Tammy has been eating for years, but didn’t discover her professional fascination with food until she started talking about it every week. As a result of Chicago Bites, she has expanded her interest in food policy, gardening, composting, organic issues, slow food, local producers and how these impact the Chicago dining experience. She’s found her restaurant knowledge to be the ultimate ice breaker.

Oct 242014
Goosefoot Food & Wine

The sign that teased me for months.

Usually I’m a patient person. I can wait out the rush of new, exciting, must-try spots to enjoy the latest dining experience at my own pace.

Often this is made easier by a daily commute that features a dull, familiar routine up and down Western. The one exception was the tease of brown paper and bold lettering for the new Goosefoot Food & Wine shop.

I twitter-stalked the Goosefoot account and craned my neck every time the bus passed the storefront. I. Could. Not. Wait!

Goosefoot Food & Wine

Stock up on high-flatutin’ goods.

Though I managed to miss opening day, I popped in over the weekend to see if my (im)patience would be rewarded.

It was, to be quite honest, a mixed bag.

Lincoln Square already has an abundance of fine food & wine opportunities including Provenance Food & Wine, Gene’s Sausage Shop, and Fine Wine Brokers, not to mention bakeries and restaurants galore. If you want to compare super-close options, then Harvest Time Foods up the street is also a worthy stop.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

Can’t get a reservation at the restaurant? Buy the chestnut soup next door.

What does Goosefoot Food & Wine offer?

Well, for those of us who have been unable to score a reservation or to repeat an experience at Goosefoot, the store has select to-go offerings from the menu. I speak, of course, about the to-die for Chestnut Soup. It’s been two years since I last tried it, and I still remember every bite.

Want to savor the memory? A little carton can be yours for $9.

Or if your fond meal-time recollections include the hand-painted chocolates, a box of four can be had for $12. Even though the candies are on display under glass, the selection of available chocolate for sale is random.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

These hand-painted chocolates are for display only.

Other items for sale include an almost expected range of fancy packaged goods like pastas, crackers, syrups, and granola. For those with fortunate reservations for dinner but the inability to recollect that Goosefoot is a BYOB, the shop is open late enough to pop-in for a compatible bottle or two or three with dinner.

I spied a beer-making kit on the shelves, but found the craft beer selection limiting. I understand that it takes a while to build relationships with breweries, but a hyper-local choice shouldn’t have been too hard to procure — hello, Half-Acre, Begyle, Finch? I hope to see the choices move beyond Goose Island.

Goosefoot Food & Wine

The interior is spacious and a bit sterile.

I quizzed the staff a bit about the selections, chocolates, and saved my most important question for last: How do I get a reservation at Goosefoot?

I would tell you, but I need to try it first. Hopefully patience will be rewarded again!

Gala Apple

Candied apples? Yes, please!

Goosefoot Food & Wine is located next to the restaurant at 2656 W Lawrence Avenue. The store is open 1 to 10 p.m. daily.

Jun 082014

Local coffee subscription service Modest Coffee recently started roasting for the Chicago and internet market. I spoke with co-owner Marcus Contaldo about his obsession with fresh roasted coffee and other coffee-related topics during a #VirtualCoffee Twitter conversation* on Saturday.

Modest Coffee

Starting the morning, and the conversation, with a cup of The Collector.

Chicago Bites: Good morning! What are you drinking for our #VirtualCoffee chat?

Marcus Contaldo: The Enthusiast this morning. I am sampling a roast from last night. What about you?

CB: I’m drinking The Collector — black. Speaking of which, how do you normally take your coffee?

MC: Black and super fresh! How about you? This is the quintessential question for all coffee drinkers.

CB: I tend to drink it black if it’s good. Otherwise lots of cream, lots of sugar. You don’t always get a choice.

MC: I know what you mean, I know a place that starts out with fantastic beans from intelligentsia and ruins them. BTW, I recently asked our drinkers the same question and found that a large number added Baileys.

CB: Baileys in coffee is indeed a joy, though that may cause problems during the 10am budget meeting. I know you sell awesome beans. Any advice on the best way to grind and brew them?

MC: We recommend grinding them right before you brew them. Believe it or not, our goal was to get better coffee out of a Mr. Coffee drip pot. I have some tricks that will vastly improve any coffee coming out of a drip pot.

CB: And did you do that? Have you made a perfect cup using a Mr. Coffee?

MC: Yes. The first tip is with a newer drip pot with the adjustable spout — twist it so it recycles and reheats the water. Once the water is good and HOT (you will see steam) add your favorite fresh beans to the hopper. The next step is important: twist the spout back to the beans, but DO NOT put the coffee pot under the hopper. Let the beans steep and stir them with a spoon. After they are saturated, put your pot down and let the goodness flow.

Modest Coffee

Freshly ground beans awaiting their turn at coffee greatness.

CB: One and half cups is usually the most I can drink before I get jittery. What’s your coffee limit per day?

MC: I usually do 3 cups in the morning and another cup or two around 2pm. Coffee after 4pm is my limit.

CB: Changing gears a bit…why is your coffee roaster named Precious?

MC: The previous owner named it Precious because of its sleek gold paint job and he was a fan of Lord of the Rings. I’m a fan of LOTR, too so it stuck.

CB: Do you talk to your roaster in a golem voice?

MC: I actually do a ridiculously accurate impression of Golem.

Modest Coffee

The bags are lined with a wax that is compostable.

CB: I’m lobbying hard for a video of that. Please tell us, what’s your selection process for coffee beans?

MC: It is really extensive, I sample 10-20 beans and select the best 3 that meet our requirements. We look for beans that make a great cup of coffee. You may have noticed that all of our beans were distinctly non-bitter.

CB: I did. I find that I prefer that in a cup of coffee.

MC: To make sure it’s ethically sourced, we only source coffee that’s traceable back to the producers. That traceability allows us to pay the premium for beans produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

CB: How do you deal with coffee breath?

MC: Great question, I carry minty gum in my man purse just for coffee breath.

CB: And finally, have you ever made a perfect cup of coffee? Do tell.

MC: That first perfect cup is what got me hooked on roasting. The flavor, the aroma, the vibrancy in the cup. There is really nothing better than fresh roasted coffee. That’s why we started Modest Coffee.

Modest Coffee

Your next favorite cup of coffee is here.

Thanks to Marcus from Modest Coffee for sharing a cup and his thoughts on coffee!

Want to try Modest Coffee yourself? Use promo code CBBAG for $2 off any selection, good through June 30. If you’re ready to commit to the cup, use promo code CBSUB for 10% off for lifetime orders; limit first 100 customers through July 31st.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Modest Coffee samples were provided to me as a member of the media. The opinions are completely my own, based on my experience.


*some light editing was done for readability.

Jun 052014

My barbecue routine is pretty comfortable. I prep a few skewers of fish, peppers, and corn-on-the-cob and then throw everything on the grill. Boom. Dinner’s ready in 15 minutes. My philosophy: keep things simple and make certain nothing gets burned.

The BF, on the other hand, is completely in his element when he’s grilling. He uses a variety of marinades and rubs made from scratch. He staggers cooking and “resting meat” so that everything is served in one glorious platter of culinary perfection. If I want real barbecue, I usually leave everything up to him.

Every now and then, it’s good to shake things up. That’s why I was so excited to try Urban Accents. They gave me a turn to shine at the grill.

Urban Accents

A variety of flavors work with different meats.

Made locally in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, Urban Accents uses all-natural, gluten free, and MSG-free ingredients to create a lengthly selection of dry rubs and seasoned salts in addition to popcorn salts, brines, & breakfast mixes. Each package includes recommendations for a protein match-up, a QR code for recipe ideas in case you get stuck, and cooking recommendations. Just what I needed to take my grilling from blah to gourmet!

For my first attempt, I used the Cayman Citrus Heat dry rub. I threw it in a bag with a pound of shrimp, shook it around to coat everything, and let the mixture marinate for about 30 minutes before grilling. This mix was a “hurts so good” spicy with a nice balance of savory salts that I loved. For my corn, the shaker of Chili Lime seasoning was the perfect mix of sweet & heat and definitely a crowd pleaser. I plan to shake it on top of all my veggies this summer.

I’ve since topped steak with a Vermont Grill, a light maple & sage mix; halibut with Sonoma Pepper — a curious blend of citrus & pepper; and pork loin with a Kansas City Rub made zesty with ancho chilies. Everything tastes great and expectations for dinner are growing with each new addition to the grill. Fortunately, I know where to find more mixes when I run out.

If you want to up your grilling game or pick up a perfect gift for Father’s Day, pop in to Urban Accents to order online.

I’ll be grilling more with Urban Accents this summer. Follow along on my grilling adventures on Twitter & Instagram. Who knows? I may have a favorite by the time I need to put my grill away.

I was not financially compensated for this post. Urban Accent products were provided to me as a member of the media. The opinions are completely my own, based on my experience.