Friday, October 19, 2012

Fumare/Vanille Patisserie

When you travel to other cities (especially those in Europe, Asia, or Latin America), it's not terribly difficult to stumble across markets with vendor stalls selling prepared foods, fresh produce, meats, flowers, etc. all under one roof to the local populace. Given our entrenched culture of dining convenience here in America, such a concept didn't really get much traction in the states for many years as the Giant Corporate Supermarkets provided (and still do, to a large extent) everything one needed to eat quickly and cheaply at home (just add hot water or pop in the microwave for 2 minutes, and, voila!, instant dinner). With the emergence of the artisanal food movement over the past decade, however, the paradigm is shifting a little towards this fresher, healthier, less-industrial approach of eating. Case in point: Chicago has had one of these year-round markets (called the Chicago French Market, a bit misleading since there's plenty there that isn't rooted in France) for about 2 years now, located in the Ogilvie Metra Station downtown at Clinton and Randolph. Shame on me for taking this long to check it out, but I finally had an opportunity to do so on a greeter tour last Friday with some guests visiting from Los Angeles (another American city with some great markets, as I discovered back in August).

Our French market features stalls with diverse, hard-to-find-in-the-South-Suburbs products as fine cheeses (Pastoral), banh mi sandwiches (Saigon Sisters), Belgian fries and beers (Frietkoten), crepes (Flip Crepes), and Korean food (Bowl Square), plus much more. For my lunch selection, I made a bee-line towards Fumare Meats, a small deli stand specializing in Montreal-style smoked pastrami sandwiches that have been garnering rave reviews from the local press. I'm here to tell you today that all of the accolades are very well-deserved - my pastrami sandwich was nothing short of mind-blowing, brilliant in its simplicity of warm pastrami pieces on rye bread with no toppings other than a small side cup of Dijon mustard. Clearly, the intent of such a sparse presentation is to showcase the meat, of which there was much to love, a perfect blend of slightly crisp, peppery exterior with moist, fatty dark pink pastrami on the inside. Often times, I'm not a fan of rye bread, but this version was mellow and unobtrusive, merely providing a carrying case for the heavenly flesh between the slices. If I worked in the neighborhood (ironically, Mrs. Hackknife does, except she's rarely in her home office), I'd be chowing down on one of these sandwiches daily until my doctor cried "uncle".

Flush with contentment and feeling magnanimous, I stopped on my way out of the market to pick up a treat to bring home. Vanille Patisserie is strategically located near the main exit to the market so that you have to contemplate dessert before proceeding with your day. Packed in the display case among other pastries were many varieties of macaroons, those little French cookies that I'm now hooked on. I carefully selected 7 different types (mango, rose, violet passion, fig, raspberry, coconut, and Nutella) to populate a gift box for the missus and me to share after the progeny were in bed. While they weren't the best macaroons I'd ever had, they certainly were tasty, especially the mango, raspberry, and rose. In any case, I can see myself making many excuses in the future to detour through the market either before, during, or after a tour...

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