The word “restaurant” is derived from the French verb “restaurer”, which means, “to restore”. And, indeed, rather than a fleeting fad, sustainability within the food industry has been a growing movement and Chicago’s food industry has continued to innovate and incubate in this direction.
Chicago’s extreme and unpredictable weather continually makes headlines, but regardless, food lovers still need to satisfy their taste buds. So it’s only natural that just southwest of the city in Bedford Park is America’s largest indoor organic farm, called FarmedHere. Through innovative vertical farming, the 90,000-square-foot facility was turned into a near 3.5-acre growing paradise accessible all year round. Since 2013 the farm has been specialising in nutritious greens and herbs, which are distributed to numerous grocery store chains, shops and available to order online across Chicagoland (the Chicago metropolitan area).
Try (and buy) their products at the charming Publican Quality Meats (http://publicanqualitymeats.com/ ). By day, a butcher shop, neighbourhood café, bakery and gourmet market in Chicago’s trendy meatpacking district. By night, it becomes a private dining room. The menu is highly seasonal, and thus ever-changing, making it a unique experience every time.
The Plant is a preeminent social-enterprise incubator located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the Southside. Geared towards indoor agriculture, the building has been converted for the non-profit group to provide spaces for other tenants producing within their sustainability ethos.
One of their innovative agriculture approaches is aquaponics – a variation on hydroponics (when plants are grown in water rather than soil). The Plant’s sustainable ethos is embraced by its other green-minded tenants including The Salty Prawn (http://www.thesaltyprawn.com/), who raise crustaceans in a near-zero exchange, bio-floc saltwater system, and Fruiting Mushroom, whose farms sprout delicious fungi in the facility. Try their delicious mushrooms (amongst other super fresh produce) at The Cottage on Dixie (http://www.thecottageondixie.com/index.html) whose brunch, dinner and cocktail menus all celebrate farm to table dining.
A pioneer when it was launched in 1998 by Chicago Tribune columnist and cookbook author Abby Mandel, this market (http://www.greencitymarket.org/) now boasts some of the freshest produce and greenest delights to be found in the city, and holds the title as one of the top ten best farmer’s markets in the country. After visiting some of Europe’s premiere markets where farmers have always sold their freshest and best, Mandel was inspired to bring a similar experience to Chicago. Starting out in a small alley next to the Chicago Theatre, the market has since expanded into a permanent fixture.
From May to October, the market can be found in the city’s North Side neighborhood Lincoln Park, where they also operate a 5,000-square-foot teaching garden in the adjacent Lincoln Park Zoo (http://www.lpzoo.org/). They also recently launched another location on the West Side in the Fulton Market District (open from June to October). During the winter it moves indoors to the nearby Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum which is worth a visit in its own right (http://www.naturemuseum.org/).
With a mission to celebrate the exquisite and creative culinary possibilities of sustainable food, this project (http://www.midnightkitchenprojects.com/) is a joint collaboration between chef Giuseppe Catanzariti and creative director Sonia Yoon. Catanzariti has a strong culinary pedigree, with formative training in his parents’ home kitchen and the family restaurant, where he perfected recipes from Calabria in Southern Italy. He then progressed to become executive chef at much-loved Italian spot Pane Caldo (http://www.panecaldo.us/), and then at rustic-inspired Francesca’s Forno (now closed). Yoon’s background is in marketing, development and graphic design. Their collaboration began while the two were housemates, pondering what to pour their passion into next. During the early morning hours when they were both home, they bonded in the kitchen creating and designing new dishes and presentations using locally sourced and organic produce. Soon enough, they yearned to share this experience with others so they began hosting ticketed events. Past projects include a sustainable dish created in response to a series of photographs, and a six-course tasting menu.