Sky Full of Bacon

Food’s Social Whirl, Part 2: Green City Market BBQ 2010

I was trying to explain to my wife what the Green City Market BBQ was like and after several analogies of varying effectiveness, I finally said “It’s like the food prom.” Which is about as good a way as any to describe what happens when all these chefs come out, their food duded to the nines, for an awesome summer party. This year they raised the prices‚ doubled them in fact, and still not only sold out (though it took to the last day this time) but seemed to pack this section of Lincoln Park more fully than last year. (Disclosure: my wife and I went on press passes.)

It’s a great event, besides supporting the city’s most influential farmer’s market, the one that does the most in establishing connections between chefs and farmers (hey, somebody ought to make a video about that), it’s a fantastic buffet of mostly astoundingly superior food, nearly every dish of which makes some use of things available at the market. Why can’t they set up something like this every Thursday during Happy Hour, and serve food of this caliber each week? Because then, what would we have to look forward to in eternity.

My first stop, mainly because they were near the entrance, was Mado. True to their reputation for aggressively whole animal cooking, their dish was barbecued beef heart, in a chipotle-ish sauce. Rob Levitt admitted he didn’t expect it to be hugely popular, but when we checked back toward the end, he was happy to tell us it was all gone.

One of the great reasons to go, of course, is to try food from chefs you don’t know if you want to go pay for a full dinner from. I ripped into Andrew Zimmerman pretty good when he was at Del Toro (and Rob Levitt was one of his cooks), but he’s at Sepia now, and this pulled duck sandwich with duck skin cracklins was mighty tasty, one of my top three for the night, and enough to make me want to check that place out again under his command.

Phillip Foss of Lockwood was serving up a sample of the kind of thing he might do in a food truck if the ordinance ever passes. It was a sloppy joe served on his Israeli-born wife’s recipe for a kind of puffy bread:

Here’s someone from NoMi making beer can chicken:

I’m not sure who was responsible for this out of the BOKA Group restaurants, since four of them including The Girl & The Goat were credited, but these two came off the grill just as we walked by and so we grabbed them. Pork belly skewers with cherry tomato and grilled melon, another of my top three, simple and wonderful.

Then we saw Tony Priolo of Piccolo Sogno making these chilled beet soup shooters— just the cold non-pork item we needed at that moment, and delightful:

And right after that we saw this peach and honey panna cotta with sprinkles of La Quercia prosciutto on top, from Bin 36. The fresh peach flavor was really nice.

Pat Sheerin of The Signature Room had the freakiest looking dish of the night:

The description bills the grilled beef shoulder first, but anyone getting it couldn’t help but notice the bright green tongue coated with salsa verde.

By comparison this grilled lamb from Balsan and Ria with a corn sauce and a dab of pesto was rather plain-looking, which is probably why someone was out promoting it in front of their stand. The lamb was beautifully tender, I’m glad I tried it, though my wife ate it, then asked what it was, and when she heard it was lamb, was sorry she’d eaten lamb during the time period that the kids are raising a lamb in 4-H.

Here’s Barry Sorkin of Smoque slicing up a Santa Maria tri-tip:

And Mark Mendez of Carnivale with his meatball:

Another chef whose food I was curious to try without spending a big wad yet was John Des Rosiers, of the suburban avant-garde restaurant Inovasi, in Lake Bluff. I was quite impressed with this unusual dish, which started with some long-brined and smoked pork topped with cherries and other fruit, and then included a kind of very light tortilla made in some fashion with cheese incorporated into it which he calls an “Inorito.” Weird (and a little soggy in this humid heat) but very interesting, I may have been impressed enough to make the trek up there some time.

If I had to pick a favorite of the evening, though, it was probably one that came just as I was about out of stomach for meats, Jared Van Camp of Old Town Social’s sausage with Brunkow cheese mixed into it and homemade sauerkraut on top. Yeah, sure, it’s an easy crowd-pleaser, a cheesy hot dog, but it was really well done.

Another chef I approached with some skepticism was Dale Levitski, hard at work here on his dish:

I know people have been impressed with Sprout but what I hear always sounds like weird combinations that, even if they worked, would leave me wishing for a cheesy hot dog after. But I tried Levitski’s herb salad with beef carpaccio:

And it was really a fine thing, beautifully balanced. Okay, I might still need the cheesy hot dog after a whole meal of such light and delicate things, but I was impressed nonetheless.

The evening wound down, the guy from NoMI was down to his last beer can chicken…

There weren’t as many dessert choices as last year, and many of them ran out by the time we were seriously hunting sweets to finish off the meal. MK showed up with an actual ice cream truck, but what they were serving was actually cherry slushies (alcoholic slushies, I should point out), and my wife staked out the first position:

A most refreshing end to a long evening of eating. Because you didn’t think that was everything we tried, did you? I didn’t even have a chance to mention the Dietzler Beef Italian beef from Vie, or the pork belly slider with peach chutney from Blue 13, or the blueberry lemonade from North Shore Distillery….

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