Unless you've been living under a fast food-only rock, you've heard that the farm-to-table movement is the biggest thing in dining since celebrity chefs. Loads of Chicago restaurants and bars are embracing the back-to-basics concept, partnering with Midwestern farms to bring us city slickers the best of the season. Several upcoming events will showcase summer's bounty right here in the Windy City.
Carnivale chef Mark Mendez introduced his monthly "Farm to Table" menu series back in May, which highlights in-season ingredients from Midwestern farms served at their peak. This month, the star is seedling fruit from Three Sisters Farm in South Haven, Michigan. From today, Monday, July 20 through Sunday, July 26, Mendez will offer a soup (seedling melon, habanero and mint, with lobster and marcona almonds, $10), salad (pea shoots, shallots, raspberries, goat cheese and mango-mustard vinaigrette, $9), entree (a traditional "feijoada" with pork shoulder, chorizo, black beans and collard greens, $25) and dessert (cheesecake with raspberries, $7) featuring tasty summer fruits and vegetables. In addition, Mendez cooks up a weekly "Farmer's Market Lunch" every Thursday after visiting the Green City Market on Wednesdays. The three-course, prix-fixe menu ($19) offers the week's very best produce served in an appetizer or salad, entree and fruit dessert.
It's not just fruit that you can find locally. KDK Restaurants (Gioco and Opera in the South Loop and Red Light and Marche in the West Loop) presents its "Localvore Summer Dinner Series," which in July means a menu at Gioco featuring pork from La Quercia Farms in Norwalk, Iowa. Gioco executive chef Danny Sweiss will prepare a four-course meal ($42) featuring carpaccio coppa with local bitter greens and black olive sauce ($8), orecchiette pasta with cured pork jowl in a pecorino cream sauce ($12), walleye pike served with salad in an heirloom tomato vinaigrette ($14), and tesa-wrapped pork belly with Indiana sweet corn and apples ($14). All of the dishes are also available a la carte. The La Quercia Farms dinner will be available from Monday, July 20 through Sunday, July 26.
If you'd rather drink the goodies of summer, check out Nacional 27's "Farm-to-Bar" cocktail class on Thursday, July 23. The restaurant maintains a custom plot of land at Harvest Moon Farms, an organic farming operation in Viroqua, Wisconsin. During the cocktail class, Nacional 27 bar chef Adam Seger will discuss this innovative partnership, while also teaching guests how to make his specialty "Mojitonico" and "Ground Cherry Caipiroshka" concoctions using organic produce and spirits. The "Farm-to-Bar" cocktail class will be held from 5:30-6:30PM and costs $20 per person.