UPDATED! – We Won’t Be Having This Conversation Next Spring – Local Foods Coming Soon
UPDATE! In our anxiousness to pine over the local food store coming from Local Foods, we neglected to mention that Local Foods is more than a locavore grocery in the making. For two years, they have been finding and gathering farm items to distribute to professional kitchens and also other retailers. You can read about the launch and vision of the enterprise in this Chicago Reader piece. I bring this up not (just) to show their bona fides. Rather, to help make a point I’ve been making all week. That Spring is what’s in season now.
The folks at Local Foods shared with me their current availability list. What they are offering to chefs, institutions, etc. who wants to back up their “we support local farmers and artisans” with actual food from local farmers and artisans. It’s a very impressive list, showing how NOT hard it is to use local this time of year. The list include a range of storage crops with two colors of beets, two colors of turnips and three colors of radishes. There’s burdock, and sunchokes, and celery roots to finally put on your menu. If that seems old to you, there’s all sorts of greens: kale in regular, baby and Tuscan; lettuce, spinach, and rocket (or as they call it, arugula). That’s not getting into all the sprouts, micro-greens, and pea-tendrils you to play with. And there’s already spring onions and five kinds of herbs to pick up your palate. You cannot hold out with all of this?
Great Catch Phrase Taken
In yesterday’s diatribe, I argued that one could no longer justify their need for non-local asparagus with the argument, there were no places in the Chicago area to find local food in the Spring. I listed some outlets and I made reference to this list of eat local resources. I did not mention Local Foods, forthcoming near Elston and North Avenu, because, well, they’re forthcoming. When they do open, their mission is to serve only locally sourced meat, dairy, produce and dry goods. They will be another Spring savior. My friend and fellow chowhound MikeG got into the blooming Local Foods’ space a few weeks before me. Hence, he beat me to the very apt description, “Eataly of Eating Local.” Not only did we both pick up on the enormity of the place and the enormity of their ambitions. We both marveled at the refrigeration spaces.
When the Local Foods checks n’ balances guy, Ryan Kimura, brought me into the cold store areas, he demurred, “not as big as …” naming a major produce wholesaler in the Chicago area. Ok, maybe not that big, but they were big. That’s two coolers above. I tried, probably not very well, to show their capacity. Gebert quoted Chef Jared van Camp, on making use of the freezers to produce products year-round. That produce could be frozen at peak season and be used as needed in the months to follow. Mike did not mention where I would go, and as Ryan confirmed, it would be part of their arsenal for serving the needs of year-round local eating. There was a hope that they could build up supplies of roots, potatoes, and other storage crops and release them as needed. It would be just the outlet needed. Having plenty of local stuff to sell in the Spring.
Having tons of capacity to store food was just one way Local Foods planned on meeting the need for local food this time next year. Ryan mentioned that they were developing a relationship with an area company called MightyVine, who would supply high quality indoor grown tomatoes in the lean months. The Local Foods web site highlights another vendor, Greens & Gills, who will be growing micro-greens and related products inside, in Chicago, adding to the year-round inventory. Ryan also noted there would be good supplies of meat and eggs, saying how it was all about managing our expectations over what we could have this time of year. Of course, he also whipped mine up.
See, Local Foods has brought in Abra Berens to run their kitchen. Ms. Berens has one of those most interesting eat local biographies possible, ranging from Ballymaloe Cookery School, in Ireland, to Beet sponsor Vie, to her own farm in Northern Michigan. Yes, she knows what’s in season when. That’s not what has me most stoked. Ryan talked up Abra’s foraging skills and ability to work with all the land has to offer. It was hoped that some of those attributes would lend themselves to the Spring time crops, the nettles and shoots (I at least) long for on area menus.
With the Eataly of local eating coming soon, we might not be having these little piss-offs next Spring. The resources and pizzaz that Ryan and his partners, David Rand and Andrew Lutsey, are putting into this venture might be just the thing to shut me up. I mean, go get your out of place asparagus and artichokes, I’m getting another place to meet my seasonal needs.