Farmhouse Chicago: A ChiOrganic Girls Review

Whaaa…we found a place that embodies our blog namesake.  River North is hiding a gem of a restaurant, Farmhouse Chicago, right underneath our CTA riding noses, literally.  Farmhouse partners with local Midwestern farms in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin to provide us city slickers with farmtastic vittles.  We were treated to a VIP 5 course tasting event recently to check out new menu creations and learn about Farmhouse’s holistic approach to restaurateur-ing.  The first thing we noticed about Farmhouse was the rustic and cozy decor.  Co-owners, Ferdia Doherty and TJ Callahan, explained that even the furnishings promote local moods with reclaimed art touches from retired Chicago bars and restaurants and salvaged furniture from the south side.

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Chef, Eric Mansavage, detailed each course’s farm connection and ingredient alchemy as we nibbled our way through the Midwest.

Note* No Monicas were hurt during this dinner.  Her vegetarian ideals remained intact as Kate took one for team meat!  Rest assured, Farmhouse has plenty of farmiliar vegetarian options on their everyday menu.

Course 1: Ellis Farms Green Grapes and Ham Market Amuse

First, don’t act like you know what an amuse is…unless you’re a foodie.  Just in case, an amuse is bite-sized hors d’œuvre.  We were amused by this fancy PBJ with on a crostini.  Tasting notes: Crunchy, yummy, grapey, give us moree than bite sized, please!

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Course 2: Green Acres Farm Chilled Melon Soup, Summer Bread Salad, Spiced Yogurt, Crispy Njuda, Mint

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This is like a food dictionary lesson!  Njuda is a spicy spreadable pork sausage, like pig pate, hahaha.  Although we weren’t big fans of the chilled cantaloupe soup (maybe too sweet?), the summer bread salad with crisp radish and tart yogurt tickled the tongue.

Course 3: Grilled Rushing Waters Rainbow Trout, Black Garlic Roasted Tomatillos, Black Bean Relish, Swan Creek Bacon Lardon

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So, normally, seafood fans we are not (as Yoda would say) but hey, the force was strong with this fish.  The skin was on but, shocker, it was actually smoky and delicious with a flavor reminiscent of bacon.  The fish was not “fishy” but freshy.  It was mild with a melty texture.  The black bean relish on its own would have been a crowd pleaser as well.

Course 4: BBQ Short Ribs, Butter Poached Indiana Shrimp, Hazzard Free Farms Pimento Cheese Popcorn Grits, Sweet Corn

Chef, Eric Mansavage, described this cornucopia (aha!) as Farmhouse’s version of surf and turf.  Full disclosure, not a shrimp fan, but the short ribs were tender and surrounded by a delicate moat of popcorn grits.  It’s like going to the movies and bringing a rib in your popcorn box.

Course 5: Peaches and Cream Ice Cream Sandwich, Mick Klug Farm Michigan Marmalade, Milk Jam and Ice Cream, Vanilla Bean Shortcake20150901_193928

If you know the Peaches and Cream song sing along….peaches and creaaam.  Juicy Michigan peaches, peach marmalade that was almost like carmamel-ade, and sweet cream ice cream nestled between 2 pillowy cookies.  Ob-vs we love dessert.  Even Monica could chow down on this soon to be farmous goodie.

Farmhouse owners are expanding their acres with the new Farmbar in Lincoln Park, set to open in October.  They can also subsidize your love of cider as they own Brown Dog Farm and its filled to the bushel with apple, pear, peach and cherry trees.  Can we get a Yum Yum?  We love their down to (the) earth mentality and will definitely root our way back to try their veggie options.

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Are you a Farmhouse Fan?  Tell us your favorite dish!

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Cooked: Your Best Veggie Pre-Cooked Meal Delivery Service

We have ambitions of getting in touch with our inner culinary geniuses every week when we head to the grocery store…and then we end up passed out on the couch with a half eaten Morning Star Burger falling out of our hands after work.  Like it or not (who really likes it), American culture is one of the most overworked cultures in the world.  We need a break!  Don’t you often muse about have your own personal chef?  Chicagoans, rejoice!  There is a pretty fantastic option for you to get your personal chef wishes fulfilled, even without a genie!

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We were so excited when Erin Winston Silva, the co-founder of Cooked, reached out to us to sample their pre-cooked meal delivery options.  Cooked promises “Nourishing Meals for Busy Folks” and we are 2 very busy ladies so we jumped on the opportunity.  We were particularly intrigued as Cooked seemed to have more veggie options than many delivery services that we’ve seen.  We also love the values of the organization.  Chef Jona Silva’s own health journey inspired him to create local and nutritionally rich (not calorie rich) foods to promote wellness in others.  One can tell from menu offers, which change weekly, as well as Silva’s transparency in where ingredients come from.  The focus is local partnerships and he is also sensitive to food allergies like gluten or dietary preferences like vegan, vegetarian and T-Rexian. Ok, enough blabbing, we know you wanna know what you get to eat!

For $76 (tax and delivery included) dollars, we got ALL the foods below!!  Delivery was timely and Erin was available throughout to deal with a multitude of blogger questions like: “What about Monica’s chickpea allergy” and “Can you change our delivery date?  We forgot, we won’t be home!”.

Freshly Pressed Juice: Pineapple Cooler

Loved it!  It was refreshing and green-licious with kale, romaine, spinach, coconut water and a sweet touch of pineapple.

Lunch Bowl #2: Organic POWER grains with black beans and salsa ranchera

We split this, yet there was enough for a full lunch for both of us.  This puppy is only $5 and is rich in superfoods like quinoa, amaranth and other ancient grains with mysterious origins.  The salsa added a nice kick to the mix.

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Lunch: Kale, Wild Rice and Cranberry Salad

Again, the portion was plentiful.  We enjoyed the sweet touch of cranberry and the kale and rice mix was tender and garlicky with a rich balsamic dressing.

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Dinners:

Soup: Kabocha Squash and Apple Soup

Admittedly, we had to google what the heck a kabocha was.  Turns out it’s an Asian winter squash!  Last week’s weather was considerably still miserable so this warm rich soup hit the spot.  It reminded us of a sweet potato bisque with light creamy touches of spices and cinnamon.

Sesame Crusted Tofu

The 2 tofu cutlets came with zuccini noodles and vibrant red and yellow peppers, dressed with a light a soy sauce.

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Cauliflower Tacos with Roasted Poblano Salsa

Cauliflower is a vegetarian delight as it has a chunky texture.  The taco mix also included cilantro, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds with a side of fresh salsa.

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Walnut loaf with Roasted Squash and Broccolini

The squash and broccolini looked ultra fresh and colorful with bright orange and green hues and they were both cooked to perfection.  The walnut loaf was a gray meat like color and was hearty for those of you who are familiar with the texture of meatloaf.  We really liked the dressing that was provided and it seemed like it had a tahini base.

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The meals are supposed to stay fresh for 3 days but we stretched them out until Thursday and basically had enough deliciousness to stave off any grocery shopping for 2 people for the work week.  It was like a cooking vacay!  We highly recommend Cooked.  Meals change weekly to provide variety.  This week features a tantalizing coconut dal (aka lentils) and chickpea zuccini fritters.  Ready to order?  All Chi Organic Girl readers can get 10% off their first order with the promo code: chiorganicgirls so skip the shopping this week and eat cooked!

*We were not compensated for our opinions but were provided with a gift card to try Cooked meals.

Eat Local: Burger Point Restaurant Review

Do you ever wonder where your McDonald’s cheeseburger meat came from?  Unless you’re subjected to some kind of food coma induced nightmare, you probably have avoided being “in the know” on fast food meat origins.  “But burgers are so delicious”, you say.  Yeah we get you, (well the dabbling meat eater one of us, aka Kate, does and the veggie burger fiend one of us, aka Monica, may have an inkling too).  Burgers, in all their glorious forms, are special sammiches.  But as we are grown people, we like grown and sexy sammiches with ingredients we can name…and we LOVE food that’s locally sourced and not only tastes fresh but is fresh.

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Recently, we visited the South Loop to try a locally owned burger slinging business, Burger Point (with no creepy clowns, bonus!).  Owners, co-founders and couple, Asha Mathew and David Esterline, pride themselves in providing consumers with grass fed beef as well as organic chicken, turkey and veggie burgers.  Asha and David started Burger Point about 3 years ago and used to gaze at the space across from their condo and dream of opening their own business.  They often craved a juicy organic burger a ala North side DMK burger so they snatched up the corner spot on State and Archer and started their own burger revolution.  Local sourcing is their priority and many produce items come from David’s produce shop.  95% of the menu is house made.  Meat is ground, formed into fresh patties in the restaurant and meals are made to order (take that, Burger King!)

The menu hosts 17 specialty burgers, wangs (or wings as some might call them) with house made sassy sauces, and side options like house cut sweet potato fries.  We started our culinary experience with hearty samples of the vegetarian chili.  A toasty bowl of chili is definitely the thing for a Chicago arctic winter.  It had a healthy amount of cooked “just right” beans, a perfectly thick consistency and a nice kick of spice.  We liked the bits of tofu floating around in the mix as it added to the filling nature of the chili.  This dish could make your meal and Burger Point gives you free toppings like cheese, sour cream, olives and onions to boost it’s fill factor.

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For the main event, Kate got a little meaty and tried the #7 hamburger, called the Dirty South, with aged cheddar cheese, double smoked crisp bacon and BBQ sauce on a homemade pretzel roll.  The flavor of the bacon and burger was juicy, not greasy, and Kate noticed a markedly higher meat quality than chain restaurants.  Kate’s fave part was the PRETZEL BUN!! “I know me and gluten are iffy but this was a homemade pretzel bun”

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Monica tried the #14 with the moniker the Best Damn Veggie Burger Ever, which sports a homemade veggie patty with chipotle aioli, havarti cheese and avocado on a sesame seed bun.  She liked the balance of beans and rice, simplicity combined, but needed more kick from the chipotle aioli to counterbalance.

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Becoming a Burger Point Superfan can have perks.  Customers can use the delivery ease of Grubhub or Ordersnap to ensure no leaving of one’s bed is necessary, crumbs be damned.  If you do choose to wear pants and leave the house, Burger Point is located on the quiet corner of Archer and State.  Frequent Feeders can join a rewards endeavor called the 5 Star Program.  Every $5 spent gives the user a point which can eventually lead to free point earned foods.  One customer even racked up so many points that there is a burger named after him, the #17 Saigon Johnny, featuring fresh ground chicken, sliced cucumber, jalapeno and cilantro with sriracha aioli and soy sauce.  The couple and their manager, Ryan, like to let their minds run wild with new monthly recipes.  Their salmon burger is very popular for the Lenten season and now they are working on the aptly named Heart Attack consist of 5 different types of bacons. We are guessing it features pork, beef, turkey, chicken and tempeh bacon (haha we actually have no idea.  Is there such a thing as chicken bacon?  Chicky bake for short?)

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The South Loop neighborhood is close to popular Chicago locales like Soldier Field, the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium in addition to public transportation making it an accessible choice for tourists and locals alike.  If you want a relatively quick and tasty meal that doesn’t challenge your moral meat values, leave those golden arches behind and taste Burger Point!