Vie’s Sponsoring the Local Calendar at the Local Beet
The Local Beet is Pleased to Announce its Newest Sponsor
Many years ago, before the Local Beet was a good pun waiting to happen, I was explaining my idea of eating local, which entailed putting food away for the colder months, to Joel Smith, Regional Governor for Slow Food USA. Smith said I had to see this place in Western Springs. Paul Virant, formerly of Blackbird, had opened a place called Vie. At Vie, Virant had his own canning room filled with product set aside for year-round local eating. I got myself a reservation for dinner, had a great meal, and wormed my way into a post meal tour of the kitchen and canning room. Thus began a long relation with Vie and Paul. (See my old blog for some examples of our relationship.)
In the years subsequent, I’ve have the good fortune to enjoy great meals at Vie. When we got the rather miraculous news that my daughter could forsake her scoliosis back-brace many years earlier than expected, we celebrated at Vie. I’ve also have the good fortune to spend much time in the back of the house; getting canning demo’s, seeing a steer butchered, participating in an interview for WBEZ and more. I hit the road with Paul and a few others for a tour of the Ball Jar labs and factory in Minnestra, Indiana.
I have great admiration for the food Vie produces, but I have even more admiration for Paul and what he’s done with Vie. Talk a bit with Paul, and he’ll tell you that many of his fondest childhood memories involve food. He can tell you about family traditions of baking pies and sourdough bread interspersed with weekly visits to the local smokehouse and farmers market. He foraged for mushrooms with his siblings, preserved fruits and pickled vegetables with his grandmothers and visited local wineries with his parents. These experiences have driven Paul, as a chef, to use the highest-quality, best ingredients for every component at his place.
For Vie, the highest quality comes forms three facets to his approach. First, as much as any local chef, Paul has worked with local farmers to supply nearly every ingredient he needs. When it’s an ingredient not available in the Midwest, such as citrus or hearts of palm, he’s found equivalent farmer “as if local.” Vie’s commitment to local foods lasts year round; you will find as much local in January as in June. This, of course, brings up the second facet, and maybe the thing Paul’s most renown for these days, his use of preserved ingredients. Going back to those early days, Paul was canning to ensure he had his high quality ingredients all the time, but over time, the use of preserved ingredients as components to his dishes became one of signatures. Thus, you’ll find pickles, relishes, jams, and more on the menu in June as much as in January. Finally, Vie has been doing for years, what is expected these days. They break down whole animals, using all parts; making sausages and charcuterie in house. They bake their own bread, smoke their own meats. Paul calls what he does, “seasonal contemporary American cuisine, strongly influenced by Western European cultures and rustic fare.” Probably, but to me, it’s always been the Joy of Cooking come to life the way he combines a consummate sense of cooking as well as an appreciation for classics–e.g., his current menu features cassoulet, gnocchi, a burger, and spanakopita. It’s all we respect and clamor for at the Local Beet.
And now we can proudly say, Vie’s a sponsor too. For the next month, Vie will be sponsoring the Local Calendar that is diligently and expertly done each week by Jeannie Boutelle. I believe the Local Calendar is our signature piece on the Local Beet, and I believe that Jeannie does an amazing job with it each week, highlighting events, farmer’s markets, dinners, workshops and much more. Vie’s sponsorship of the Local Calendar and the Local Beet recognizes their respect and admiration for what we’re doing here. It’s been a great relationship since first hearing about that canning room many years ago.