Exploring Chicago Restaurants with the United Fresh Produce Association

I am so excited to share this project with you! In June, the United Fresh Produce Association is hosting their annual convention in Chicago, it’s an event that brings together companies in every segment of the fresh produce supply chain – that means the growers, shippers, and everyone in between, all the way up to the retailers and chefs who prepare and sell us the beautiful fresh produce we love. To welcome United Fresh back to Chicago I took their President & CEO, Tom Stenzel, on a video tour of some of my favorite restaurants that are using fresh produce in creative ways. At each restaurant we got to meet with the chef and taste a produce-centric dish, and personally, I love the wide variety of ways the chefs are presenting produce on their menus.

United Fresh Food Tour-3

Chef Leonard Hollander of Arbor in Logan Square made a wonderful savory spring tart with ramps, brown butter, spring peas, and asparagus, it was a celebration of all the seasonal vegetables just reaching their peak. We ate lunch at Arbor too, and we loved the poblano pepper wrap. Chef Leonard is the recipient of the 2016 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Award for the Fine Dining Category which is presented by United Fresh, and honors the use of fresh produce in the culinary arts. Plus, Arbor was just named of one of Chicago’s best new restaurants by Chicago Magazine. Arbor is in Green Exchange Building in Logan Square and their address is 2545 West Diversey Avenue.

Latinicity Chicago-12

I had a wonderful brunch at Latinicity recently, and was excited to show Tom the innovative restaurant concept with 10 different food counters. Chef Marcos Flores prepared a ceviche with octopus, mahi mahi, shrimp, fresh cucumber, pineapple, and avocado in a chili sauce. Latinicity is in the Loop, on the third floor of Block 37 at 108 North State Street.

Rural Society‘s Chef Cory Morris prepared Morrones, roasted red peppers with whipped goat cheese and fire roasted eggplant, topped with anchovies. The traditional Argentinian dish was loaded with bold flavors. Rural Society is in Streeterville in the Loews Hotel, at 455 North Park Drive.

United Fresh Food Tour-2

The Purple Pig is one of my favorite places to take friends who are visiting Chicago. I have lunched there with my sister, and taken groups of bloggers during Blogger Food, and it’s one of the first restaurants that comes to mind when I think of vegetables since I love their beets. Chef/Owner/James Beard Award Winner Jimmy Bannos, Jr. prepared his grilled broccoli with roasted garlic, toasted breadcrumbs, and anchovy vinaigrette. I love that he uses both the florets and the stems in this antipasti. The Purple Pig is located right on the Magnificent Mile, at 500 North Michigan Avenue.

United Fresh Food Tour

The Bristol’s Chef Sean Pharr took his inspiration from ramps, which had just become available when we filmed our video. Ramps are a wild onion that can only be sourced by foraging. Chef Sean prepared ramps several ways in his braised tripe with giant white Peruvian lima beans and ramps. The ramps were pickled, raw ramps were chiffonade, they were used to make a soffideo, and they were pureed with white beans. The Bristol is in Bucktown and their address is 2152 North Damen Avenue.

I am a huge fan of Lettuce Entertain You® (their CEO Kevin Brown is a keynote speaker at the United Fresh convention’s Breakfast General Session on June 22), so I had to include one of their many Chicago restaurants in our tour. We visited Intro Chicago, one of my favorite fine dining restaurants in the city. Executive Chef/Partner Stephen Gillanders prepared a warm asparagus salad with a grilled shiitake vinaigrette, goat cheese, and tarragon. Chef Stephen said that he wanted to explore different textures – the asparagus had the ideal fresh crispness to it while the creamy goat cheese melted in your mouth. Intro Chicago is in Lincoln Park and their address is 2300 North Lincoln Park West.

Here is a map of all of the places we visited – you can also view an interactive version here.

I spoke on a panel at the United Fresh Convention two years ago, where we discussed food trends, and United Fresh’s food trend research is both fascinating and really helpful for food bloggers. Did you know that Meyer Lemons, fennel, and asparagus are all experiencing major growth? Generally, these trends kick off at restaurants, then make their way to food blogs and grocery stores. Tracking these trends is important since I want to be writing the recipes that people are looking for when they search online. (So expect some fun meyer lemon, fennel, and asparagus recipes soon).

You can learn more about the United Fresh Convention, taking place at McCormick Place from June 20-22 here. And let me know if you plan to attend – I would love to see you there!

This project was done in collaboration with the United Fresh Produce Association.

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