The Food Guy: Chicago Caterer Dishes Up Food Fresh From the Garden

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An outdoor cocktail reception isn't anything new.

But consider the location – tucked amid the industrial warehouses of the near West Side, close to a rail line. This is Big Delicious Planet – a catering business that bought the land next door then decided to build a garden. Well, several of them.

“So we started doing this urban farm dinner series about seven years ago and it’s every Wednesday in the summer. Everyone’s really surprised when they come here,” said owner Heidi Coudal.

That’s partly due to the setting, but also the mission: to let the garden dictate the menu.

“Tonight’s menu includes 28 varieties of our vegetables, herbs and edible flowers,” she said.

That begins with passed appetizers and cocktails.

“Some of our oregano in our mixed cocktail.”

At dinner – which looks like a cover story in a country living magazine – dinner usually begins with a salad. On this night, beets and hearty greens take center stage.

“Three different varieties of beets, dinosaur kale, burrata and some of our herbs,” said Coudal.

The rest of the meal is served family style. Grouper over a bed of braised greens; lamb that utilizes an overgrown herb.

“The lamb chops have our fresh mint, which we have a ton of. We’re doing a kohlrabi and carrot fritter. Roasted carrots on a bed of beluga lentils with a yogurt sauce,” she said.

The plates are as colorful as a Monet painting. A gorgeous reminder of the textures, colors and aromas of summer, which, unfortunately, are fleeting in the Midwest.

“I mean we’re harvesting stuff like the morning of the event so it’s a lot of fun. We have a full-time farm manager here who has planted all of this and maintains it all by himself.”

Dinners are every Wednesday through the end of September. Reservations are required.

Here's where you can go:

Big Delicious Planet

412 N. Wolcott Ave.


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