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Bread & Butter Cauliflower – Fall in Love With Florets

September 18, 2014

What is it about love that draws the heart? It may seem banal to play the ‘love card’ when it comes to canned cauliflower, but it truly sends our heart a flutter with each bite.

Bread Butter Cauliflower

We draw in heaps of fresh locally grown cauliflower and pull them apart piece by piece. Sliced onion and the picked florets go into a short saltwater bath for an hour, firming up the texture and setting in the salt seasoning. After the bath, the veggies are strained while each jar gets a bit of seasoning. Everything is packed in and our bread and butter brine gets poured to ‘full,’ the full jars get processed in a 185f bath for 30min to pasteurize and keep them firm and crispy. It’s a labor of love that creates a pickle worth the weight of such admiration. Get these sweet and tasty munchable goodies on our shelf now and explore your innermost love for pickled goods.

Creative uses for our Bread and Butter Cauliflower:

  • soup & salads
  • finish off stews, as a garnish
  • chopped up in chicken salad
  • mixed into veggie burgers
  • with cold pasta/bean/grain salad

Illinois Sparkling Co – Grapes, Sweat, and Bubbly

September 16, 2014

Recently, a couple of our team took in a day at the beloved Illinois Sparking Company winery. They were not there just to ogle the vines, eat a handful of grapes, and be on their way – nay, the duo seeked out work, to help wherever they could and get the juice flowing! Their visit in (mostly) photos.

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In the rolling hills that butt against the Illinois River, at the top of one of the hills sits estate grapes, a couple of bird cannons, a creepy 25ft air-filled dancing man to keep the grapes on the vine and the animals at bay. It’s stunning peaceful and beautiful at their vineyard. Inside the seemingly simple outbuilding situated mid-hill, it gets a lot louder.

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Rice hulls are dusted in with the grapes to make crushing easier. A plastic pitchfork makes for a workout push into the crusher with glinting stainless fermenters situated around the room. Pumps whirl, machines wail, water & grape must drips off most surfaces, and smiles are traded through a short afternoon.

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A disgorger here, naturally cold wine caves there, concrete block and a whole bunch of green bottles make for eager taste buds. Lunch was shared, with a bottle of bubbly, which paired perfectly with our family-made subs. Our love for Illinois Sparkling was only deepened and honed by our visit. If the chance arises: make the trek, well worth to make friends with your bubbly making team.

Char Crust® – A Juicy History

September 15, 2014

When picking a product off our shelves, there is always a story – which is why this blog exists – from the far flung friends that came to craft a snack, chocolate with a purpose, or just a long tradition of craftsmanship passed down through the generations. It is there, in that small glimmer of history, that we start our tale of Char Crust®, makers of local dry-rub seasonings.

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The lineage starts with a man and a vision, Nathan Silver & to make the best fine-dining restaurant and steaks. Al Farber’s, the family steakhouse, positioned itself among the hustle and bustle of 1957 Chicago with a focus on thick juicy steaks with a crust that combined the best parts of grilling with all the things it was missing – the perfect char. Just south of Fullerton on Lincoln Park West, in the shadow of the Lincoln Park Conservatory, the restaurant gained traction with awards like ‘The Perfect Steak Award’, ‘The Epicurean Award’, & ‘Gourmet Society Merit Award,’ to in large part to their signature Char-Crusted steaks.

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The restaurant sailed it’s way through the decades, always making it’s mark. Diners panged for bags of Char Crust® seasonings to take home, Nathan and his son, Bernie, knew they had something special. In the early 60s, Nathan gave retail packing a short stint, cooking up sample steaks at Marshall Fields with Char Crust® out of simple mason jars. In 1977 the restaurant closed with Nathan’s retirement, but the seasonings lived on with Bernie continuing sales at restaurants across the country.

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It was in 1991, when Susan met Bernie and what we know as Char Crust® grew – all over a chicken dinner. Susan was eager to try the family mainstay and Bernie prepared dinner in the same apartment they still live in today. At first, Susan thought her future husband had burned the chicken into a dark husk. Once she once she sliced into the chicken, she saw the incredibly juicy interior, tasted the crispy-delicious exterior, and proof positive that Char Crust® was something special. That first bite sent Susan on a journey to join Bernie continuing sales to restaurants and move into packaging retail packs. They built their business in their family’s building in the heart of Lakeview, just eight blocks from our place. Which is where they still are today, churning out consistently fantastic spice blends that enrobe the meat, which “Seals In The Juices”® and makes any meal memorable.

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And thats where it is, between the meat and pan, a thin layer of crusty goodness that keeps all those flavors and juices inside. We currently carry Original Hickory, Ginger Teriyaki, and All American Barbeque, a trifecta of righteous flavor bundled into small boxes. Each has it’s own characteristics that will compliment, pair well with your meat, seal in the juices, and go with just about anything thrown at them.

Pick up a box (or all three) off our shelves today for a taste of real Chicago food history with Char Crust®. Have a favorite Char Crust®, or Al Farber’s Steakhouse memory? Want to share the char love? Drop us a line in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

Truli Julie – Crumble Under Flavor

September 11, 2014

When someone brings a bit of the old world into the new – it can make you rethink it’s usefulness. When the Truli Julie gang dropped off samples, we loved how they put the simple biscotti on it’s ear.

Truli Juli

All handmade, locally in Evanston by people who love what they do and let is show in their goods. Crack a pack of Truli Julie biscotti crumbs and prepare to be cast off into adventureland, a venerable cornucopia of ideas come flooding. Mash the Chocolate Hazelnut into vanilla ice cream for little pockets of crunchy goodness, sprinkle the Peanut Butter in with your morning yogurt for the pick-me-up your tastebuds deserve, but those are just the easy ones. Dump a handful into the morning pancake mix or your grandmother’s cheesecake recipe, and explore the possibilities.

Love delicious local biscotti? Pick up a bag of Truli Julie right now off our shelves and get creative with this fantastic treat.

Lillie’s Q Hot Pepper Vinegar – Warm Up to Sour

September 3, 2014

Lillie Q Hot Pepper VinegarA dab’ll do ya“, may not always apply to us when it comes to vinegars. The way the bright acidity crashes against the budding flavors of whence it came. That must be why we are so enamored with Lillie’s Q Hot Pepper Vinegar, it’s everything we love with a punch of something special: heat.

Lillie’s Q does right by their sauces, making for a nicely mellow vinegar-backed bbq, so it only makes sense they bottle up some more magic. A blend of thai chilis steeps with garlic and apple cider vin to make for a sweet meets heat dash that makes your greens dance. Just like many of the rest of their line, it’s comes with a deep tradition of southern cooking, and this bottle harkens back to their grandmother’s table where it made it’s way across piles of collards. We love this vinegar dashed on grilled chicken for a boost of the good stuff, or added into coleslaw, tuna salad sandwiches, or roasted carrots. Simple flavors make it an easy add on to many a meal.

Get your bottle of this southern treasure from off our shelves today, and get enjoying the spice of life. Love Lillie’s Q? Can’t get enough of spicy vinegar? Have the perfect dish idea? Drop us a line below and let us know, we’d love to hear from ya.

An SGC Farewell – Chef Derrick

September 2, 2014

To break character some from our blog posts – I, Jake, wanted to take a moment to say a fond farewell to our dear friend Chef Derrick on behalf of the store, here as a permanent record.

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Spending a weekend thinking back to the days of waiting tables, getting a stern talking to about the format of tickets, pouring over Secret Supper menus, the sly smiles and earth shattering sneezes – I doubt I would have landed where I am without his infectious passion. Food isn’t just a thing you “pound to the face” but a thing to brood over, get right, do right, and make right. Once I moved into marketing, it was his big head I saw between our facing desks and who I worked with making the menu what it is. We bounced ideas off each other, built a friendship around our love for meat, giardiniera, and handy work. Derrick has been an integral part of the restaurant for as long as I’d been in residence; he’s long been the centerpiece of the kitchen creating long lived favorites – ala brisket and gravy & pork sandwich – short but unforgettable seasonals – ala the white fish roll & ramp omelets – and making Secret Supper the intensely special dinner it is. I could easily go on, but in the spirit of Mr. Dejaynes, I’ll be short: he’ll be missed.

From me and everyone at Southport Grocery and Cafe we wish him the best.

Fine & Raw Chocolate – By Hand Happiness

August 27, 2014

We are lovers of chocolate here at the store, always open to trying something new and different. There are well knowns, the up and comers, and the super-tiny batch producers. It’s there, in a small shop with a handful of specialized equipment that Fine & Raw is made.

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In the ‘local crafts’ made hallows of Brooklyn, cacao beans are slow roasted at low heat to pure-perfection. It started with an inspired and seemingly chocolate-obsessed artist wherein he made very small batches of pure rich goodness. Then he offered some to friends, then began delivering it by bike to small shops and it really kicked off. They do a heap of leg work getting shade-grown cacao which lives in harmony with the rain forest – which also means it grows organically, as they should be. Fine & Raw make sure to do things right by the earth too, using recycled paper and veggie-based inks for their packaging, as well as doing everything they can to reduce their footprint wherever they can.

Their chocolate is crafted in tiny batches – raw cacao arrives at their place and it’s roasted over a long period to keep a lot of their natural flavoring intact, making a truly rich eating experience. Ground super-fine in their own machines and poured, molded, formed, all by hand. Wonderful chocolate from people with a keen eye for making the best possible bar or bonbon.

We currently carry a few of their bars and boxes of the bonbons, pick them up today off our shelves to get yourself some of the best chocolate made.

Wildfire Honey – A Sting of Heat

August 27, 2014

It starts with a spark – a little idea that kindles it’s way onto your plate. A spread of sweet sauce with a bit of punch and the first bite brings new and fanciful ideas, your off like a shot in the dark with thanks from Wildfire Honey.

Wildfire Honey

From a small family company in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, comes certified True Source organic honey. For the folks at Wildfire, it’s about combining unique ingredients to make for an ideal food experience. And what an experience – it’s a lovely spread on ribs or grilled chicken, making for a spicy/sweet glaze with a quick brush. Get crazy creative and use wildfire in your fudge brownies to bring some heat to the party, or drizzle on cheesecake or ice cream for a warming addition to your desserts. They also suggest using it on your corn bread, and we like it with grainy mustard for a sharp honey mustard. An exciting addition to any home pantry, a thin ribbon here and there with this honey creates intrigue in just about any dish.

Get your jar (or three) today off our shelves! Love Wildfire Honey? Want to send them some love from afar? Have ‘the next big idea’ for using their honey? Drop us a line below, we’d love to hear from ya.

Three Queens Maple Syrup – Pancake Royalty

August 14, 2014

Simply put, maple syrup can be the touchstone to a perfect pile of pancakes. We think a good, quality maple syrup will lead your taste buds to a new level of pancake transcendence. Welcome then to the fold, pick a bottle of Three Queens Maple Syrup.

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Midwest made with a focus on giving back the arts Queens Maple Syrup is fantastic. 15% of all profits go to art programs in their area, helping foster the community at large. The syrups are born on a 184 acre farm outside Westby, WI by 1000 maples – 30 gallons of drip makes just one gallon of syrup. We carry their Dark, which makes for rich eating, and wonderful on pancakes/French toast. Very Dark is robust and does a nice job of adding depth on top of cheesecake or added to your breakfast sausage recipe.

Pick up a container or two today in our grocery of wonderful locally made syrup from Three Queens – it’s sure to take you to a new plane.

Prohibition Spice – Criminally Tasty Dashes

August 14, 2014

Picking up a seemingly innocuous package of Prohibition Spice, you’d not think you were holding one of the finest meat spice crafted here in the city – but the truth stands. When you want to craft up the perfect patty of delicious sausage, you’d get the best cuts of meat you could, but what about the spices? That is there Prohibition Spice steps in.

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Locally made here in the city, they craft secret spice blends to make any clump of meat turn magically into a wonderfully tasty sausage. Mash up a bunch of pork and beef with a dash of Prohibition tossed and splay it on a grill for the fastest and most delicious sausage patty. The spices are pulled from the best known sources making for most excellent eats. Simply mix into ground protein, be it beef, pork, chicken, turkey and away you go! Dash a bit on a steak or use their blackened rub on veggies for a easy punch of flavor.

Currently we carry three of their sausage blends: The Family’s Italian Mild – for rich ‘sausage’ without the burn and all of the flavor, Jalapeno Bratwurst – is a ‘biting’ german-style profile that makes a brat burger worth the pain, and the Smoked Polish – with bright garlic kick and ease making it a go-to spice add on. Sausage not enough, need something smokier? Prohibition’s Blackened Rub is for you, a simple mix of all those delicious ‘grill’ spices plus the added benefit of not having to light one – veggies, fish, and fantastic sprinkled on oven-roasted broccoli.

Pick these great spices from Prohibition Spice off our shelf today, before grill season passes you by! Have a favorite grill item? Want to let the world know how much you love Prohibition Spice? Leave us a comment below!