The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Local Challenge: Wrap Up

By Lisa Shames in Food on Sep 17, 2007 3:30PM

rsz_2grass2.jpgAfter a week of following the Green City Market Localvore Challenge, Chicagoist is feeling pretty good. OK, we admit that yesterday’s brunch at Prairie Grass Café made up of local products (chicken from Country Cottage Farm, braised greens from Kinnikinnick Farms, corn, roasted peppers, mashed potatoes, Wisconsin cheese, grilled pears, grapes, raspberry ice cream) definitely ended things on a high note. But even before we got to try co-chefs/owners Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris’ flavorful food (both logged many years at Chicago’s Ritz-Carlton before opening up their own place, and between them they have more culinary awards than you can shake a spatula at), Chicagoist felt like we were finally starting to get this whole local movement.

Going into this, we thought we made the perfect "guinea pig." While we truly appreciate good food, we’re not that knowledgeable when it comes to cooking. So we figured, if we could do this, well, anyone could. What we quickly discovered is that since local food is highly seasonal, it’s at its peak flavor-wise. Which means — drum roll, please — it’s kinda hard to screw it up.

That keep-it-simple approach was definitely evident on the table at Prairie Grass. No stranger to the localvore movement, Stegner co-founded the Green City Market back in 1999 and is a vocal member of the board of directors. For her, the most difficult part of creating daily localvore meals at the restaurant was the pre-planning aspect, something Chicagoist experienced, too, but on a much smaller scale. With that in mind, Stegner talked about possible changes for next year’s challenge, which she has high hopes for — “I anticipate the Localvore Challenge to grow like wild fire next year. The bounty of the Midwest is so delicious who wouldn’t want to try it?” — including upping the days of the market, bringing in fish vendors, and extending the challenge to two or three weeks.

While Chicagoist doesn’t know if we could follow the strict diet for more than a week — last night’s Spanish wine tasted awfully good — we do plan on adding as many local products as we can (those two pounds we lost are definitely an incentive). Sure these fresh-from-the-ground products really do taste better, but it’s the feeling that comes with knowing we are actually doing something, no matter how small, to help our neighboring farmers that’s the real icing on the (local) cake.