Farmhouse Chicago Showcases Local Cuisine
This summer Taste Tester #1 and I had a goal to be more supportive of the local food producers by trying to cook with as many local foods as we could. Nearly every Saturday we made the trip to the farmer’s market to pick up fruits, veggies and other fun items we could use to cook with for the week. I had heard about how Farmhouse Chicago operated their entire restaurant with this same goal. I was very excited when they reached out to me about attending a dinner made from all local foods. Farmhouse really proved fresher is better! The five course meal featured not only local food, but also Midwestern beer and cider pairings to complement each course. One thing I loved about Farmhouse was that in addition to supporting local farms in the Midwest, the ingredients for the cider come from their own farm, Brown Dog Farm, which has over 140 apple, cider apple, pear, peach and cherry trees. In addition to local food, their dining room (tables, chairs, bar, etc.) is made from repurposed materials from other Chicago area bars and restaurants.
Before each course Executive Chef Eric Mansavage came out and explained where the ingredients in his dishes originated, noting that many of the microgreens had even come from Farmhouse’s rooftop garden. I always feel like a meal can be appreciated more when you know where it comes from.
Our first course was Chef Mansavage’s take on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sweet and savory at the same time, this delectable two-bite dish featured Ellis Family Farms’ green grapes, Swan Creek pork belly, nut butter, blue mustard seeds, and chilies from Farmhouse's rooftop garden. I love the unique texture mustard seeds add to a dish and their tiny pops of sourness balanced out the richness of the pork belly. This dish was paired with the Free Priscilla, one of the ciders made from apples specifically grown for cider at Brown Dog. The flavor was surprisingly dry, almost like a white wine, and paired well with the natural sweetness in the dish.
Our second course was a soup course; chilled melon soup poured over a summer bread salad, with spiced yogurt, crispy bits of nduja (typically a spicy spreadable pork sausage from Italy), and mint. The soup was paired with an easy drinking 3 Floyds Calumet Queen Kolsch which while flavorful didn’t overwhelm the fruit’s delicate flavor.
The third course was my personal favorite as it involved seafood: grilled Rushing Waters rainbow trout, black garlic roasted tomatillos, black bean relish, and Swan Creek bacon lardon. The smoky trout tasted like it had come straight out of a campfire which brought back nostalgic memories of camping out under the stars and enjoying freshly caught fish. Beans, another campfire favorite, brought a bit of meatiness to the dish as well. The trout was paired with a Chicago favorite, Revolution's Rosa hibiscus ale. The floral tasting beer paired well with the general smokiness of the dish.
The fourth course featured BBQ braised shortribs, butter poached Indiana shrimp, Hazzard Free Farm pimento cheese popcorn grits, and sweet corn. I don’t exactly know how he did it but Chef managed to make the grits taste exactly like popcorn in liquid form which was unlike any other grits I’ve ever had! The shortribs were accompanied by a large steak knife which just sat there as the meat was so tender you it easily broke apart with a small touch of your fork. The BBQ flavor on the shortribs added that little bit of sugar that melded well with the different sweet corn elements. This course was paired with Dark Horse's Smells Like a Safety Meeting IPA. I don’t have the palate for big hoppy beers so this wasn’t my favorite but I could see how the bitterness of the beer would cut down on the sweetness in the dish.
I have to admit, I stalked the menu for this dinner extensively before attending and as soon as I saw that the dessert was a form of an ice cream sandwich I made a vow to save room for this peachy ending. A peaches and cream ice cream sandwich with Mick Klug Farm Michigan Peach Marmalade, milk jam and ice cream, and vanilla bean shortcake. The ice cream was so smooth and silky and I loved that the jam in the sandwich was actually a little bit warm. Although a bit messy, I loved every bite of this and thought that the pairing of Penrose's Deminimus Mandarina, a sour beer with tangerine, mango and Bavarian Mandarina hops was the perfect way to balance this last course.
Overall, Farmhouse treated us to an amazing meal and really showcased the summer flavors of the Midwest. Farmhouse is actually opening a bar in Lakeview in late October, appropriately named “Farm Bar,” where Chef Mansavage will continue to feature local flavors in the form of burgers, sandwiches and small bar bites. With an ever-changing locally sourced menu I’m going to make an effort to visit Farmhouse at least once each season in order to learn more about all the tasty food our spot in country has to offer!