I’ve just returned from a whistlestop tour of Chicago. The main purpose of my trip, was to collect a iBAM award which I was indeed very honoured to receive. I was warmly welcomed by the hospitable Irish Chicagon’s. I also managed to check out the food, urban farm and gardening scene.
On the very first evening I had a delicious dinner at The Gage, a sister restaurant of Acanto both owned by the Lawless family (now Chicago restaurant ‘royalty’) originally from Rahoon in Co Galway.
Charismatic Irish restaurateur, Ferdia Doherty gave me a glowing introduction. His Farmhouse Tavern is the quintessential ‘farm to table’ restaurant and he is justifiably proud of his sustainable sourcing, all produce comes from the four surrounding states Indiana, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Local sourcing has of course been gaining momentum for over a decade but it has reached a crescendo. Every chef I talked to waxed lyrical about creating ‘farmer friendships’. The Lincoln Park Market on Saturday morning is not to be missed, packed with Autumn produce, freshly pressed apple cider, wild mushrooms, hand made cheese and charcuterie, loved Underground Meats from Madison. There in the midst of it all, was Jared Batson, a past 12 Week student turning out the most delicious sourdough pizza from this mobile wood-burning oven. He also makes woodfired omelettes and scrambled eggs. Not surprisingly there was an interminable queue. His pizza toppings reflect what’s in season and on the surrounding market stalls. I tasted also a couple of his house-made sodas. I particularly loved a pizza with tomato n’duja and soppresatta with Hungarian wax chilli, with drizzled Serrano honey. Another with watercress pesto, black walnut, bacon lardons, mozzarella and shaved fresh apple slices was equally delicious. People sat around in the park listening to drumming with the children.
I was also intrigued a brilliant initiative called Little Sprouts aimed at the children who come to the market with their parents. Each week they have a new vegetable for them to taste. Kale, romanesco, carrot, spinach…the kids love the fun and get credit for being ‘super tasters’. There are colouring books, little prizes and competitions, they learn about the seasons. Invariably the child meets the farmer and asks the parents to buy the vegetables so the stall holders also benefit – a neat idea that could become part of all our farmers market over here. People on ford stamps are also able to get double value when they spend them at the Farmers Market, another terrific idea.
Like so many restaurants nowadays, Girl and the Goat concentrates on small dishes to share, the cool waiters wore black t-shirts with punchy one liners.
Goat You!. What happens at the Goat stays at the Goat!…..
Dinner starts early in Chicago, by 4.35 the restaurant was packed. Stephaniezard’s food Igard’s is multi ethnic but she loves goat and ‘pigs face’. There’s now a Little Goat Diner – a chef to watch.
I also loved Abraham Conlon’s Macan/Portuguese food at Fat Rice on West Diversey Avenue. We had a memorable brunch at Dove’s Luncheonette on Damen Avenue – oyster omelette with tomato confit and chihuahua cheese with a Texas toast – big toast – ½-1 inch thick!
For those more obsessed by architecture than food, Chicago is a fantastic town, don’t miss the river architecture tour with a running commentary on the awe inspiring ‘sky scrapers’ – some of the country’s most iconic buildings, Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Burnham, Louis Sullivan, Frank Gehry……
Make time to wander through Millennium Park to see The Bean, the Cloud Gate and Lurie Garden. And certainly don’t miss the Chicago Art Museum – voted the best in the US and deservedly so, then there’s the urban farms and gardens, the brilliant new Local Foods Store and Will Allen’s food revolution at Growing Power – the worst thing about Chicago is having to tear yourself away – to be continued…..
Discovering Tapas, a half day course at the Ballymaloe Cookery School on Wednesday November 18th. In one afternoon we have choosen our favourite tapas – classic tortilla a la patata, pata negra, salt cod bunuelos with aioli, pimento de pardon, bunuelos con chrozio y queso, garbanzada……to name a few. Light lunch included.
www.cookingisfun.ie for further information.
Pop Up Dinner at the Ballymaloe Cookery – Jared Batson, from Nomad in Chicago will host a Pop Up dinner on Wednesday November 11th to support the East Cork Slow Food Educational Project.
Aperitif, delicious nibbles, three course dinner..
Tickets €50 for Non Slow Food members and €45 for Slow
firstname.lastname@example.org for bookings
Join us in the Ballymaloe Grainstore on Thursday 12th November at 7.30pm for a Riedel comparative wine tasting event with Maximilian Riedel, an 11th generation Riedel glass making family, for his first ever event to be held outside of Dublin. http://www.ballymaloegrainstore.com/portfolio/riedel-glass-comparative-wine-tasting-event
Mary Jo’s Tomato Upside Down Cake
adapted from Paul Bertolli
My friend Mary Jo cooked up a luncheon feast during my recent visit to Chicago including this delicious and unusual dessert made from ripe tomatoes.
300 ml (½ pint) Tomato Jam, see below
75 g (3 oz) butter
75 g (3 oz) brown or dark brown sugar
1-2 firm ripe tomatoes (heirloom if possible), peeled and sliced ¼ inch)
plus a few cherry tomatoes for the gaps
150 g (5 oz/1 cup) white flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
110 g (4 oz/ 1stick) butter, room temperature
110 g (3 ½ oz/½ cup) sugar
2 eggs, large
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk, if batter is too thick to spread
Line a lightly buttered round 23 cm/9-inch cake pan with parchment.
Preheat oven to 180°C/350F/gas mark 4
Melt the butter and brown sugar in saucepan. Pour into prepared cake pan spreading evenly. Arrange the tomato slices snugly in a single layer over the firm sugar base, filling in gaps if necessary. Spread a thin layer of tomato jam over slices.
Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each. Add the vanilla extract. Blend in the sieved dry ingredients; add a little milk if needed. Dollop the batter around prepared pan and spread evenly over tomatoes. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until firm in the centre. Remove the cake from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Loosen edges and reverse cake, unmolding onto a plate while still warm. Remove the parchment and carefully spread a glazing layer of remaining Tomato Jam over tomatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.
Makes 300 ml/½ pint jar.
350 g (12 oz) golden cherry tomatoes or other tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely chopped, thinly sliced lemon (seeds removed)
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger
150 g (5 oz) sugar (brown, white or mixture)
Put all ingredients into a stainless steel saucepan cook quickly to a thick jam. Sieve to remove seeds.
Another gem of a recipe from Mary Jo McMillan’s table – her son David’s favourite cookie recipe and may well be your soon. I even brought some home in my picnic on the plane.
Makes 18 large cookies or 5-6 dozen babies.
110 g (4 oz/1 stick) butter softened
75 g (3 oz/scant ½ cup) caster sugar
75 g (3 oz/½ cup) soft brown sugar
20 g (3/4 oz/1 tablespoon) honey
3 tablespoons water
75 g (3 oz/½ cup plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ oz wheat germ (1 tablespoon)
160 g (5½ oz/2 cups) rolled oats, preferably old-fashioned
75 g (3 oz/½ cup) chocolate chips
110 g (4 oz/generous ¾ cup) raisins
50 g (2 oz/½ cup) chopped walnuts or pecans
Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in egg and gradually beat in water.
Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda together. Stir into the creamed mixture with the wheatgerm, add the oats, chocolate chips, raisins and nuts.
For large cookies scoop dough with 2-oz. ice-cream dipper, and place 8 cookies on 8-by-14-inch lightly greased or greased parchment-lined baking sheet. For baby David’s, drop cookies by teaspoon. Using a fork dipped in water, flatten cookies to 1/2-inch thickness. Large cookies should be at least 3 inches across.
Ferdia Doherty’s Autumnal Salad from Farmhouse Restaurant in Chicago
– put this name on your Chicago list
150 g (6 ozs/2 cups) shaved raw brussels’s sprouts
150 g (6 ozs/2 cups chiffonod black kale
330 g (11 ozs/2 cups) roasted butternut squash
110 g (4oz/1 cup) ocal lue cheese
2 shaved tart apples
50 g (2oz) toasted black quinoa
50 g (2oz) puffed wild rice
35 g (1½ oz) raw apple cider vinaigrette (see recipe)
18 sea salt crispy kale chips (to garnish)
Prepare all raw ingredients and combine together in a large mixing bowl. Toss with the apple cider vinaigrette and garnish with the fresh made kale chips. Enjoy!
Raw Apple Cider Vinaigrette
(Yield Approximately 1 Cup)
1/2 shallot, finely diced
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon roasted garlic
1 teaspoon fresh picked thyme
110 ml (4 fl ozs/½ cup extra virgin olive oil
110 ml (4 fl ozs/½ cup) raw apple cider vinegar
110 ml (4 fl ozs/½ cup) wildflower honey
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
salt to taste
Combine all ingredients except for the olive oil. Whisk in olive oil slowly to emulsify. Season to taste. Enjoy!
Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris’ Pumpkin Salad with “Three Sisters Garden” Baby Kale and Goat Cheese
Makes 4 Salads
A small baking pumpkin – butternut or delicata squash. The method below works on any variety of squash.
2 tablespoons local honey
2 tablespoons butter – softened
baby kale ( 1 large handful, stems trimmed or removed)
1 pepper, thinly sliced, no seeds
20 very thin slices of Soppressata – Italian salami – toss in a pan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sauté till warm, about 1 minute
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoon fresh goat cheese
For the Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon local honey
1 teaspoon of olive oil
Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F/gas mark 5.
Peel the pumpkin, cut in half and remove the seeds. Cut into ¼ inch thick wedges and cut in half again, creating 16 wedges (you may have extra pumpkin left over.) Toss the wedges in olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the pumpkin out on a baking pan. Roast for 15- 20 minutes or until tender – when the wedges begin to caramelize and they are golden brown. Remove from the oven. Mix the 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of butter together. Coat the hot wedges and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Next make the vinaigrette. Whisk together in the order of the listed ingredients.
Divide the pumpkin up onto 4 plates. Toss the baby kale and peppers in the vinaigrette. (depending on the variety and texture of the kale you can allow the kale to sit in the vinaigrette for 5 – 10 minutes before serving. The vinaigrette “cooks” the kale and tenderizes it.) Then spread it out over the pumpkin wedges, top each salad with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, 5 slices of soppressata, and a tablespoon of fresh goat cheese. Drizzle with any remaining juices from the pumpkin baking dish.