Posts Tagged with local

Bread & Butter Cauliflower – Fall in Love With Florets

Thursday, September 18th, 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

Tuesday, September 16th, 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.



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.



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.



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

Monday, September 15th, 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.


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.


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.


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.

Char Crust

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

Thursday, September 11th, 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

Wednesday, September 3rd, 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.

Wildfire Honey – A Sting of Heat

Wednesday, August 27th, 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

Thursday, August 14th, 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

Thursday, August 14th, 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

Monday, August 11th, 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

Thursday, July 31st, 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.


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!