate and bacon.

Cafeteria tray, Hickey-style.

Cosmo Goss from Publican Quality Meats brought out the A-Team of Blackbird Restaurant Group alums for support. His sous chefs for the event included Erling Wu-Bower (avec), David Posey (Blackbird), and Justin Large (Big Star). Goss was cooking with a Hampshire hog from Faith’s Farm in Illinois. Hampshire is an English breed renowned for its excellent fat-to-meat ratio in the belly and loin. Overseeing the meaty operations at Publican Quality Meats surely boded well for Goss, who curated a lengthy menu that includes a bacon-studded pork pancake, poached pork loin tonnato, ‘Nduja pudding (aka spicy pork spread), boudin noir, glazed pork belly in Parmesan broth, and pork skin “churros” with pork jus chocolate caramel. I feel like I acquired mild gout just writing that. Publican’s station was lavishly decorated with sausages strung along woodwork like lights on a Christmas tree.

Slightly comical, slightly morbid table display at Publican Quality Meats.

Things got Japanese over at Yusho’s station, where Matthias Merges was crafting steam buns, ramen, rolled pig’s head, and stuffed legs out of his Crawford Sweet hog. Hailing from Wisconsin’s Crawford Family Farm, these hogs are free to roam the woods during warmer weather, eating an herbaceous diet along with acorns and hickory nuts in the fall. This lends a distinct nutty, herbal flavor to the pork, which meshed well with Merges’ Japanese flavors like ume boshi (Japanese plums), kanzuri (yuzu-infused chile paste), kimchi, and tamarind pickles.

Pork neck steam bun army from Team Yusho.

Perhaps the most eclectic station was Tavernita’s, which featured dishes inspired by China, Mexico, British pubs, and the French Quarter. Ryan Poli led a team of porcine superheroes, clad in pink capes and pig masks, and joined by a happy-go-lucky pig mascot, waving to and occasionally breathing on passersby. Terrifying visions of Animal Farmcame rushing back. Poli was tasked with cooking with a Large Black hog from Triple S Farm. This is a lean, micro-marbled hog that is sublimely tender due to its short muscle fibers. And what did Poli cook? Soup dumplings in pork consommé with confit ribs; braised shoulder sope with mole sauce; head-to-tail paella with tongue, tail, face chorizo, and smoked ham; beignets with whipped lardo; and my favorite, shepherd’s pie made with trotters, cheeks, and bacon.

Poli in full pork garb, serving shepherd’s pie with trotters, cheeks, bacon, cherries, peas, and potatoes.

The fifth competing chef was Josh Adams of June Restaurant in Peoria, Illinois. He was also given a Hampshire hog, but this one from LaPryor Farms in Illinois. Adams did an impressive job of incorporating all parts of the pig and creating exquisitely composed dishes for each small plate. Much of his food had an Asian influence, like the Thai sausage, the wood-grilled loin and pork skin noodles with nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce), and the pork belly with nam prik pao (Thai chile sauce). One of the coolest items at the event was Adams’ ham cotton candy, served with pineapple upside-down cake and coriander. While I was getting my food here, the lights went out, which at first I feared was a Jurassic Park-like mishap, but was actually intentional so that Lowe could show a slideshow.

Hard to tell, but this man is working the ham cotton candy machine at June’s station.

The event didn’t stop there, though. Cochon also included a butchering demo by The Butcher & Larder’s Rob Levitt, a cheese bar, various cocktail and drink bars, a chocolate station, a tartare bar, and lots more. One of my favorite touches was instead of flower arrangements on the tables, they had bacon arrangements. Stop and smell the bacon… As the event wound down and after Cochon judges made the rounds, Cosmo Goss was named the victor. He is set to move on to compete at Grand Cochon in Aspen this June. Coming from The Publican group, Goss basically went into this event with a bacon halo over his head. Best of luck to him in Aspen.

The sausage-adorned altar to the Prince of Porc, Cosmo Goss (he’s the chef behind the table).

UPDATED! Make No Small Plans on This Menu Monday

Posted: April 29, 2013 at 11:28 am

Old vegetables and extra stems begets stock, which begets pilaf which begets a week’s worth of meals

 UPDATED BELOW! – So much in this week’s CSA box.

It must give Rachel Shteir perverse satisfaction that more people heard rants about her take down of Chicago than read her actual piece on “poor Chicago” in the New York Times. Shteir’s well cited critique already is that we’re just too damn boastful in Chicago. The obvious answer to her review is to say why we can brag. Surely, it is indoctrinated in us as Chicagoans, in our schools, by listening to WGN, somehow, that the Cubs may suck, the weather may suck, and the politicians more than suck, that this is a great city, and we should be happy we live here. Take our architecture. To Shteir, it’s just another empty example in our list of boosterism. We do take our architecture very serious here.   It is a matter of civic pride.  The average woman on the street can point out the Monadnock from the Reliance. Tell you the rusty look at Daley is from “corten steel”. Of course they’re “Chicago” windows and Target be damned, it’s Carson’s. We know our stuff. We can rattle off all the people who left their mark here, and we especially know the man that left his mark not just in buildings but in a plan about buildings. Make no small plans, we all know Burnham taught us.

The purpose of Menu Monday was to talk about the various items we picked up in our weekend shopping and brainstorm with you how we planned on using them. The timing of Menu Monday is off  now anyways, because our local food comes in a CSA box that arrives mid-week. It is off even more because this week, there is little room to put new on the menu.   There is not much to think about this Monday.  See, when my wife, the Condiment Queen, cooks, she follows the advice of Mr. Burnham. Or as she likes to say, cook for her imaginary family of 15.  She makes no small plans in the kitchen.

She makes no small meals. I apologize for not putting something along side the pilaf picture so you could see the scale of the dish. And you don’t want to know how few it was meant to feed. The pilaf itself followed, cat-in-the-hat style, a previous big batch: veg stock.   As I’ve noted before, vegetable stock is where all good produce goes to die.  It is the ideal use for old stuff, and the motivating factor for my wife was that but better, otherwise unusable shiitake stems.  Having all that stock makes us think pilaf. If you don’t know, when you cook rice with stock, a/k/a pilaf, you get something way more satisfying. Add leftover roasted vegetables, a sprinkling of nuts and chick peas for protein, and you have a vegan meal both satisfying and able to feel your Local Family for days to come.  So, old vegetables and extra stems begets stock, which begets pilaf which begets a week’s worth of meals.  No?

We are at least one week ahead of our CSA in produce use. In other words, last week we used mostly food from the week’s before box. Yet, truthfully, we’re also still working off food even older, like the roasted veg in the pilaf.  We used some Spring greens last week in a stir-fry (with tofu), and we used some turnips, carrots and radishes in a quick pickle crudite appetizer.  Then, when you would think stop now, She made a huge batch of vegan chili for my daughter’s birthday.  In the chili, she took some of our onions, some of our garlic, and some of our carrots, but left us with more leftovers and much vegetables still to cook.

Here’s our full current inventory of local produce:

  • carrots
  • turnips – did manage to finish the last of the smaller, Japanese turnips last week, only to find we’ll be getting more of those this week
  • radishes – down to 1/2 a watermelon radish
  • spinach
  • mustard greens – a bit left
  • onions 
  • garlic
  • leeks – found some we did not know we had!
  • apples
  • beets
  • potatoes
  • komatsuna – a mild asian green
  • Red Russian kale
  • “Vitamin Green” another Spring green
  • Yukina Savoy – if you guessed Spring green, you’d be right.
Come back later in the week for what comes in this week’s Tomato Mountain* CSA box.
spring csa 13-3 b
UPDATE! – That’s the this week’s CSA box.  Hard to imagine it all fit, right.  We got big amounts of various Spring greens, salad turnips that also included greens, and another embarrassment of riches in carrots.  Here’s the close-up:
csa - spring 13-3
Clockwise from the top right: that’s “red rain” mustard greens, picked young; hakurei turnips, with greens; carrots; bok choy; Tokyo bekana; tatsoi.
Menu ideas: I will offer this up, they may be called turnips but their culinary use is more like radishes.  That is it’s hardly necessary to cook the turnips to enjoy them.  They’ll make a good side in Sophia’s lunch, and more than a few will be sliced into salads.  Their greens are edible and would be more edible if we cooked them with some of the local pork jowls we have in our freezer, but that would not be vegan.  Some of the other greens can also be used raw, including the bekana and the red rains, but expect at least some stir fry.
*My wife works for Tomato Mountain.

ANNOUNCING: Seedling Sales at The Talking Farm, Every Weekend Through June 2nd

Posted: April 26, 2013 at 10:11 am

Picture: The Talking Farm

The Talking Farm, a non-profit based in Skokie, is selling local, organic seedlings every weekend between now and June 2nd. The sales are at their Howard Street Farm, 3701 Howard Street, and benefit their agricultural educational programs.

They will have 21 different varieties of cool and warm weather seedlings (plus red, white, yellow, and blue seed potatoes). Warm weather seedling sales will begin on May 11th.

Sales run from 10 am – 2 pm every Saturday between now and June 1st, and on Sunday, April 21st and June 2nd.

Seedling sale days are also volunteer work days, so feel free to come out to the farm and get ready for the 2013 growing season!

This Week’s Harvest of Eat Local Links

Posted: April 26, 2013 at 8:18 am

Use Your Freezer, Locavore Washing and More in this Week’s Harvest


Being timely this week means we’ve reaped a harvest of eat local links twice, but there’s always interesting stuff out there.

Sula calls out locavore washing here.  There are so many more culprits to name.

“What we call fresh in the supermarket is really better termed raw.”   A long time ago, we noted the importance a good freezer was to eating local.   Who knew we’d be ever be favorably quoting ConAgra here to support that idea.

Because all of the produce used in the program comes from farms within a 50-mile radius of Urbana, the program has helped support a piece of the local economy.”  Read about a great food delivery program going on downstate.

Texas may rank last in the Locavore Index, but don’t tell that to the people in Ft. Worth looking to eat local.

Another attempt to knock the feet out from under the locavore table.  See if you find it persuasive (hint, we don’t and the comments take care of some issues).

After all, as the daffodils bloom and the mannequins don spring prints, I’m in a panic for peas and fava beans. But despite misleading “spring menus” all over town, seeds are only just going into the ground, and for real Greenmarketeers, the cupboard’s still pretty bare. Frankly the eating was better in frozen January when my potatoes and carrots were three months fresher.”  Here’s someone who truly understands the cruelty of eating local in April.  She does have an excellent solution, eggs.

Share with us some good reading you’re finding across the Internet.

Did I Know Our Next Sponsor Plum Market? I Did

Posted: April 25, 2013 at 8:40 am

Welcome our Latest Sponsor

My family and I have been eating local for over eight years. What that means to us is that we aim to get as much of our food from an area close to Chicago. We do not restrict ourselves, surely enjoying things from seasonal citrus to necessary coffee, but if it grows here, we only get it from here. Likewise, we make a strong effort to favor local products. Milk, cheese, beer, eggs, chicken all come from local sources. Nearly all our beef, pork and lamb also comes from local farms. Even most of our tofu, on our vegan stint, is local. We also have a rule that says, it’s local where you buy it. So, for instance, when we made pies from the coconuts we foraged in Florida, we were still eating local.

It means that we are always on the look out for good and interesting local foods when we travel. Did I know Plum Market?

As a family that travels for its stomach, Ann Arbor Michigan has been a place we love to visit. It’s not just the tour d’Zingerman (visit 4 Zingerman operations in one day, get a t-shirt). There is the outstanding smoked fish at Tracklements. And as we learned one visit, Plum Market.

I am invariant collector of free publications when on the road. They have served me exceedingly well.* It was in some Ann Arbor newspaper that I found the ad for Plum. In that ad, I learned of their commitment to local food. We went and stocked up on an array of Michigan products, including fruit, pickles and jams. (Remember, it was all local because of where we got it.) We said to ourselves, we’d love a store like this by us. Who knew, a few years later, I’d get an email saying, Plum’s coming to Chicago and would like to advertise on the Local Beet. Yes, I knew them, I said.

You will too. Plum intends to open in Chicago on on Thursday, June 13, with daily hours from 8:00am to 10:00pm. The store is at 1233 N. Wells St. at Division and Wells in Old Town. Guests will have access to free parking. They will be working hard to carry as much local products as possible.   See how they’re doing and tell them you saw their ad on the Local Beet.

*These free publications have been useful for things besides finding good food. Once in Los Angeles, I picked up a Jewish newspaper. In there, I found an ad where Universal Studio invited their Hebrew friends to visit the theme park during the Christmas holiday for 1/2 off. An offer we gladly took.


Support Local Food & Beginning Farmers in the Next Farm Bill!

Posted: April 24, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Act Now! Call Senator Mark Kirk & your U.S. Representative



 Wherever there’s local food, there are farmers feeding communities and creating jobs.  Farmers and ranchers are meeting the skyrocketing demand for fresh, healthy food everywhere – at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and in schools across the nation. At the same time, the farmers and ranchers across the country who feed us are getting older. The average American farmer is now 57! Now is the time to invest in the next generation of folks who want to raise our food and steward the land. They’re going to be job creators, entrepreneurs, and innovators, and you can help them get the tools they need to succeed just by making a phone call.

There are two bills in Congress right now. The Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act – whose inclusion in the 2013 Farm Bill will mean more new farmers in the field, increased income for farmers who produce healthy food for local communities, and more jobs in rural and urban areas across the country. The legislation makes targeted investments in programs that create opportunities for new farmers and support local and regional food production. This is something everyone on both sides of the aisle can get behind - will you make a call today and ask your legislators to co-sponsor these two bills?

Call Senator Mark Kirk & your U.S. Representative now and ask them to co-sponsor both bills!

Senator Mark Kirk: 202-224-2854

Look up your U.S. Representative’s contact information based on your address by clicking here

Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Bill Enyart and Rep. Jan Schakowsky are already co-sponsors, if Rep. Enyart or Rep. Schakowsky are your legislators make a call and thank them for their support. Legislative co-sponsors are vital for the success of these bills. They help move the bills through Congress and ensure pieces of them are included in the next farm bill.

Tell your legislators:  I am a constituent and a voter. (tell ‘em if you’re a farmer!) I support local farmers, want good food in my community, and support investments in the next generation of farmers. Please co-sponsor the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act of 2013 today!

Thanks for speaking out!  Your voice will make a difference!

We Need Beet Reporters

Posted: April 24, 2013 at 11:03 am

Wanted: Market Shoppers, CSA Subscribers, Home Canners, Roadtrippers and Other Lovers of Local Food



We need you. The Local Beet is looking for a variety of correspondents. We need more reports from Chicago area markets, especially from markets less talked about (cough Green City cough). We want to hear of your CSA. Your efforts putting food away. Trips to Madison. Contact us now to be a Beet Reporter.

We are not asking for much. If you just want to send in a weekly picture of what came in your CSA box, we’d be very happy with that. Likewise, your market report does not have to be extensive. Just tell us what you like.  Still concerned about the load; we don’t need you to post on a regular basis.  Do what you can.  It all helps.  We do want to know about new farms. Unusual local products you’re seeing. We believe that eat local is fun and the more we can share how much fun it is, the more people will join us in the never ending eat local challenge.

Note, if you were a Beet Reporter a few years ago, but did not contribute last year, we won’t hold that against you. Anyone who’s participated in the past, we want you back. And we want new ones too. Feel free to leave your information in the comments or better, email me at Rob AT

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The Local Calendar 4/24/13 Pollan in Elmhurst, Pastoral Artisan Producer Fest, One Week Until the Outdoor Markets!

Posted: April 24, 2013 at 10:08 am

                                             The Edible Gardens are open now in Lincoln Park. The Gardens are one of Green City Market’s primary educational outreach programs and consist of over 5000 square feet of beautiful, organically grown vegetables, fruits, herbs, grains and flowers. The gardens offer Chicagoans the opportunity to connect with the process of growing healthy, delicious food. Open & free to the public April: Wednesdays and Saturdays 10am – 1pm May through October: Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays 10am – 1pm. If you are a timid gardener or just getting started trying to grow your own, the Edible Gardens are a great way to get free advice and hands on learning! It is not too late to donate to Green City Market’s Fund Raising Drive, if you donate between now and May 4, Chipotle will match your gift dollar for dollar.

Farmer Vicki of Genesis Growers is getting her onions out and planted. Spring is actually beginning to arrive in Chicago and the markets will only get better from here with local produce! Wondering what is in season? Chief Beet Rob Gardner elaborates on it and gives his advice on how to shop at a farmers market. Our friend Dave Nells of Sharpening By Dave is at the Green City Market and other locations throughout Chicagoland. His schedule is here. If you want to eat local, you need to have sharp knives to prepare all the produce!!  Let Dave know that you read about him in the Local Beet and you will get one dollar off each knife sharpened!!!

Farm dinners are starting earlier this year.  We have listed dinners we are aware of so far, with some of the leading sustainable farmers in the area, Mint Creek FarmPrairie Fruit Farms and Slagel Family Farms. The dinners book up pretty quickly so time to get a-scheduling! We have all the details and dates.

We try to keep up on events but miss some, some sites to check out for further detail on sustainable food/urban ag are the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (get their policy updates here) out of Springfield and the Advocates for Urban Agriculture here in Chicago as well as WeFarmAmerica which has tons of weekly events.  The Peterson Garden Project (Annual Plant Sale & Bake Sale 5/10-5/12) has lots of information for the urban gardener.  Now on to the busy week ahead including the incredible 3rd Annual Pastoral Artisan Producer Festival at the French Market on Saturday with all the  delicious farmstead cheeses to taste and it is FREE!!!


These stores specialize in local foods:

Artisanal Wilmette – 414 Linden Ave. Wilmette

Butcher and Larder 1026 North Milwaukee in Noble Square, Chicago

Dill Pickle Food Co-op – 3039 West Fullerton, Chicago

Edible Alchemy Foods Co-op - Located in the near-SW Pilsen neighborhood, the co-op has grown to five locations in, including Hyde Park, River North, Lakeview, and Logan Square

Green Grocer 1402 West Grand Ave in West Town Watch this fantastic video about GMOs, sourcing local and see what you are missing if you don’t shop at the GG.

Marion Street Cheese Market 100 South Marion St. Oak Park

Provenance Food & Wine - 2 locations Logan Square 2528 N. California Lincoln Square 2312 W. Leland Ave. 4/24 Cheese and Wine Pairing Class in the Barrel Room at City Winery, details here.

Publican Quality Meats – 835 W. Fulton, Chicago

Sauce and Bread Kitchen - 6338-40 N. Clark, Chicago

Standard Market – 333 East Ogden Ave., Westmont Be sure to say hi to Rockstar Butcher Joe Parajecki!!!


Food The Nature of Eating Exhibit continues at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

April 24

Andersonville - C & D Family Farms delivers 4-7pm Ashland at Berywn

Chicago – Wine Wednesdays at Province – Seasonal farm to table 5 course tasting menu with pairings $49 159 North Jefferson A Gold level LEED certified restaurant with 3 stars from the Green Restaurant Association.

Chicago - Cheese and Wine Pairing Class led by Tracy Kellner of Provenance Food and Wine in the Barrel Room at City Winery. 7pm $60 Enjoy an exclusive, intimate evening nestled amidst the barrels in the private Barrel Room. Only 25 seats are available for this cheese and wine pairing event. 5 cheeses and accompaniments are paired with 5 wines.

Chicago - Templeton Rye WhiskyFest Dinner Four courses paired with Templeton Rye cocktails. 7-9pm 950 W. Wrightwood Dinner featuring the expert skills of Barn & Company’s Pitmaster Gary Wiviott. Meet Keith Kerkhoff, Templeton Rye Founder and Recipe holder, and hear family stories from Prohibition. $60 Event flyer Menu available here  This is part of WhiskyFest Chicago Whisky Week

Chicago - Meet the Distiller from Few Spirits at the Bar on Buena Paul Hletko will be co-presenting a seminar at WhiskyFest Chicago. Stop by Bar on Buena to meet Paul and enjoy cocktails.8 – 10 pm FREE admission Bar on Buena 910 W. Buena This is part of WhiskyFest Chicago Whisky Week

April 25

Chicago –   GoodGreens meeting10:00 to 12:00 USDA FNS’ offices on the 20th floor at 77 West Jackson Boulevard. Please contact Alan Shannon Director
 Public Affairs 
Food and Nutrition Service, Midwest Region at if you are interested in attending.  Good Greens Vision Statement Good Greens envisions a city in which all residents have access to affordable, locally grown food and appreciate the importance of good nutrition for themselves, their families and their community.

Chicago – Uptown Market Uptown Farmers’ Market is year round. Every Thursday from 7-1 inside Weiss Memorial Hospital or in the parking lot during the warmer months. 4646 N Marine Drive This is an appropriate day to stock up on Spark of the Heart Soups

New!! Chicago – Live Below The Line Kick-Off and Cook Off- 7:00PM Kitchen Chicago, 324 N Leavitt St Chefs from around the city will join us to participate in a cook-off where they’ll be challenged to serve meals that can be prepared for less than $0.75. Price: $20 ($15 for YAO with code) Your ticket will include admission, one drink ticket, and food tastings from all participating chefs in the cook-off. Check our Facebook Event Page for updates on participating chefs!

Evanston - ”Can Meat be Truly Sustainable?“ NU Sustainable Food Talks 6:00PM – 8:00PM Technological Institute, Room LR4 Northwestern University

Hyde Park - C & D Family Farm delivers 7-11am Harold Washington Park

Lincoln Square – C & D Family Farm delivers 4-7pm Lincoln & Leland

April 26

Chicago - Whiskyfest Sold out but there are a lot of ancillary events around it. Check the calendar.

April 27

The Food Revolution Summit Broadcasting 4/27 – 5/5 Go to link to hear broadcasts

Chicago - Third Annual Pastoral Artisan Producer Festival Chicago French Market Go to the link for tickets, although it is free, there still is a maximum capacity and I think this year they will reach it!!! Meet+eat+shop w/ 90+ culinary producers. GO here for the full press release. It is bigger, butchering demonstrations with Rob Levitt of the Butcher and Larder and Brady Lowe of Cochon 555, artisanal beverages and more!!

Chicago – Recipe for Success Starting & Growing A Food Business in Chicago – Held by the University of Chicago Law School Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship This is free, runs from 9:30am to 3:30pm and you can make reservations here…

Chicago – Green City Market at The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum 8:30- 1pm 2430 North Cannon Drive Last indoor market at the Peggy Notebaert.  Bring your children to Club Sprouts at 9:30 – 10:15am. Chef demonstration 10:30am Evan Rondeau and Helen Cameron of Uncommon Ground Next weekend the market moves outside and south, across from Lincoln, Clark and Wells.

Elgin - Winter Market at Habitat for Humanity ReStore Elgin - 800 North State St. 9am – 3pm (thru May) Their mantra is “Keepin It Local1″ As such, their intention has always been to supply the local community with local products and crafts.

Evanston – Winter Evanston Farmer and Artisan Market at the Ecology Center  9-1pm 2024 McCormick Blvd.  The market will be at this location for the next 5 months, today and every Saturday through April 27, 2013. Spark of the Heart Soups and C & D Family Farms will be there Evanston opens outside next week!

Evanston – TreeKeepers Earth Day events

La Fox – Heritage Prairie Saturday Farmer’s Market  9am – 1pm 2N308 Brundige Road

Skokie- Seedling Sales Start – Howard Street Farm – 10am – 2pm 3701 Howard St. (April 20th – June 1st)  Cool Weather seedlings: spinach, swiss chard, peas, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, collards, seed potatoes Warm Weather seedlings: (beginning May 11th)tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, zucchini, melon, basil, and cilantro

April 28

Chicago - Michael Pollan lecture at Elmhurst College  “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation”

Chicago - Cochon 555 Four Seasons Hotel

April 29

Chicago - Lecture Illinois Science Council – The Science of Eating.  Best selling science writers Mary Roach and Rebecca Skloot will provide a fascinating discussion about Roach’s new book titled Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal Harold Washington Library Center, Pritzker Auditorium 400 S. State Street FREE! Books are available for purchase and the authors will autograph books at the program’s conclusion.

Chicago – Digging Into Urban Ag With Good Chicago –  6-8pm   Uncommon Ground 1401 West Devon  GOOD Chicago, a series of locally-organized events that get the community learning and doing good has it’s  inaugural event today. You will be taking a guided tour of the Uncommon Ground rooftop farm, the first certified organic rooftop farm in the country, and learning about the local agriculture movement from the experts leading the charge. $10

April 30

Chicago – The Stew Supper Club presents a Foraged Feast with Pete Kelly.  7pm - Sauce and Bread Kitchen 6338 N. Clark Pete is a Midwest charcuterie pioneer and foraging expert who works with the Underground Food Collective and Promega. $45


May 1

Chicago - Inaugural “Friends of the Illinois Local Food Farms Jobs Council” planning meeting Wed. May 1 3:00-5:00 pm Thompson Center 100 W Randolph

May 3

Chicago – The Chicago Reader’s Key Ingredient Cook-Off  - Join Chicago’s most celebrated chefs for an evening of exemplary and unusual culinary concoctions at their first annual Key Ingredient Cook-Off. Inspired by the Reader‘s James Beard Award-winning series, the Key Ingredient Cook-Off will see 26 chefs (from the likes of BalenaBlackbirdEl IdeasSproutNellcoteTrenchermen, and more) go head-to-head using one of five ingredients—all originally chosen by chefs participating in our Key Ingredient series. May 3 | 7-10 PM | Bridgeport Art Center | $65-$100

May 4

**** Chicago - Opening Day of the Green City Market in it’s outdoor location – Lincoln Park 7am – 1pm

Chicago - Bull Breakdown Class & Tasting 10am – 1pm Red Meat Market 10am – 1pm Cut, Cook & Carry Toro, Toro, Toro hosted by Centered Chef Studios.

****Evanston – Opening Day of the Downtown Evanston Farmers Market - This market will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every Saturday from May 4 through November 2. Location: Intersection of University Place and Oak Ave. (behind Hilton Garden Inn, east of East Railroad Ave.) In 2013, the market will celebrate its 38th year.

**** Woodstock - Opening Day of the Woodstock Farmers Market Outdoors 9am -12pm

May 5

Chicago – Woo hoo! The Sunday BBW series starts at Publican Quality Meats Carriage House starts it off!!

Oak Park – Austin Gardes Urban Foraging - 4-6PM 167 Forest Ave., Oak Park professional urban forager Nance Klehm will lead an edible plant foraging expedition. David Hammond elaborates on it here on The Beet.

May 7

Chicago - 11th Annual Growing Home Benefit 6pm Salvage One 1840 West Hubbard Chef Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno and Food For Thought Order tickets online here...

May 10,11,12

Chicago - Peterson Garden Project Plant Sale & Bake Sale Fundraiser - 10am – 4pm  Peterson Garden Project Learning Center 4642 N. Francisco Items for sale will include herb and vegetable seedlings, basic gardening supplies, seeds and tasty baked goods from renowned Chicago pastry chefs. There is no cost for admission, and all proceeds benefit Peterson Garden Project learning programs. Peterson Garden Project is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization.

May 11

Chicago - Opening Day of the 61st Farmers Market -  9am – 2pm During the outdoor season, which lasts through the end of October, the Market is located on 61st Street between Dorchester and Blackstone Avenues. The 61st Street Farmers Market accepts LINK and Senior Farmers Market Coupons. We also match LINK purchases up to $25 per cardholder, per market day, as long as funding lasts. This means that LINK cardholders can double the value of their LINK purchases each week at the Market. The Market goes Indoors on: November 2

Morton Grove – Morton Grove Spring Market  Saturdays, 8 am – 12 noon 6210 Dempster St  The summer markets will run every Saturday from 6/8/2013  – 10/19/2013

FD!! Stelle- Mother’s Day Eve and Farm Tour - Mint Creek Farm BYOB $60 3pm Meet-up at The Greenhouse Bed & Breakfast 3606 N. 1700 E. Rd. For more information contact Julie at

May 16-26

Chicago – 10 day celebration Chicago Craft Beer Week

May 16

Chicago - Opening Day of the Daley Center Farmers Market - Market will run May 16th through October 31.

Chicago – A Chef’s Playground - Terzo Piano – At the Art Institute A fundraiser for the Academy for Global Citizenship 6-9pm Purchase tickets here $225

May 17

Chicago - Half Acre Brewery Anniversary Party - Hee hee!! Stay tuned!

May 18

FD!! Champaign - Celebrate Spring! Prairie Fruit Farms 4pm 4410 North Lincoln Ave. This is their first dinner of the 2013 season.  Expect an explosion of spring flavors such as Caveny Farm Katadin lamb, ramps (wild leeks), spring greens, sweet turnips, asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. Purchase tickets here.  $92

Fairbury - Slagel Family Farm First Farm Dinner of the Season! Transportation included from Chicago to the farm and back. $125 BYOB The dinner will be prepared and served by Guest Chef Nicole Pederson of Found Kitchen and Guest Chef John Asbaty of Panozzo’s. Please BYOB, lemonade and water will be provided and of course includes a tour of the farm, butchering class on sustainable meat practices and lots of food!!

***** Oak Park - Opening Day of the Oak Park Farmers Market - The market will run every Saturday through 10/26/13 7am – 1pm Pilgrim Church, right next door to where the market is held, offers fresh warm donuts, juice and coffee, with live bluegrass music nearby. The Oak Park Farmers’ Market is located at 460 Lake St., just one block west of Ridgeland Avenue.

May 20

Chicago – Big Jones Trash Fish Dinner(Grubstreet Chicago) –  Paul Fehribach of Big Jones is joining with Chefs Collaborative, Fortune Fish and Gourmet and nine other chefs to put on a dinner showing how these trash fish— from smelt to dogfish to speckled trout— can be used in a sustainable, tasty meal. Tickets $125

May 25

FD!! Champaign, Il - Prairie Fruit Farms  – Sunday Dinner Club “For their Love of Chicken“ The Sunday Dinner Club Crew is back, and they will be frying up lots of local fried chicken at the farm!  Josh and Christine are joining us early this season, because they are getting ready to open a new restaurant in Chicago, come get a sneak peak of foods from their new venture, “Honey Butter Fried Chicken” $70

June 1

Champaign, Il -  Prairie Fruit Farms - Virant’s Can Can - 4pm What better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than with some fantastic preserves and incredible food! All of this will be brought to you by Paul Virant! A seasoned veteran in the wide world of preserving, pickling, and canning, Paul follows his Perennial Virant philosophy to a tee – “eat what you can – can what you can’t.” $107

June 8

Chicago/Fairbury - Slagel Family Farm Tour & Dinner Event with The Publican! 2:30pm  The dinner will be prepared and served by Guest Chef Brian Huston of The Publican. Please BYOB, lemonade and water will be provided. Bus transportation from Chicago will be provided, when purchasing your ticket please select if you would like that option. The Bus will pick everyone up at 837 W Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607 at 12:00 noon on June 8th. Children are welcome as long as they have parent supervision. $125June 13

Chicago –   Eli’s Cheesecake & Wright College Farmer’s Market Grand Opening Fresh fruits and vegetables from Nichol’s Farm and the Chicago High School of Agricultural Sciences, hand crafts,flowers & more Continental Breakfast Lunch on the grill will be offered each Thursdaybased on what’s in season!

June 15

FD!! Champaign, IL -  Prairie Fruit Farms  City Pub in the Country 4pm Bar Pastoral is a new cheese and wine bistro adjacent to the original Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread, and Wine Shop in Chicago. Chef Chrissy will be showcasing her love of cheese, charcuterie, pickles, and other local ingredients. $107

June 29

Champaign, Il – -  Prairie Fruit Farms Summer Vegetarian 4pm Thad Morrow, chef/owner of Bacaro, Champaign is back for another season. He will be making the trek from Bacaro, in downtown Champaign, across town and out into the country! His SUV will be packed with lots of early summer vegetables. $107


Local Beet’s 2013 Guide to Making the Most of Your Farmer’s Market

Posted: April 24, 2013 at 7:48 am

Farmer’s Market Shopping Guide



Is there anything easier than visiting a farmer’s markets.  Everything looks good.  The sellers are passionate.  So passionate they may talk too much.  Samples abound.  Just bring money, right?

Maybe, but we still think we have several ways to make the most out of your market experience.

  • There are many ways to pay – The general rule for farmer’s markets used to be, bring cash, but you can get by without the green.  Many vendors now take credit cards.  Nearly all farmers will take a check, especially if you make a substantial purchase.  Ask.  In addition many vendors also take charge cards.  Forgetting to go to the ATM is no longer a good excuse.
  • Survey the scene – Some of us buy from every farmer they see.  Most of us want a bit less.  Don’t buy at the first place you see.  Look around.  See who has what.  Why are prices different.  What varieties can you find.  Take a lap before buying.  Farmers love to chat.  Give yourself as much time as possible to work your market.
  • Know what’s in season – Menu plan for what you know will be around that week.  Don’t look for peaches in June and asparagus in August.  Know also the adage, what grows together goes together.  When you go shopping, think complimentary flavors and dishes.  You can stretch that expensive box of heirloom tomatoes by baking them with local plentiful summer squash.   Know also what local food looks like.  A good Michigan peach is much smaller than a supermarket peach.  Also, great local produce is not always as pristine as the grocery store versions.  Remember very much, what’s in season this year is not the same as what was in season last year.  Produce is like the Jewish holidays.  They’re either early or late.  Review the Local Beet for our regularly posted updates on What’s in Season Now for the most current and complete information on what you can find.

  • Wheel and deal – There is no more important piece of advice than this.  Farmer’s rarely want to bring anything home.  He or she that can make that offer for the rest of this, the remaining that, will get the best deal.  In almost all cases, the more you buy, the more you save.  It’s not the Casablanca souk.  You do not bargain down a bag of lettuce from 100 dollars to 50 cents, but as soon as you start buying more than a few of anything you can start wheelin’ and dealin’.
  • Bring your things – They’ll tell you to bring your own reusable market bags.  What about your reusable market containers.  Farmers will love if you can dump their berries or whatnot into your own container.  They’ll love you almost as much if you bring their containers back the next week so they can re-use them.
  • Take the yucky stuffAnother way to get a bargain, take it off their hands.  If you plan on baking or something, do you need pristine fruit.  Many farmers already label “seconds”.  If you don’t see such, ask.
  • Will it store – Something else really important to ask, keepability.  Some apples will last you all year.  Some are soft by next Tuesday.  Ask.  Same goes for onions or potatoes.  Farmers will also give you good tips on how to store your purchases.
  • Wait – Another way to save money.  Did you rush in and buy the first tomatoes.  Grown indoors just for you.  And north of $4/lb too.  Or did you wait a bit for normal tomato season.  Bet you did not spend as much.  OK, that’s easy.  The other thing to think about is produce not something like several weeks (if not months) away, but something maybe just a week a way.  In other words, the first time something hits the market, it is often a lot more expensive than it will be when it has been around for a few weeks.  Get your peas next week.  Moreover, by the end of the season, an item may be even cheaper.  If you make strawberry jam, try to wait as long as possible to get the best price.
  • A complete eat local diet – Remember, farmer’s markets are not just for fruits and vegetables.  Around the Chicago area you can find pastured pork, grass-fed beef.  How ’bout spicy elk sticks, that too.  Butter, cheese, yogurt and more from the dairy aisles can be had.  Nuts for nuts, you can find ‘em local at the right time of year.  Each year, we’re seeing more stuff at markets, from great sauces to Chicago made tofu; markets are not just for produce.
  • Peak around - Looking for local eggs?  Many farmers bring eggs to the market without the necessary licenses.  They just might be willing to lend you a dozen or sell you the cartons.  Who knows what else you may find when you look deeper.
  • Find the bargain – Do you need the fanciest tomato.  Need potatoes, heirloom fingerlings?   Granted, those heirlooms are always worth the money, but sometimes something not quite as good is still pretty darn good.  Most of the slicers you find at half the price, will still hit the spot when they are farm fresh.  Remember that variety is good but you don’t always have to get the most expensive fruit or vegetable.  Save with the ordinary.
  • Use LINK – Do you know that many Chicago markets accept LINK.  In addition, LINK is accepted at suburban markets too, including Oak Park and Evanston.  There’s a chance that LINK will be accepted at your market, so ask.
  • Time your market – There are a few things to think about when it comes to market timing.  First, what time does your market actually get going?  We know a few markets that start selling before their official start time.  When do you need to get there to get what you need.  Second, when do your farmers run out of food.  Just because your market closes at noon, means you can go shopping at 1145.  On the other hand, want to bargain as noted above, getting there late usually gives you the best chance.
  • A cooler couldn’t hurt – A few vegetables purchased, asparagus, sweet peas, can benefit from staying cool right away.  What if you want to buy meat, cheese, milk.  As we noted above, your market may offer more than fruit and veg.  Do you have a way to carry it home.
  • Make a friend – Like we say, you probably won’t buy from everyone.  And there’s a lot of good reasons to buy from one or two people.  Cultivate a relationship with a vendor you like by favoring them with your purchases.  In turn, you may get better deals and access to limited availability items.  They may even decide to grow something just because you asked.
  • Pay what it’s worth – We’ve given you several ideas for saving money, but know, at times, you have to pay what it’s worth.  Do you want organic?  Many markets give you choices between growing practices.  You have to expect to pay more for organic.  Want an early season tomato. Pay.  Interested in Illinois artichokes.  Pay.
  • Find the right market for you - A lot of people think we have too many markets in the Chicago area.  That may be true, but it surely means you have options. There’re all different.  Who sells what you want. Who grows the way you want.  What time works for you.  In addition, there are all sorts of great markets within a short drive of Chicago.  All it takes is a little roamin’ to find all sorts of new things.
  • Use your senses – Who has the best cherries at your market.  Figure it out. No one’s gonna call the cops if you pinch one cherry.  Moreover, most farmer’s will offer you samples when asked.  Also, taste with all your senses.  Does it smell like you want to buy it.  Feel ripe (within reason!).  This is one of the reasons we’re not shopping at Trader Joe’s with all the stuff guarded by plastic.
  • Know you need it – Write your market shopping list in pencil so you can erase and adjust.  No basil for your pesto recipe.  Maybe arugula (rocket) will do.
  • Know you don’t need it – One of the greatest joys of market shopping is returning home with all you did not need.  Why not to wreck up a cardoon.  Maybe this is the year to make damson plum jam.  Won’t know if you love lovage until you try it.

Please share your own market tips with us.

UPDATED! Menu Monday Was Meatless Monday as They’re Keeping Me Vegan

Posted: April 23, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Eat Local Vegan

UPDATED BELOW – Huge haul in our CSA box this week of Spring greens.  See pic.  Expect stir fry.

A lot of families participate in Meatless Mondays, having a weekly vegetarian dinner.  They return to the table on Tuesday, Wednesday and beyond with chicken, fish or maybe a nice juicy steak.  Not myself and the rest of the Local Family.  It was meat-less on Monday, sandwiches of local portabella mushrooms and Tomato Mountain* red rain mustard greens, sided with carrot-chickpea salad.  It was no different from such recent non-Monday meals as the “big salad” with tofu pictured; tacos with sauteed spinach and refried Breslin Farms black beans, and, well it’s escaping me, yet I imagine it had tofu or beans.  Honestly, it’s a lot of tofu or beans being vegan.  They lured me in when the tofu was wonderfully hidden within chocolate mousse.  Since then, it’s been very front and central.  The only saving grace.  Between the high quality local ingredients and the careful cooking of the Condiment Queen, it’s all tasting very good.  Is it that hard being vegan?

That was the question my daughter wanted to know.  She agreed to challenge herself to veganism the way George Plimpton challenged himself to attend Detroit Lion’s training camp.  It might not be easy, but it would make a good story.  In my daughter’s case, it was for the TV show she produces.  Originally, the piece called for one week of plant based eating.  She felt that too wan.  A month she would do.  In sympathy, my wife declared she would too.  In reality, this way of eating brought my wife directly back in time; maybe not to days when she only at raw, but certainly to happy times of sprout and seeds.  Yes, she’s that kinda woman.  And she did go to Antioch.  Three weeks in, they’re quite content.  There are no signs of veganism abating in the Local Family.  At best, when April is over, they want to go to some system where they will allow animal substance over the weekend and then get back to the vegetables during the week.  They both claim weight loss already, and they both also claim increased vim and vigor on the V.

I’ll tell you one thing you quickly learn about veganism.  It’s hard.  The difference between veganism and vegetarianism is almost as vast as the difference between vegetarianism and eating meat.  Think about it.  Not just the burgers; the vegans forsake cheese, eggs, and milk and other dairy products.  That’s a lot of satisfying potential meals left off the table (in my book).  The daughter actually misses cheese more than meat.  My wife ate a lot of eggs before but is not minding the lack of dairy.  Me, I shave cheese on my greens.  I put feta on my plate at lunch.  I escaped once for a gyros sandwich at Mickey’s in Oak Park only to be confounded by utter dreck.  Anyone want to ship me a salami.

Looking ahead, the advanced word is that the CSA this week will contain Asian greens and even more carrots.  I may never look at carrots as a luxury item again.  I expect at least one stir fry.  There is also supposed to be vegan chili for my daughter’s birthday, but don’t worry about the latter.  I plan on making my own too.

Last week we feared the end of onions, a worry short-lived.  Going into this week, we have a bunch of vegetables already roasted, as Tamar would do as well as the same old bunch of end of season produce:

  • carrots
  • turnips – 2 kinds
  • radishes – only a few watermelon left
  • spinach
  • mustard greens – a bit left
  • onions -very few left
  • garlic
  • Leeks – found some we did not know we had!
  • apples
  • beets
  • potatoes


UPDATE: Here’s what came in our CSA this week:


Clockwise from the carrots it’s  Komatsuna; Red Russian kale; ”Vitamin Green” (hey, thank the seed company not Tomato Mountain for the names); Spinach (how banal, I know); Yukina Savoy, and (even stranger) carrots.

What’s local on your menu this week?

*Disclosure: My wife works for Tomato Mountain.

Just Give Me That Countryside Farm Dinner Calendar For 2013

Posted: April 22, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Farm dinners are starting earlier this year.  They serve as a mini-vacation, a getaway from the city, a chance to connect with the land and nature, catchup with friends and make new ones. They literally bring the table to the farm. We have listed dinners we are aware of so far, with some of the leading sustainable farmers in the area, Heritage Prairie FarmMint Creek FarmPrairie Fruit Farms and Slagel Family Farms. The dinners book up pretty quickly so time to get a-scheduling, spring is here!!! This list is still in formation. Farm dinners do tend to pop up as well as one off events for charities or organizations. This calendar will be updated continually and let us know if you would like a dinner to be put on the calendar!!!

Below are basic descriptions of the farms and their formats, the calendar follows:

Heritage Prairie Farm – Farm Dinners at Heritage Prairie Farm have been a Chicago tradition since 2007. Their farm kitchen delights in tailoring menus to highlight the best of the season’s fresh flavors. Gather with friends or come and meet other like-minded farm foodies in the Chicago area. HPF has been a popular venue for “local” weddings.

Mint Creek Farm - All meet-up at The Greenouse Bed & Breakfast just down the road from Mint Creek. Dinners are BYOB and include a farm tour. Mint Creek is known for their sheep but ask Farmer & Poet Harry Carr to recite one of his poems.  Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. See the 3 minute short film on Farmer Harry Carr by Storybuzzmedia here.

Outstanding In The Field - National farm dinner tour, has set the bar for farm dinners with their connected tables of white table cloths and stemware.

Prairie Fruit Farms -Champaign, IL The Prairie Fruit site describes the chef, theme and menu. Here is a brief description of what to expect. Reservations can be made on the Showclix site, only 40 seats available per dinner and only 4 tickets can be purchased per person, the price incudes tax, tip not included BYOB. Prairie Fruit is known for their goats and cheeses but they ,also, make some killer gelato! Prairie Fruits is now offering breakfast on the farm every Saturday from 9am to 12pm, no reservations required. You can visit with the goats, buy farm products, tour the farm, see some of the other farmers in the area. So if you don’t have time for a dinner, this is a fantastic way to start the day, particularly with kids!

Slagel Family Farms - The Slagel Family has teamed up with some well known Chicago chefs who have supported farm to table food for a long time. For each of these dinners, transportation is included in the price from Chicago to the farm, and its BYOB. Slagel pork among their other meats has been a sought after menu item at some of the top restaurants in Chicago and Farmer Louis John Slagel has been a leader in sustainable farming. The afternoon will begin with a butchering demo at Slagel Family Meats. They will demonstrate how to butcher either a beef, pork or lamb carcass into retail cuts. LouisJohn will then give a farm tour of his family livestock farm. Guests will see a variety of livestock and learn about the old fashioned production practices the Slagel’s use to produce their farm fresh meat products. Following the butchering demo and farm tour, a farm dinner will be served family style in a new barn right next to the livestock pastures.

Cleetus Friedman – Cleetus was one of the people who raised the profile of farm dinners with his biodiesel bus rides with craft beers on the way to the dinner. With the closing of City Provisions Deli, Cleetus has not stopped his farm dinners. Once we have Cleetus’ complete schedule we will update this piece, so stay tuned!!!

Farm Stays

Kinnikinnick Farm – Feather Down Farm Days – I had the pleasure of working for Farmer David Cleverdon last year as a market hand. Kinnikinnick does not offer farm dinners but they are a part of the international network, Feather Down Farm Vacations that chooses some of the most gorgeous farm locations in the United States for farm stays. You can book a weekend stay at Kinnikinnick, with your own farm tent! Your tent will be fully stocked with everything you need upon your arrival. I experienced first hand how meticulous he and his wife were about choosing the heirloom tomatoes to bring to the market so I am sure they take the same attention to the food and lodgings for their farm stays!

Farm Dinners 2013

April 20

Elburn – Honey Farm Dinner - Heritage Prairie Farm- .Farm Dinners at Heritage Prairie Farm have been a Chicago tradition since 2007. Our Farm Kitchen delights in tailoring menus to highlight the best of the season’s fresh flavors. Gather with friends or come and meet other like-minded farm foodies in the Chicago area. Ticket $75 including tax and gratuity

April 21

Stelle - Mint Creek Farm Sunday Brunch & Farm Tour 11am Meet-up at The Greenhouse Bed & Breakfast  3606 N 1700 E Rd. $50 For more information contact Julie at There will be plenty of time to visit all the animals living on the 200+ acre farm including cows, chickens, pigs, sheep and goats.  Be sure to dress appropriately for the weather. See the 3 minute short film on Farmer Harry Carr by Storybuzzmedia here. (Sold out)

May 11

Stelle- Mother’s Day Eve and Farm Tour - Mint Creek Farm BYOB $60 3pm Meet-up at The Greenhouse Bed & Breakfast 3606 N. 1700 E. Rd. For more information contact Julie at

May 12

Elburn – Mother’s Day Brunch Heritage Prairie Farm $55 including tax and gratuity Children 2-12 pay their age, 2 under free

May 18

Champaign - Celebrate Spring! Prairie Fruit Farms 4pm 4410 North Lincoln Ave. This is their first dinner of the 2013 season.  Expect an explosion of spring flavors such as Caveny Farm Katadin lamb, ramps (wild leeks), spring greens, sweet turnips, asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. Purchase tickets here.  $92

Chicago/ Fairbury - Slagel Family Farm Tour & Dinner Event with Found Kitchen & Panozzo’s. 2:30pm The dinner will be prepared and served by Guest Chef Nicole Pederson of Found Kitchen and Guest Chef John Asbaty of Panozzo’s. Please BYOB, lemonade and water will be provided. Bus transportation to and from the farm will be provided, when purchasing your ticket please select if you would like that option and which location, Found Kitchen or Pannozzo’s, you would like to be picked up at. The Bus will pick up those of you at Found Kitchen 1631 Chicago Avenue Evanston, IL at 11:30 a.m. and those of you at Panozzo’s 1303 S Michigan Ave Chicago, IL will be picked up at 12:00 noon on May 18th. Children are welcome as long as they have parent supervision included from Chicago to the farm and back. $125

May 25

Champaign, Il - Prairie Fruit Farms  – Sunday Dinner Club “For their Love of Chicken“ The Sunday Dinner Club Crew is back, and they will be frying up lots of local fried chicken at the farm!  Josh and Christine are joining us early this season, because they are getting ready to open a new restaurant in Chicago, come get a sneak peak of foods from their new venture, “Honey Butter Fried Chicken” $70

June 1

Champaign, Il -  Prairie Fruit Farms - Virant’s Can Can - 4pm What better way to celebrate the beginning of summer than with some fantastic preserves and incredible food! All of this will be brought to you by Paul Virant! A seasoned veteran in the wide world of preserving, pickling, and canning, Paul follows his Perennial Virant philosophy to a tee – “eat what you can – can what you can’t.” $107

June 6

Elburn – Pig Gig Heritage Prairie Farm Check their website for further details

June 8

Chicago/Fairbury - Slagel Family Farm Tour & Dinner Event with The Publican! 2:30pm  The dinner will be prepared and served by Guest Chef Brian Huston of The Publican. Please BYOB, lemonade and water will be provided. Bus transportation from Chicago will be provided, when purchasing your ticket please select if you would like that option. The Bus will pick everyone up at 837 W Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607 at 12:00 noon on June 8th. Children are welcome as long as they have parent supervision. $125

July 11

Elburn - Tapas Dinner Heritage Prairie Farm Details not available yet.

July 13

Champaign –  Big Grove TavernLocal Comfort Farm” We would like to welcome the newest Farm-to-Table restaurant in Champaign, to our farm table.  Chef Jessica will be featuring produce, meats, and farms from around central Illinois.  She brings the slow food movement from San Francisco to our farm in the Midwest.  Her classic, comforting take on local fare will be sure to delight! Tickets not for sale yet

July 17

Glencoe – Chicago Botanic Garden Farm Dinners - Enjoy spectacular meals prepared with locally grown ingredients by local chefs. Diners will also be joined by farmers and makers of wine, beer and spirits.

July 20

Chicago/Fairbury - Slagel Family Farm Tour & Dinner with Paul Virant from Vie/Perennial Virant The dinner will be prepared and served by Guest Chef Paul Virant of Vie/Perennial Virant. Please BYOB, lemonade and water will be provided. Bus transportation to and from the farm will be provided, when purchasing your ticket please select if you would like that option. The Bus will pick everyone up at 4471 Lawn Ave #100 Western Springs, IL 60558 at 12:15 p.m. on July 20th. Children are welcome as long as they have parent supervision.

July 27

Champaign - Prairie Fruits Farm  - “Greek Feast” Summer vegetables just have a way of lending themselves to Mediterranean cuisine.  This year we will be serving up a feast including bison moussaka, prawns, feta, and more.   We hope you can join us when we bring a little bit of Greece to the farm for a Greek feast…OPA! Tickets not for sale yet check their website.

August 4 

Mineral Point, WI - Outstanding In The Field - National farm dinner tour, has set the bar for farm dinners with their connected tables of white table cloths and stemware. Shooting Star Farms, Chef Tory Miller  L’Etoile, & Graze, Madison

August 5

 Oak Creek, WI - Outstanding In The Field Pinehold Gardens Chef Dan Van Rite  Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub, Milwaukee

August 7

 Chicago - Outstanding In The Field  City Farm Chicago Chef Jared Wentworth  Longman & Eagle

August 8

Elburn - Bubbles & Veggie Dinner Heritage Prairie Farm Check their website for further details

St. Josephs, MI - Outstanding In The Field Mick Klug Farms  Chef Brian Huston  The Publican

August 10

Champaign -Prairie Fruits Farm Jared Van Camp “Downstate Reunion”We are thrilled to have Danville native, Jared van Camp, cook for us again this season!  He is taking time from his very busy schedule to return to his roots and slow things down with us at the farm.  His restaurants in Chicago, Old Town Social and Nellcote, are famous throughout the windy city.  With his “obsessively house made” foods, he has been featured in Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, among others. His charcuterie is the cat’s meow (and the dog’s bark)Tickets not for sale yet check their website.

Chicago/Fairbury –  Slagel Family Farm Tour & Dinner Event with Lula Cafe 2:30pm   The dinner will be prepared and served by Guest Chef Jason Hammel of Lula Cafe. Please BYOB, lemonade and water will be provided. Bus transportation from Chicago will be provided, when purchasing your ticket please select if you would like that option. The Bus will pick everyone up at 2537 N Kedzie Blvd Chicago, IL 60647 at 12:00 noon on August 10th. Children are welcome as long as they have parent supervision. $125

South Haven, MI - Outstanding In The Field - 4pm Seedling Farm,  Chef Stephanie Izard  Girl & the Goat $200

August 14

Glencoe - Chicago Botanic Garden Farm Dinners - Enjoy spectacular meals prepared with locally grown ingredients by local chefs. Diners will also be joined by farmers and makers of wine, beer and spirits.

August 24

Champaign – Prairie Fruits Farm“Fiesta Mexicana”Our Mexican fiesta on the farm is back this year, and we plan to offer up a “spicy” menu reflecting the diverse cuisines of Mexico.  We’ll lean on our secret Mexican “manos” to lend a special hand to this ecclectic menu.  All of the dishes will be prepared using local and sustainably raised ingredients.

September 5

Elburn - Heirloom Dinner Heritage Prairie Farm Check their website for further details

September 11

Glencoe - Chicago Botanic Garden Farm Dinners - Enjoy spectacular meals prepared with locally grown ingredients by local chefs. Diners will also be joined by farmers and makers of wine, beer and spirits.

September 14

Chicago/Fairbury – 2:30pm   Slagel Family Farm Tour & Dinner Event with Three Aces, The Bedford & Carriage House The dinner will be prepared and served by Guest Matt Troost of Three Aces, Chef Michael Galen of The Bedford and Mark Steuer of Carriage House. Please BYOB, lemonade and water will be provided. Bus transportation from Chicago will be provided, when purchasing your ticket please select if you would like that option. The Bus will pick everyone up at 1321 W Taylor St  Chicago, IL 60607 at 12:00 noon on September 14th. Children are welcome as long as they have parent supervision. $125

September 21

Champaign – Prairie Fruits Farm“Food Flashback to 2008″  Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd have nothing on us, because we are going back to the future!   We are re-creating one of the first meals ever served at the farm.  A flashback to where it all began five seasons ago!  Many things have changed around the farm throughout the past few years, but this dinner will not be one of them!   Red currant glazed chicken will once again be the star of the show!  So, start up your DeLorean and join us for a blast from the past.

October 3

Elburn - Farm Roots DinnerHeritage Prairie Farm – Check their website or call for further details.

October 26

Champaign - Prairie Fruits Farm –  The 100 Yard Dinner or “The Whey to Raise a Pig” You’ve probably heard about the 100 mile diet – attempting to eat foods sourced within 100 miles of your home.  Well, it is our tradition to feed you a sumptuous “extreme local” meal featuring foods grown or raised within 100 yards of where you will dine.  This year’s menu will feature a hog raised on the whey from our cheese making process.

November 7

Elburn – Big Night Dinner and a Movie Heritage Prairie Farm Check their website for further detail



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Grand Rapids Will Emphasize Local Foods With New Year-Round Market

Posted: April 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Photo courtesy of Downtown Market

The possibilities of eating local in West Michigan will get about 130,000 square feet better. Grand Rapids, about three hours from Chicago and a frequent stop on local brewery and food explorations in Michigan, is building an indoor/outdoor, year-round, seven-days-a-week market. Opening this summer, Downtown Market will emphasize local foods with an outdoor farmer’s market that will operate three days a week, and an indoor, year-round marketplace that will feature local food retailers, a commercial kitchen that will be an incubator for local food businesses, a rooftop greenhouse garden, a bakery, brewery, sit-down restaurant, and a hands-on teaching kitchen for kids. With a few exceptions for specialty products, the market will offer Michigan food.

When it’s finished, it will be the first LEED-certified market in the country. Even though it’s natural to compare this market to other year-round markets in the country, Mimi Fritz, the President/CEO of Downtown Market, said that it will be unlike any other market: 

“You will find markets around the country that have some/various aspects of what we have, but none of them have it all in one place. North Market in Columbus is probably closest to ours in [terms of the number] of indoor vendors, however, their outdoor market is only one day a week and ours is three. They have a demo/banquet room, but do not have a greenhouse, kid’s kitchen, incubator kitchen, restaurants, brewery, commercial office space, and are not LEED certified.”

Even though Grand Rapids already has a farmer’s market, the Fulton Street Market, Fritz said that Downtown Market will be “chock full of fresh local foods”, and will not have any arts and crafts products (which are currently allowed at the Fulton Street Market). Further demonstrating its commitment to local foods, Downtown Market’s Food and Farmers Advisory Committee includes farmers such as Casey Visser of Visser Farms, Karey Robinette of Robinette’s Orchards and Charles Ham of Ham Family Farm, among many others.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Market

The idea of the market took on reality in early 2009, when Grand Action, a privately-funded nonprofit that developed other major projects in Grand Rapids, commissioned a feasibility study by Market Ventures, Inc., a Portland, Maine-based urban planning and economic development firm that focuses on food-based projects. It concluded that Michigan’s abundant farm production, consumer demand and community could support a year-round market. By showcasing the farms and dairies that operate just outside the perimeter of the city, Grand Rapids hopes to capitalize on its unique food system that has enjoyed a steady tradition of growing and producing local foods. Even though Downtown Market is focusing on small-scale, micro-local producers, even mid-scale food producers in the area show some resistance to the infectious trend that has national companies scratching out regional brands through bankruptcy and buyouts. (For example, greater Grand Rapids is home to Hudsonville Ice Cream, a nearby mid-scale local ice cream producer that has been making ice cream since 1926, and The Koeze Company, which has been making Cream-Nut-brand peanut butter in Grand Rapids for over 80 years using vintage machinery.)

These grand plans were enough to grab the attention of the New York Times, which dedicated a lengthy feature on it last year, and wrote that the development of Downtown Market is a sign of West Michigan’s economic vitality, foothold in the local food movement, and arrival as a cultural destination.

Retailers are still signing on; most notably, Shelby Kilmer, the former, longtime baker at artisanal powerhouse Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, will open a bakery, Field & Fire. Other shops joining the market are Simpatico Coffee, a fair-trade and sustainable coffee roaster based in nearby Holland, Love’s, a hand-crafted, boutique ice cream-maker, Aperitivo, a wine and cheese bar, Old World Olive Press, an olive oil purveyor, and a gourmet kettle corn shop. Fritz said that they are close to announcing the name of the brewery, and says that it’s an established brewery with a “new concept in brewing.” Aperitivo, which will operate a retail cheese shop as well as a wine bar, is working with local creameries such as Dancing Goat Creamery in Byron Center, Evergreen Lane in Fennville, and Zingerman’s from Ann Arbor.

By working with businesses that offer locally-produced and grown products, Fritz believes that the market is more sustainable by reducing the transportation needs for food (and thereby reducing their carbon footprint). Also, all vendors are required to participate in the Market’s recycling program, which includes composting and feeding food waste to animals.

The farmer’s market will open May 4, and operate from 8 am to 1 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and 4 to 7 pm on Thursdays.

Photo courtesy of Downtown Market

The Slightly Over Weekly Harvest of Eat Local Links

Posted: April 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm

We swore we’d get the Weekly Harvest done within a week, but then on Friday we, like a lot of people, got enraptured by the unfolding events in Watertown.  If you spent a lot of your spare time last week on the Marathon bombings and other non-eat local news, you missed some key articles.

For instance, sceptical of the value of organic foods, well, ask the fruit flies.  (Note, while we’re highly sympathetic to the results of middle school experiments that support our worldview, we also remember the brief fame of another student who supposedly found the math error that all climate change scientists reportedly missed–turns out they had not.)

Local Calendar savant, Jeannie B, has a great link on why your organic should also be local.

We firmly believe that supper clubs are a vital element to local eating.

Our hero, Bittman, previews the new book from another hero, Pollan.  He sums up Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation in a few sentences, “When you cook, you choose the ingredients: “And you’re going to use higher-quality ingredients than whoever’s making your home-meal replacement would ever use. You’re not going to use additives. So the quality of the food will automatically be better.”

Should we fear the “Food Police?”  We found this ostensible review that takes on the “elite that does not like what you eat.”  They have issues with organic food; concerns over GMOs, locavorism (vogueish!); fat taxes and soda bans; fixing school lunch programs, and problems with industrial agriculture.  A core element of the arguments, sadly appears to be “we’re being fed a bunch of lies by the left-wing “holier than thou art” foodie elite who think they know exactly what we should grow, cook and eat.”  We understand that people can disagree on fundamental political questions, but it’s a real disservice to the good food movement to dismiss it this way.

And on cue, someone takes a lash to the backlash.  In this case, Sarah Elton, with a brand new book called Consumed: Sustainable Food for a Finite Planet.  A review note how she battles critics of eating local:

Elton’s answer, though, amounts to an ardent re-articulation of the best of the best that is out there. She chronicles individual cases of small-scale organic agriculture successes around the world that manage to preserve bio-diversity and sustainability, then relates them to existing scholarly agricultural research. The book is designed to make it more difficult for the vocal critics of local food to seize on some of the weaker aspects of locavorism, such as the notoriously easily-critiqued “food miles” that were easily thrown into question for failing to take into account any environmental factors other than distance.

Emily gave us her re-cap of the April Chicago Food Swap here.  Another swapping report from the sustainablyqueer blog can be found here.

Edible Plant Foraging in Austin Gardens May 5, 4-6PM

Posted: April 22, 2013 at 10:31 am

She likes urban foraging, courtesy Nancy Klehm

On May 5, from 4-6PM, in Austin Gardens (167 Forest Ave., Oak Park) professional urban forager Nance Klehm will lead an edible plant foraging expedition.

“At this time of year, what are you going to be able to find that’s growing and edible,” I wondered aloud to Klehm.

“Lots of stuff,” she assured me.

For over 20 years, Klehm has designed landscapes, taught ecological systems and built collaborative food systems. She has also lead public urban forage walks in many major cities in the U.S. and abroad, including Chicago, Portland, NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Montreal, and Mexico City,.

Klehm was named an Utne Visionary of 2012 for her urban foraging.

The planned urban forage in Austin Gardens will be an informal walk through spontaneous and cultivated vegetation.  “Along the walk,” Klehm explains, “we’ll learn to identify plants and hear their botanical histories and stories of their use by animals and humans. We’ll also share stories about our own experiences with these plants.”

The Austin urban forage begins with an herbal beverage and ends with an herbal food shared over discussion of our experience and a Q&A session.

The cost for this urban forage is $10 for children 6-12 and $20 for those 13 and above. If you want to see how much there already is to eat in Austin Gardens, meet me, Klehm and others at the park entrance, 167 Forest, at 4PM on May 5.

Are You a Local Family – You Need to Be Counted Thursday, April 18th, 2013
Tim Burton’s Rampathon Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Local Calendar 4/17/13 Ramps For Sale Sightings, 2 Weeks Until the Outdoor Markets! Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
UPDATED! – Last of the Onions on Menu Monday Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
Why Preserve Food at Home? Tuesday, April 16th, 2013
We’ll Have a CSA Box Next Week, Will You? Friday, April 12th, 2013
UPDATED! – The Locavore Index and Other Eat Local Links – The Weekly Harvest Thursday, April 11th, 2013
Local Calendar 4/10/13 Ramps Are In The Air, GastroConference This Weekend at UChicago Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
What’s In Season Now Belongs to the Resourceful Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Recap of the April Chicago Food Swap Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
Local Food & Sustainable Agriculture Policy Updates from Our Friends at the Illinois Stewardship Alliance Monday, April 8th, 2013
Clearing Out the Cellars this Menu Monday Monday, April 8th, 2013
Some Take an Eat Local Challenge in April and Other Great Links in the Weekly Harvest Friday, April 5th, 2013
GE Labeling Debate Heats Up In Illinois: Monsanto Corporate Profile Released Friday, April 5th, 2013
Good and Bad Advice From David Tanis Thursday, April 4th, 2013
The Local Calendar 4/3/13 Awaiting The Spring Harvest And A Full Weekend of Fete Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013
What’s Not on My Menu Monday – Ramps, etc. Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
Insert Joke Here – RECYCLED Monday, April 1st, 2013
Introducing the 2013 CSA Guide: What’s New, What’s Old in Community-Supported Agriculture Monday, April 1st, 2013