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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.

derrick over the years

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.

Fine & Raw

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.

three Queens Syrup

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.

Prohibition Sausage 01

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!

Sauce and Bread – Friends In Delicious Places

August 11, 2014

In the warming mornings of early May, a couple of our staff took a spell over at Sauce & Bread – the digs that house both Co-Op Hot Sauce & Crumb.

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Before entering, the smell of baked goods and spicy-sweet hot sauce wafts by on the sidewalk out front, where big bold white letters let you know you’ve arrived. Inside the store, it’s quiet with a low dinn and humm of coolers, and distance kitchen work pulls you in. Chalkboards pointing all their local items, a floating zombie finger shows you where to order, and a smattering of hot sauce welcomes any and all.

Mike welcomes us and shows us around his part of the kitchen where pungent liquids await bottling, full shakers sit to age or for an order, heaps of pepper await prep, along with a plethora of containers brimmed with spices. To put it simply: it smells amazing. But the fun smells have only started. To the secret basement where rows of barrels bubble and swell with luscious hot sauce and vinegars think bourbon meets boiled chili peppers – mouthwatering. Upstairs in the back is where the crumb team gets to baking, and crafting all of their fantastic bread and goods as well as all of those for the front of house.

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There is where the smelling ends and the eating starts. We order up a couple of sandwiches and wait for the wafs of freshly toasted breads fill the room by lingering over the wide variety of bottles, from hot-sauce to barrel fermented apple cider vinegars. The sandwiches hit the massive wood slatted table and it’s impossible to resist reaching to the wood caddies filled with a handful of the most fantastic sauces thrust from this city. That isn’t to say their sandwiches don’t already reign the attention of the eater – alone they are wonderful seasonally crafted sandwiches featuring the best the farmer’s markets can offer. Mike was even nice enough to whip up a lovely shrub with one of his drinking vinegars – perspective altering.

Get out to where Clark meets Devon, pick up a bunch of that magic sauce and pull up a seat to mow down on a purely wonderful lunch experience.

Bittercube Bitters – A Cocktail Trove Of Flavor

July 31, 2014

Recently we’ve been intensely focused on cocktails. Couple years now we’ve added some quenching breakfast drinks, picking up more and more cocktail mixers, crafting our own syrups, and putting together special drinks for all of walks of our events. There is just something about cocktails – inching them closer to the peak of deliciousness. At times that inching is more a running jaunt – a rich well to pull from, or in this case, pull an eyedropper from – and dole out with grace and ease into a cocktail. A clear example: A box from Bittercube.

Bittercube

Take one part localvore obsessed restaurateur with a keen eye for cocktails and one part super-powered bartender hell-bent on perfection, mix to create a team of journeymen building slow-crafted bitters. No ordinary bitters either, taking a year to push and develop the full set of six. Each with it’s own personality, able to punch up a litany of drinks without batting an eye. From being hunkered over in glass jars in Milwaukee to being drawn from Yahara Bay spirits where they are painstakingly made by hand – meaning peeling mountains of citrus, individually scraping boxes worth of vanilla beans, just to get it ‘right.’ 100% real raw ingredients without shortcuts, which makes for real flavor.

We carry the boxes, which are packed with 6 bottles with droppers, and three in the ‘shaker’ style. In the shakers, we’ve picked up the Orange – a lovely citrus and caramelized orange bitter, Cherry Bark Vanilla – which is powerful with cherry, cola and vanilla notes, and Jamaican #2 – that couples bright grapefruit with herbaceous hiscious. Those three reside in the small box, as well as the Blackstrap – that the rich molasses as a backdrop for clove, & sassafras, Bolivar – with light touches of chamomile and jasmine, and Jamaican #1 – which is flush with Jamaican spices; making it super easy to reach for when looking for a particular profile.

Pick up a shaker bottle or three, the full box or both and get crafting and building the perfect cocktails for family/friends. Love Bittercube? Can’t get enough of their Jamaican #2? Have the greatest cocktail recipe? Leave us a note below in the comments, we’d love to hear from ya!

Summer ’14, Strawberry French Toast

July 29, 2014

It’s becoming a tradition of sorts, to bring the sun-drenched necked red beauties to our ever-present Stuffed French Toast. We pull from flats of ripe strawberries and get to work making a breakfast worth bragging about.

stuffed french toast strawberry

As always we use local strawberries from our close friends at Mick Klug Farm. This year we’ve blended up a rich maple pastry cream that makes your mouth water with each bite and a strawberry syrup slung across the thick slices of soaked bread as the pièce de résistance. Pull up a seat and get eating before it’s gone till next summer!

Boat Street Pickles – Paired Perfect Preserves

July 28, 2014

Boat StreetAs avid preservers of locally grown produce, we’re always keen on those who do the same. We ran across a couple jars of Boat Street Pickles and were intrigued. A simple label meeting dried fruit preserves, creating a real interesting pickle that pairs sweet with savory, simple and elegant. Meet the new additions to our shelf: Boat Street Pickles.

It starts from the start – where Renee worked in the cafe, making her way to the back of house, and eventually buying up Boat Street Cafe. A labor of love working her way through each part of the business and eventually taking up residence early mornings in the kitchen, crafting the pickled goods. Inspiration was the driving force of those early mornings, tasting the relishes and savory preserves found on european vacations, for some it just takes one bite. It’s the small batch and local-focused aspect that keep Boat Street Pickles grounded to crafting the utmost delicious preserves. Working tirelessly on finding the right place to pack the jars, working close with the farmers, and never compromising on quality. We think that sort of dedication is admirable, and were intrigued by the line up of Boat Street – so we had to share a couple jars.

We’ve picked up two of their most popular ones, their pickled Raisin and Pickled Figs – both Sofi award finalist, both pit a squishy dried fruit against a smooth savory herb combination. Their Pickled Figs are the cat’s pajamas on a cheese board, delicious splayed on steak and wonderful on a stack of roasted rosemary potatoes. A jar of Boat Street Pickled Raisins snuggled against a charred pork tenderloin or thick-stacked pork burger is heaven, or tossed in a with a coleslaw salad makes for great cook-out tag-along. Both deserve their notoriety and should not have a problem finding a place on many plates.

Pick up a jar of each Boat Street Pickles today and spoon wholesome goodness all over your next culinary adventure. Love Boat Street’s wares? Have the perfect pairing with pickled raisins? Drop us a line below – we’d love to hear from ya!

Our Summer Sodas – On Tap Deliciousness

July 24, 2014

In the heat, or in the comfort – this year thus far, it’s always nice to pull a draw of soda. A sip of some heat squelching liquid can make any summer day seem that much more bearable.

Soda Summer 01

This is our second year of kegging up a season’s harvest of super tasty soda and this year we moved one line to carbonating our fantastic lemonade – making for the ideal sparkling summer lemonade. Our soda line changes often so keep an eye on the newest flavor – blueberry-thyme, cherry-apricot, fermented grape, and so many more. We’re also preserving a whole bunch to save till next year – winter Rhubarb soda anyone? Get a glass or two for here or to go and taste what fresh local goodness is like!