October 2014 | chicago foodie girl


Travel Guide: Tom's Farm Market

Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous (and most likely our last perfect fall weekend of the year), so Diana and I decided it was finally time for our fall fun extravaganza. Every year, we designate at least one day to pack in as pumpkin/apple/fall awesomeness as possible.

While we vary our activities each year, we always make time for a visit to Tom's Farm Market in Huntley, IL. Compared to some of the other mega markets/pumpkin patches in the area, it's relatively small, which is most definitely part of its charm. They go all out with fun pumpkin decorations and the corn maze (it was zombie-shaped this year); they also have a small petting zoo with some very friendly goats and sheep, along with the cutest little cafe that serves some dang good cider and donuts. The best part that because it is a smaller family-owned market, there are always all sorts of personal touches (including various depictions of Tom's family as scarecrows/pumpkinheads) and it's never too crazy packed.



American Cheese Month at Pastoral

Happy American Cheese Month! Wait, you didn't know that October is American Cheese Month? Well, to be quite honest, neither did I (which is weird considering my predilection for all things cheese)... thankfully, the awesome folks at Pastoral stepped in to show me the way just in time. I was invited to stop by their Lakeview location for a cheese tasting with Head Cheesemonger, Bryan Bland (how cool of a job is that?!). Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE cheese, so of course, this opportunity was right up my alley.
Before we started the tasting, Bryan led me through the history of artisan cheesemaking in the United States, as well as the availability of American produced cheeses at Pastoral; while the store definitely has a special relationship with Midwestern cheesemakers, they actually represent every single state that produces cheese. We also chatted about the seasonality of cheese; while I was already familiar with many of the aging processes, I had never quite thought about how cheeses have seasons, just like fruits and vegetables. As Bryan explained, no two cheeses are alike - dozens of factors, including the temperature, the types of flora each animal is exposed to, and grazing conditions can affect a cheese's flavor profile. Similar to harvest season, late spring to early fall is considered the prime season for cheese production.  

After our discussion, Bryan got down to the business of cutting the cheese (ha!). In honor of American Cheese Month, Pastoral is highlighting four American produced cheeses, three of which are from the Midwest. As much as I enjoyed all of the cheeses, my favorite of the four was a relatively new cheese from Wisconsin, a fruity and tangy cheddar made from a combination of goat and cow's milk. 

American Cheese Month featured selections
Good Thunder from Alemar Cheese Company in Minnesota: a robust and savory cheese washed in American brown ale
Chandoka from LeClare Family Farms in Wisconsin: a mild, creamy, and tart goat and cow's milk cheddar
O'Banon from Capriole Cheese in Indiana: a tart and herby chèvre wrapped in Bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves
Blue Bay from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese in California: an earthy, sweet blue cheese


Common Threads Cook-Off 2014

A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend the 4th annual Common Threads Cook-Off held at Revel Downtown. Common Threads is the brainchild of Chicago's beloved Chef Art Smith (yes, we know he's not originally from here, but we've officially claimed him!) whose organization works to provide various nutrition education programs to underprivileged children. It's really a fantastic group and I was thrilled to join them for another one of their foodie fundraising events.

The Cook-Off pits many of Chicago's top chefs and mixologists against each other in a good old-fashioned head-to-head showdown. For this year's event, contestants were given the opportunity to create and serve their best dish in one of five categories: the garden, the seed, the pasture, the barn, or the barrel. Guests had three hours to visit each table, sample the food/drinks, and cast their votes for their favorite each category. I joined forces with Alison from Rosie Discovers - while we had big plans to employ the "one bite and then move on" tasting method, our plans were totally shot down the minute we started sampling the delicious offerings. Seriously, there was just too much goodness to not indulge! Despite the fact that we were both ready to slip into food comas by the end, we had a wonderful night chowing down on some tasty food/drinks, chatting with some of our favorite local chefs, and meeting a few of our fellow Instagram foodie followers [hey there, Julia! :-)].

 Farmed Cobia Sliders with tomato jalapeño chutney from Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop



Parmigiano Reggiano Academy at Eataly

Last week I was lucky enough to join a group of my fellow food bloggers at La Scuola di Eataly for the most recent installment of Parmigiano Reggiano Academy. Consorzio Parmigiano Reggiano is celebrating its 80th anniversary; in honor of this milestone, they're hosting both in-person and online classes dedicated to learning all about this delicious cheese. As I'm sure you're all aware by now, I am a fan of all things cheese, and I'm most definitely a fan of food mecca (aka Eataly), so of course, I was thrilled to join the Academy for a night of cheesy fun. ;-)



Red Gold Tomatoes Giveaway

I say it every year, but I think it's always worth repeating: I ♥♥♥ fall! I especially love October, as it is filled with so many of my favorite things. While I've been all about pumpkins, apples, gorgeous foliage, and fall festivals since I was a kid, I've recently added a new favorite to my fall loves lineup: slow cooking. I definitely came late to the world of slow cooking, as I didn't jump on the bandwagon until a few years ago; however, now that I've discovered how easy it is to put together so many fantastic hearty dishes, I can't imagine going through fall (and let's face it, the long, cold winter) without my awesome slow cooker. 

Red Gold Tomatoes most definitely understands my love of slow cooking in the fall. To celebrate the start of the new (and best!) season, they've put together a fantastic promotion in which you can win a fancy new Crock-Pot (two winners daily). Along with the Crock-Pot promotion, they've also offered a fun prize pack to one lucky reader of this blog. As you may remember, I've partnered with Red Gold Tomatoes several times over the past two years; I guarantee you that their goodie packages are always fun and come in very handy when you're looking for something easy and delicious to make for dinner.

The Red Gold goodie package contains 6 popular tomato favorites (including my personal favorite, diced tomatoes with lime juice & cilantro), apron, wooden spoon, and recipe list to jump-start your fall slow cooking!

To enter: visit the Red Gold website and let me know in the comments which slow cooker recipe you would like to try (don't forget to leave an email address!). The winner of the Red Gold prize pack will be chosen at random at 5:00pm on Tuesday, October 7, 2014. Winner will be contacted via email and has 24 hours to reply with shipping information.

Congratulations to commenter 4!

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