In mid-April, I met with Michael Roper (owner) and Ben Sheagren (executive chef) of the Hopleaf Bar here in Chicago and suggested that we collaborate on a "locavore" dinner, featuring locally-grown/-raised foods and locally-brewed beers. My idea was well-received as the Hopleaf is already committed to purchasing local foods whenever it's feasible. Additionally, Hopleaf serves many local brews on draft when they become available as seasonal or limited releases.
I've "earned my keep at the 'leaf" over the years, conducting several special events since the first beer and chocolate pairing in May 2005, while I worked as Culinary Attaché for La Brasserie Unibroue. As with all events at the Hopleaf, beer will claim its rightful place at the dinner table. However, my interest has moved beyond the liquid; I am now focused on the food and how it traveled (and was transformed) on the path from farm-to-fork. I hope my curiosity about food systems and their importance to our well-being and security will inspire tonight's guests to "know their farmer, know their food."
The planning and preparation of this dinner has been a collaborative, diligent effort. Ben researched the seasonally-available ingredients and developed a mouth-watering, four-course menu (to be served family-style) that he sourced from 14 different small farms in Wisconsin (8), Illinois (3), Indiana (1) and Michigan (2). For the pairings, Michael selected one beer each from five local breweries and mead from Chicago's only meadery. (Bees deserve special consideration at this event since they are responsible not only for producing honey, but for pollinating many crop foods, as well.) The eye-appealing promotional poster and dinner menu were designed by Louise Molnar (co-owner), who is one of the most talented creative designers I've ever worked with.
I look forward to sharing a delicious meal, some refreshing brews and meaningful conversation about farms, food and the future of each with our guests. We have a simple plan:
About Locavore Dinners
Launched in Chicago in 2010 by food scientist Jim Javenkoski, this monthly series of culinary events represents the convergence of locally-grown food and ol' school social learning. The dinners offer opportunities for consumers, chefs and farmers to gather and share delicious meals over casual yet informative conversations about the provenance and production of our food. Ideally, that dialog will reveal to each participant how we can collectively strengthen our local food system to provide economic, environmental, safety, wellness and justice benefits for all of us. The enduring goal of the Locavore Dinners is to enhance our food literacy and cultivate our "local food wisdom", one meal at a time.