Anthropologists like to categorize people and tribes. One of the terms they use is “hunter/gatherers”. Some of the old Indian tribes are characterized this way. They weren’t like tribes that actually planted row crops and stayed in one place.
Since moving from the suburbs, where I had an extensive garden, to the city, I have become a hunter/gatherer. Mostly I do it on the weekends much to the chagrin of my doormen that unload my car. Over time, I have found a few choice spots that I like and sometimes I have even written about them here.
Meat, cheese, fish, spices, charcuterie, fruit, vegetables and many other sundry items become a quest for me sometimes. My kids hate going because you will never know where you will end up-or how long it might take.
There are some good places for meat in Chicago. One of my favs is Butcher and Larder. Rob makes the best charcuterie in the city. If you haven’t tried his sausage or pate, you need to. He used to run a restaurant called Mado that we liked to dine at. He closed it to pursue his passion for meat.
Another good spot is up in Lincoln Square. Paulina Meat Market. They aren’t as artisan as Butcher, but they have a wide variety of stuff (and not enough parking) The biggest problem with Paulina Meat Market is that it’s really close to a lot of excellent German bars. Sometimes I get tripped up when I go there.
I haven’t tried Publican Meats yet. The Publican restaurant is excellent, and I have eaten at the Publican Quality Meats place. Need to try a few things from there.
My first angel investment was in food. Tallgrassbeef. It still has some of the best tasting meat around and you should order some while it’s on sale. I really like the flavor, and find it intoxicating compared to plain vanilla corn fed beef I get at butchers and chain grocers.
However, you need to be careful. Many butchers are posing as artisan butchers, but they just get their meat from the same or similar places that the chain grocers are. Smithfield pork tastes the same no matter who cuts it up. Unless beef is grass finished, it’s no better for you than corn fed feedlot raised beef.
This whole farm to table movement is fun. It’s happening across America. For a lot of people, it’s a religion. The whole thing becomes a guilt trip. I don’t hate the factory farms at all. They are what they are, and the other stuff is the other stuff. As long as everything is clearly labeled, the customer can make their own choice.
I would never prohibit factory farmed food. People have to eat, and not everyone appreciates the nuances between factory farmed and artisan food. Not everyone will pay for it either. Additionally, most of the research shows that organic fruits and vegetables don’t have any more nutritional value for you than conventionally grown food. But, sometimes they taste a heckuva lot better.
Food in the US is a massive business. Because of that, it’s heavily regulated, heavily lobbied, heavily subsidized, and those costs are passed on to consumers. If we would deregulate and end food subsidies, we’d wind up with a more diverse food supply and probably lower prices for much of the organic/artisan food we see today.
I will tell you this. Go to Butcher and buy one standard pork chop. Then go to a typical grocery store chain and buy the exact same cut. Cook them exactly alike side by side-same spice and everything. Then you can decide for yourself if it’s worth the extra money to buy a chop at an artisan butcher.
Where do you go in your town to purvey foodstuff and what do you like about them? What brought you there? Why do you continue to go back?
To show you how pervasive this is, I decided to add a video of a farmer’s market-from Madison, WI. Largest in the US.