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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Taste of the Nation Chicago

I do 90% of my grocery shopping at the Green City Market. I enjoy walking around tasting every blueberry before I purchase the sweetest. I know that in the grand scheme of things, I’m lucky in my eating habits: I have no other mouths to feed, I can afford to pay market prices, and my schedule allows time to cook instead of relying on whatever’s near and quick. Many aren't so fortunate: 1 in 4 families in the Chicago area live below the poverty line, and more than 12 millions kids in the US have limited access to the nutritious foods that are so important for healthy development.

Last Thursday evening I attended Taste of the Nation- Share Our Strength's traveling fundraiser which brings together top culinary talent at over 45 events across the US and Canada. Chicago’s event, held at the Ravenswood Billboard Factory was chaired by Pastry Chef Mindy Segal and benefited the Chicago Greater Food Depository, Illinois Hunger Coalition, and Near North Health Service Corporation.

The event spanned a food pyramid of three floors. The first floor was an expanse of food & booze. The second- Cheese & Desserts (aka Sugar Coma Floor), and the third, well, more fine fine drinks. What a world.

The highlights:

Bistro Campagne’s duck confit with Klug Farms peach compote, Hot Chocolate’s braised goat & corn chowder, and Sola's miso cod with spicy greens, radishes, and a crispy slice of lotus root.

As far as drink options go, Adam Segar’s raspberry negroni was right up my alley. (And I can’t wait to head to Nacional 27 to sample the ground cherry cocktail he described.) And I always enjoy the Goose Island beer and culinary pairings.

Hoosier Mama had cherry pie on a stick (who knew?!) and there were the most euphoric little chocolate desserts from Sofitel. Della Gosset of Charlie Trotter's nougat ice cream with honey comb, raspberries, and fresh sage- was an experience onto itself.

An unbelievable experience, though its a bit strange to focus on hunger through indulgence. But the reality is that the culinary world is really the driving force of change - especially here in the the chicago area. I volunteer with Common Threads, a non-profit founded by Art Smith focusing on teaching lower income kids about food and cooking. These kind of programs help to bridge the gap between a $100 a head indulgent benefit dinner and working with organizations who make change happen where the rubber meets the road.

By Kyle

Friday, August 14, 2009

Upcoming Local Food Events

Slow Food Eat-In at Daley Plaza:
Wednesday, August 26th

The Eat-In, on Wed. August 26th at Daley Plaza from 11AM to 1PM, is a free, fun, and inspiring rally in Daley Plaza in Chicago. Join us in supporting the change toward a more effective reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. Bring you own lunch or visit one of our participating providers to pick up your Slow lunch and join the table with: Chicago’s own Bill Kurtis and Commissioner Mary Ellen Caron, city and state legislators, local farmers & purveyors, and partner organizations.

Contact your legislator & sign the petition.


Purple Asparagus' Annual Benefit:
Sunday, August 30th

Slow Food Chicago's First Annual Pig Extravaganza:
Sunday, August 30th

Slow Food Chicago and Goose Island Brewery are teaming up for our first Pig Extravaganza, a fundraiser for Slow Food Chicago.

Join the party on Sunday, August 30th from 3-7pm.

Five celebrity chefs including Mike Sheerin and Paul Kahan of Blackbird and Publican will prepare delicious local pork and local produce. A vegetarian entrée by Uncommon Ground will be made with harvest from their organic rooftop garden. Goose Island craft beer and craft sodas are included. There will be tours of the brewery and music too!

Goose Island Brewery is located at 1800 W Fulton . Tickets are $55 per person and are available at

Join the volunteer committee. You'll have a lot of fun and receive free admission!!!

Contact us at

Friday, September 4th

7-10 pm

Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

2430 N Cannon Dr

Chicago, Illinois 60614

For $25, you'll indulge in some truly extraordinary and some never-before-tasted ice cream creations. It promises to be a Labor Day weekend that's sure to take the cake.

• Grand tasting of amazing and rare ice creams

• Live demonstrations & workshops

• The Great Chicago Brain Freeze - a delicious chef competition where you get the chance to vote for the winners and taste the results.

Grab a spoon and bring your bowl mate!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Outstanding in the Field- City Farm 2009


With the amazing stretch of summer we’ve been having lately, I was excited to have a wonderfully enticing reason to spend the evening outside eating amazing food. There were so many compelling pieces to last week’s Outstanding in the Field dinner.


First, the location: City Farm, situated in rapidly changing Cabrini Green, is just under an acre of urban agricultural wonderfulness. The view of the Chicago skyline through the 1000 shoulder high tomato plants (of 30 heirloom varieties) is an interesting juxtaposition – with bunnies scattering about and an apiary in the middle. City Farmers Tim and Joe led us around the farm telling stories of bee gatherings in front of the nearby Starbucks as well as fun facts like the average distance our food travels--1500 miles.


The hosts: Jim Denevan, founder, and Katie Oursler, Event Coordinator, have been traveling across the country hosting Outstanding in the Field since 2004. The dinners showcase farmers and their wares paired with awesome culinary talent – giving equal billing to the farmer as the chef, an attempt to elevate the farmer as a cultural figure.

The food: Hot Chocolate’s Mindy Segal and her chef Mark Steuer slaved away to bring the 170+ diners a culinary delight of dishes all served family style and placed on the trademark long white clothed table – quite elegant in fact. Everything was mouthwateringly good. The end of the night found me pretending to be part of the waitstaff so I could swipe another table’s remaining pecan pie.

And of course, the ingredients: Mindy made an early morning run to Green City Market while vendors packed the trunk of her taxi overflowing with farm fresh ingredients. Loading the Blue Marble heavy cream into the back (I moonlight as a Blue Marble sales gal), I enjoyed the full circle experience of providing ingredients in the morning and enjoying them that evening.


The drink: As always, there were options apleanty. Death’s Door Spirits were pouring two cocktails – a vodka cobbler with local blueberries and a whiskey smash. Three Floyds was on hand with their brewmaster Barnaby. Piece poured the first beer of the meal, and finally, wine from Black Star Farms, a northern Michigan producer (We hear this is the next big wine region- a weekend road trip is already in the works).


If you can afford the ticket ($200 a pop), I recommend checking out one of the OITF dinners. At a minimum, visit the website ( and fantasize about being Jim, life on the road, eating all those extraordinary meals.

By Kyle

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The Dishes & Dirt blog explores some of what Chicago has to offer when it comes to eating delicious sustainable food and supporting our local food economy.