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Getting Cozy With Bar Pastoral

By Lorna Juett in Food on Sep 27, 2012 8:20PM

Bar Pastoral, slated to open in late October, is a cozy manifestation of the retail hospitality that Pastoral has exhibited for years. Occupying the space next door to the Pastoral flagship store in Lakeview, the concept will extend the brand and reputation of Pastoral by offering a new evening space for guests to linger, share, and learn. Chicagoist sat down with General Manager Mark Hayes and Chef Chrissy Camba to find out more about the new cafe.

Offering 16 wines by the glass all priced at $10 each (with half-pours available), the wine list won’t always contain the usual suspects varietal-wise, but it will be easy for guests to find a wine they like. General Manager Mark Hayes explains that, “the concept was to write the list as stylistic categories - light and mineral, lean and citrus acidity, full-bodied and floral, oaky and buttery, all these things. And that’s basically what people are looking for. They may not have the vocabulary, so when someone says, ’I like Napa Chardonnay,’ what they’re really telling me is that they like high-alcohol wines that are full-bodied and buttery textured, and I’ll have something on there that fits that.”

But those who are not oenophiles should not fear drinking a strange wine just because a certain barely known grape is trendy at the moment. Hayes explains that “were not going to challenge people for the sake of being challenged, but we’re going to use the right wine for the right job. So if it happens to be from Napa, or the Island of Ischia, it’s because it works, not because we thought we had to.”

Chrissy Camba, formerly of Vincent and most recently a contestant on the upcoming 10th season of Top Chef, is working with the Pastoral products already available to customers, and putting her own touch on the food. An admitted cheese freak, she plans to use cheese as the center of the plate, substituting cheese for the meat protein in some cases. That doesn’t mean she’s eschewing meat entirely; there will be housemade charcuterie, including a pheasant pate and meat centered entree-style dishes.

The individual cheeses on the menu will be presented to customers in the similar way as the wine list, broken down by style, flavor profile, and type of milk used. Camba explains that each cheese gets special treatment, saying that “accompaniments will be chosen specifically for each cheese. So it’s not going to just be mustard, or cornichons, or the traditional choices, but seasonal vegetable purees and whatever we have on hand that works. I also want to utilize the items we sell at Pastoral, such as jams and honeys, so customers know how to use the products that we stock in a new way.”

While each item on the menu lends itself well to sharing, plate hoarders will be equally satisfied by selections of sandwiches and entree sized options.

Wine and cheese are not the only draws to this 45 seat restaurant. The curated beer and cocktail menu is no afterthought, and will change quarterly. The restaurant will not have a full bar, the cocktail menu will focus on a different small distillery every quarter, opening with a selection of cocktails featuring Koval spirits. Quince And Apple is also producing custom syrups for use in the cocktails, with rumors of a blood orange-cherry syrup and a more adventurous dill-lemongrass.

In wrapping up our conversation with these two, the excitement they have for the opening is palpable. Hayes’ eyes lit up like a pinball machine when he mentioned that some of his small batches of wine are on ships in the ocean heading our way as we speak, and Camba is excited to wow Pastorals current clients, and to share her cheese geekery with new guests. We’re looking forward to seeing this excitement channeled into the food, wine, and overall experience of Bar Pastoral.

Bar Pastoral is located at 2947 N. Broadway.