Posts Tagged with local

Ludwig Farmstead Creamery Cheese – Local Cheese Done Right

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

In the flat-earth portion of Illinois, where the ground and sky meet at the very edges of the horizon, and short drive east from Urbana – it’s there great cheese is made. Ludwig Farmstead Creamery recently hit our shelves (our fridge, technically) and we’re enamored; their cheeses are consistently fantastic, giving Wisconsin cheese a run for it’s money – means a lot coming from us northern natives.

Ludwig Farms

The whole thing at Ludwig started five generations ago with their family farm – settled in 1866. Their focus for so long has been the breeding and raising of pedigree, purebred Holstein dairy cattle. The cheese aspect didn’t sprout until one of the Ludwig boys spent time as a Chemistry student at the University of Illinois. Jake Ludwig started his mind to work on a true farmstead cheese brand that included his family’s pristine cattle, learning the trade at a Pennsylvania creamery, and coming back to the farm to plan and start his own. Sadly, Jake passed unexpectedly but his family saw his dream through and saw the cheese production into swing. Their work with creamery manager parsed wonderful cheeses as well as a great memorial to Jacob’s favorite: havardi. They stuck to Jake’s plan, to create cheese from same-day milk from their own homestead cattle, for true terroir cheeses make right here in Illinois.

We proudly carry four of their cheeses in our case: Vermilion River Blue, Kickapoo, Jake’s Wheel (Mustard), and Feather Ridge. Starting with their longest made cheese, Feather Ridge, is more like a swiss-style cheese with a heavy nod to great european wheels; it’s rich with fresh raw milk which attribute to it’s complex earthiness that couples with hay and a lovely finish – simple and delicious. Ludwig’s Vermilion River Blue cheese pairs the rich creaminess of of cream cheese and adds the pleasant and tasty find of veins making for a tangy/fresh treat fit for any plate. Kickapoo is akin to the rich Buterkäse cheeses we’ve come to love, it’s a rich deep butter flavor with a decently sharp finish, it’s wonderful melted on top of burgers or added to a grilled cheese. Ludwig Farmstead Creamery creates a whole line of havarti cheeses with the freshed milk humanly possible which makes an amazing base cheese, we’ve picked up their mustard for it’s ability to go-on, melt-in just about anything.

Pick up a slice of these incredible super-fresh cheese wheels right out of our cooler. We think they’re wonderful and can stand on their own or paired with any number of culinary creations – Ludwig Farmstead Creamery is not to be ignored.

Pirro’s New Sauce – Pretty Boss

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

We’ve been close followers of Pirro’s since we picked them up last year. Now they’ve pushed out a couple of new pasta sauces that are as good if not better than previous renditions. So without further ado…


On the left, their Pesto Pomodoro takes heavy helpings of basil, olive oil and adds it to heaps of tomatoes – it’s a lighter pasta sauce that plays up the tomato and basil, and thanks to Pirro’s, it makes for a wonderful and fast dinner. Meat in a shelf-stable pasta sauce can be hard going, but through magic and sheer fortitude, they pull of one of the best Bolognese sauces we’ve ever had the opportunity to eat; it’s the perfect pairing to penne or shells, able to scoop up and hold gobs of this great sauce.

Pick up both of these new sauces or any of Pirro’s fantastic sauces, off our shelf today!

2014′s Mustards – A Spreadable Lineup

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

March be a bit early to jump into canning the full spectrum of fresh local fruits and veggies, but it’s the perfect time of year to preserve a whole host of mustards. We’ve made our fair share of grainy, sweet, and spicy dips and spreads in the past and thought what better to welcome a brush with spring than five perfect compliments to the eventual warm-up.

5 new mustards for 2014

Every jar of mustard starts with the seed, which we get from the gang at Terra Spice. From there they are either used whole to provide texture and pops of flavor, or ground into a super-fine power then mixed/blended for powerful spice.

Dijon Mustard

Our Dijon comes as powder, as most Dijon mustards they are ground brown seeds, and we add champagne vinegar, white wine, white grape juice, shallots, garlic, and salt – it creates a lightly powerful spiciness an even base for a few of our other blends.

Horseradish Mustard

When you want something with layered earthy spice – we find our horseradish mustard to fill that niche quite well. We take ground yellow seeds, our dijon powder and add horseradish powder from The Spice House and add beer and white wine vinegar – creating a jar of delicious spicy layers.

Honey Dijon Mustard

To craft our honey mustard we add gobs of Osage Honey and add our Dijon; it may be more of a mustard-honey, but we think it’s the best thing we’ve ever dipped a pretzel into.

Marmalade Mustard 01

The Marmalade Mustard pairs whole yellow must seeds that soaked in apple vinegar, then we dunk them into warm marmalade, just after its 2nd boil before it sets up. This creates a sweet yet spicy and lovely light citrus highlight that we love to spread on cooked pork chops.

Mostarda di Frutta 01

Our dark horse mustard, our mostarda di frutta, is an Italian style table condiment that matches fruit preserves and mustard seeds for cheese-plate perfection. For ours, we take apples and cook them until they just turn translucent. Then the magic happens, we add apple cider vinegar, sugar, water and dried fruits – cherries from Michigan, Grapes from friends at Mick Klug, and lovely apricots. While those heat and become close friends we add black mustard seeds, chilli flakes for a punch of spice, mustard oil, that remarkable Dijon mustard to round it all out.

Pick up these and the rest of our fantastic house-made mustards off our shelf today!

Zingerman’s Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle – Simply

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

We are known to have the gift of gab sometimes, so we thought we’d leave the food to do the talking – better to let the allure of buttery peanut brittle slathered in chocolate be the hook instead of a flowery description.

Zingerman Choc Peanut Brittle

Zingerman’s rarely needs an introduction and we’ve written at length about their fantastic cheeses in the past, as vestige of their caliber. Grab a pack of these off our shelves before we eat them all!

Nordic Creamery’s Harvest Butter – Spread The Season

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

Sometimes when you have friends for a long time, you don’t take the time to stop and reflect. Not that the relationship is under-appreciated, but they were seemingly always there – that is how it is with our good friends at Nordic Creamery. We’ve been long time fans of their work and have always been fond of their real, honest-to-goodness cheeses from just north in Wisconsin. Our booth-side chats at farmers markets and slicing thick cuts of cheeses for secret suppers, only made us grow to love their whole portfolio all that much more.

Nordic Harvest Butter

Nordic is a family farm in all forms of the word, owning their farmstead and working their heard in the same plot since 1917. That means they are not just farmers but cheese-makers. They’re located in Westby near where many other Norwegian settlers landed in the thick green swells of the Coulee Reigon. Due to the land being glacier-free, it creates ideal cow and goat chomping grounds and is the driving force in keeping the cows happy and in turn creating for first-rate, certified rBGH-free, award winning cheeses and butters.

Their Harvest Butter is like dipping into a flavor kaleidoscope – beautiful and unique every time; it’s a butter pulled from the time at high harvest – when the cows are chewing down hay and grains bringing out an entirely new flavor than their other butters. This is very seasonal and carries us through the deep winter days; at home we allot a portion for from-scratch biscuits or pancakes just for this spread. Nordic’s Harvest butter is simply wonderful.

Pick up your tub out of cooler today and taste what real love and real butter is like from a local family farm. Love Nordic Creamery? Dug into your stash of their Harvest Butter and want to tell the world? Drop us a line below, we’d love to hear from you.

Indulgence Chocolatiers’ Bars – Beautifully Built Balances

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Food rivals any other artistry, painting swaths of flavors, drawing from a lifetime of experience to create, a wide breadth of specialties, and so much more. It is this mastery that Julie from Indulgence Chocolatiers draws from for their fantastically tasty bars.

Indulgence Chocolate bars

Back in 2007 a new kind of ‘Indulgence’ was established in a Milwaukee kitchen, pulling from the best chocolate they could source and utilizing the local foods when possible. Their aim: to create beautiful and delicious pieces of eatable fine art. From the start, their goal was keeping things as simple and ‘real’ as possible, avoiding any mass production or artificial preservatives, crafting simple handmade confections in classic and unique flavor combos.

And there is where we land – into the depths and highs of meticulously paired chocolate bars. Indulgence Chocolatiers, brings us four of their ‘elevated’ tastes: Raspberry Chipotle Pecan – a smoky/spicy nut and tart mix smattering across 60% dark chocolate, Cream City Crunch – a lighter dark with crispy cookie pieces, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt – a simple and lovely match between sweet and salty, and their White Chocolate Sea Salt – a new-found love of buttery white chocolate and mouth-watering saltiness. Each bar strikes its own personality all while staying connected to the unavoidable style and grace in which ‘Indulgence’ puts into each work (bar). Like any good artist, quality is paramount and it shows.

Pick up Indulgence Chocolatiers on our shelves now, before we eat them all! Have a go at tasty local artisan chocolate with real soul. Love Indulgence? Can’t get enough of one of their paired bars? Drop us a line below, we’d love to hear from you.

SPG Featured Artists – Robert Bain

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Everyone’s a doodler, in lecture halls, or sitting in on conference calls, or watching a bit of tube – when the mind wonders it seems the hand is free to explore. That is where our newest featured artist comes in.

Robert Bain sees his works as “the result of [his] effort to abandon conceptual intent.” All of his pieces begin with that abandon, a simple doodle, where the mind wanders and somewhere in the space between head, hand, and paper – magic happens. He says he can “remember as a boy finding small drawings next to the phone at [his] grandparents’ home, which [he] now recognize as [his] earliest exposure to abstraction.” His desperate attempt to focus on recreating the true nature of a doodle was fruitless, which is how he happened to find that the “best doodles… require distraction.”


So when does he do his work? Robert starts by doing something else. A simple mind misdirection, keeping the focus at bay while creating pieces “free from the weight of meaning.” From his phone-doodles and couch potato-scribbles he moves them to a working surface where he uses them as a base to build the full paintings. Abstract as his work is, it’s beautiful with contrasting sharp colors and playful geometric shapes.

We are honored to have Robert’s work on our walls and hope you enjoy their time on our walls. If you want to take one home, he’s just a mouse click away at his blog.

Urban Accents Veggie Roasters – Right In The Oven

Friday, February 21st, 2014

In the doldrums of a deep winter, it can be a monotonous line of plain food. Now is the time to breathe life back into your dinner and Urban Accents is here to help with their Veggie Roasters.

Urban Accents Veg Roast 02

We carry a whole slew of Urban Accents, each more impressive than the last and the Veggie Roasters are built of the same ilk. Each pack comes with enough tested spices to roast three pounds of veggies, meaning they’ve got your side dish covered. Don’t let the idea of a side dish think that the Veggie Roasters take a back seat, their rich and paired flavors make for a compliment to a meal that is impossible to ignore. On our shelves are three of these alluring mixes: Parmesan Mediterranean – a perfect cheesy match with squash, Asian Curry & Honey – adds great sweetness and interest to root veggies, and Balsamic and Roasted Onion – wonderful on potatoes or Brussel’s Sprouts.

Pick up these three and get roasting with real taste. Love Urban Accents? Drop us a line below and tell us!

2014 Valentine’s Gift Guide – Drink Up

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Valentine’s Day may be a day coated and dredged with chocolate but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t phone it in with a heart shaped box of meager candies, bring a cocktail night for the girls, the guys, or a get together; because we think that is what Valentine’s Day should really be about – gathering with the people you love and care about. So why not mix up a few drinks for those who you hold near and dear. Here is our picks for 2014:

VDay Drink Starters-h

From right to left: Owl’s Brew brings a level of class to your mixed cocktails by being tea based and it’s super easy 2:1 ratio makes it an easy go-to – great for unexpected guests, ALTAR creates mood altering drink mixes for martinis with gusto – simply lovely, Bittermilk brings us a couple deep and complex drink starters that take tried and true drinks to new heights, Our house-made Strawberry Lemon drink starter isn’t just for kiddie cocktails but for bringing back a taste of summer in the midst of a seemingly unbreakable winter, if you want easy-mode and delicious Crafthouse is in your corner – easily the best ‘one bottle’ solution available and it’s made right here in Chicago.

Get all these mixers and more off our shelf today and spread the love with friends and loved ones.

Native Harvest Wild Rice – Yielding Nature’s Best

Friday, January 24th, 2014

In the deep parts of Minnesota where the land becomes more like swiss cheese, spotted with lakes and low land, a long standing tradition of the peoples whom have cultivated the land for ages continues. Metal canoes slap against wind blown marshes stuffed with sprouting rice while the people of White Earth pull the tufts of wild-grown rice. That’s right, real ‘wild’ rice.

Native Harvest Harvest Rice

Native Harvest is focused to “continue, revive, and protect [their] native seeds, heritage crops, naturally-grown fruits, animals, wild plants, traditions, and knowledge of [their] Indigenous and land-based communities.” A mission setting them apart by having some amazingly fertile waterways, ones that are not just worked but fostered to keep with tradition. There is real work, real hard work, to be done to have this wild rice. They are some of the few that don’t use cultivated seeds, allowing the land to thrust forth a bounty all it’s own. Each grain is placed in a skiff, then bagged up, and milled – each and every one – has had many hands of the native peoples all with an eye on keeping customs alive and their food sources as natural and un-industrialized as possible.

Native Harvest also brings alive the wild rice they gather – it’s rich and has a depth unlike any wild rice we’ve ever had. They say it tastes ‘of the lake’ and we can’t help but agree. It’s a profound experience, to cook-up a bit of hand-harvested heritage-packed rice – the aroma alone is like being transported, take a bite and away you go. The lake is all there, it stands far above any other not-really-wild rice out there.

We love Native Harvest’s wild rice and think it’s more than deserving of a place on our shelves. Experience the legacy of true wild rice. Love their stuff? Want to leave your favorite wild rice recipe? Drop us a line below – we’d love to hear from you.