“Farm to table” dining may have become commonplace on Chicago’s restaurant menus. But Chef Paul Virant was in the vanguard of the movement just 13 years when he opened Vie restaurant in the suburb of Western Springs. And he is all about giving back to the community. Within a recent three-day span, Paul did a cooking demo with the Gardeneers audience for schoolchildren in Englewood, then was the honoree for Angelic Organics Learning Center at their annual dinner.
Pilot Light is the chef-driven program that helps Chicago Public Schools integrate food and nutrition education into their students’ overall curriculum. And the nonprofit organization is prepping for its biggest expansion yet, adding eight schools to its lineup for a total of 14 around the city of Chicago.
We at FamilyFarmed conduct most of our work to build a better food system from our base in the city of Chicago. So we relish the opportunities to get into the country and visit the farmers who are the heart and soul of the Good Food movement — such as our trip Monday (July 24) to two of our woman-farmer friends in Pecatonica, a farm town 100 miles to the west with a whole lot of progressive thinking about Good Food growing.
So much amazing food and drink. That’s the simplest way to describe the 2017 Green City Market Chef BBQ, the annual fundraiser for Chicago’s premier farmers market, which brought together a world-class lineup of the city’s farm to table restaurants, along with many of the city’s leading craft breweries and distilleries. It might be indulgent if the only purpose of this event was a ginormous outdoor feast. But the money raised by Green City Market at the event goes toward its social mission programs, which include double bucks for shoppers using SNAP/LINK food assistance dollars, a satellite market in the underserved Bronzeville community every Wednesday through the growing season, and a broadening palette of food education programs.
Jen Rosenthal is one of the most talented urban farmers in Chicago. Now if she could only find a piece of land of her own to continue and expand her Chicago urban farming career.
We at FamilyFarmed obviously are big advocates of cooking healthy, delicious meals at home (preferably from fresh ingredients produced by local farmers and food processors, of course). But for many busy and overcommitted people today, cooking seems too complicated and time-consuming. To which we suggest this two-word solution: roasted vegetables.
As a longtime friend of Chicago’s Green City Market, we had been waiting with anticipation for its inaugural evening farmers market at famed Wrigley Field on Thursday (June 15). We are happy to report that the market was everything we expected and more — with the new Park at Wrigley, located right next to the Chicago Cubs’ home field and the team’s new office building, proved a perfect setting on a bright, sunny, hot day. Enjoy this photo essay.
Most of what we do at FamilyFarmed, and most of what we write about on Good Food on Every Table, is pretty high-minded, focused on our efforts to build a better food system. This FamilyFarmed At Play article — about a boozy fruit salad — isn’t quite so lofty. But we can virtually guarantee that it will make your summer eating (and picnicking) better.
If the mezcal tasting event hosted Wednesday (June 7) by Rick and Deann Bayless proved anything, it is that their Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed love to party around Good Food and artisan beverages. The party — at the Frontera group’s Cruz Blanca on Restaurant Row in Chicago’s West Loop — was a sequel to the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration, held April 30 at The Art Institute of Chicago. That fundraiser produced (at latest tally) more than $140,000 in proceeds to be split evenly by Family Farmed and Frontera Farmer Foundation, to advance their efforts to help farmers and businesses build a better food system.
FamilyFarmed is a natural ally for star singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, an environmentalist and supporter of sustainable food. We also are benefitting from the financial generosity of his All At Once Network, which matches donations to dozens of non-profit organizations. But FamilyFarmed learned that Jack Johnson is generous with something extra — his time — when we attended his June 2 concert at Chicago’s Huntington Bank Pavilion to participate in the “Village Green” with other local non-profits.
Red is a very fashionable color at Chicago-area farmers market in late spring. The explosion of brilliant colors as the growing season approaches its peak makes visiting your local farmers market an amazing aesthetic experience — a true thing of beauty.
It is alway a joyous day when FamilyFarmed gets to visit a school garden that gives children the tools to learn how to grow food and other plants. The Kitchen Community nonprofit installed a new garden at Wendell Smith Elementary on Chicago’s far South Side May 30, and the enthusiasm of the children who helped in the planting was infectious. But the trip was even more rewarding, because a $2 million donation to The Kitchen Community from Wells Fargo Bank was announced at a ceremony at the end of the installation
We at FamilyFarmed are proud of all of the written content that we have provided on Good Food on Every Table. But people have been asking us, “Why don’t you do videos? People love videos!” So in the spirit of giving the people what they want, we present “Bob Goes To The Farmers Market,” the premiere of our FamilyFarmed At Play video series.
Visiting Growing Home’s urban farm would be a great field trip for FamilyFarmed wherever it was located. But Growing Home’s location, at 5814 S. Wood Street, and the social mission that it entails is what makes this nonprofit organization truly amazing: It is in the heart of West Englewood, a neighborhood of about 35,000 residents — nearly all African American — that has suffered from decades of job and population loss, economic decline and high crime rates.
Any list of hot commodities in Chicago would have to include the Chicago Cubs, who last year won baseball’s World Series for the first time in 108 years; a world-renowned restaurant community driven largely by chefs who believe in Good Food movement principles and community engagement; and a craft beer scene that has boomed just within the past few years. So it wasn’t a coincidence that the first major event held at The Park at Wrigley — the new event space and community asset built by the team owners right next to historic 103-year-old Wrigley Field — was called Craft and Cuisine.
The organizers who produced the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration took a bit of a gamble by preceding the highly anticipated, chef-driven tasting event with a Good Food Forum. Given that most in the audience were anxious to eat, drink and be merry, the hour-long symposium could have be a buzzkill. But the enlightening, engaging and passionate discussion among five Good Food activists and leaders, deftly moderated by Peter Sagal of NPR’s popular program “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” turned out to be a perfect set-up for the food and frivolity that followed.
When you are throwing a big party, the usual measure of success is whether all good time was had by all. By that standard, the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration — marking three decades of Chicago Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill — was a dazzling success. But the event also was a fundraiser for Rick’s Frontera Farmer Foundation and FamilyFarmed… and that also was a success.
The people who attended the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday (April 30) — to help accelerate the Good Food movement — hopefully will always remember the evening they spent in what we called the Culinary All-Star Food Court. So as our thank you note, we present a photo essay of all of the participating chefs, with links to the chef profile series that Good Food on Every Table published in recent weeks.
Chef Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo — which brought fine-dining regional Mexican cuisine to Chicago in 1989 — won the James Beard Foundation 2017 Outstanding Restaurant Award at the organization’s annual ceremony, held Monday night at his hometown’s Lyric Opera House. The award, which Rick received with wife-business partner Deann Bayless sharing the podium, came just one day after the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration at The Art Institute of Chicago.
Spending time with leading Good Food business executives — at a gorgeous suburban Chicago home or a yacht cruise on Lake Michigan — sounds like reason enough to bid on two of the headline prizes in the Frontera 30th Anniversary Celebration’s online silent auction. But if you have Good Food business interests and want to learn more about this fast-growing sector that is building a better food system for America, how can you pass up the opportunity to learn from (while partying with) three giants of the Good Food industry: Bill Weiland of Presence Marketing, Brandon Barnholt of KeHe Distributors, and Tony Olson of SPINS, the leading data analyst for the natural and organic products industry.